Jason Licht called cornerback Ross Cockrell "one of the best pickups" his team made during the 2020 season, which is saying something given how aggressively the Tampa Bay Buccaneers constructed their Super Bowl-winning roster last year. The Buccaneers have been just as aggressive in keeping that championship team together in 2021, and Cockrell is the latest member of that team to return to the fold.
On Tuesday, the Buccaneers announced the re-signing of Cockrell, who played 16 games for the team in 2020, including the postseason, with two starts. He was – and will likely remain – a valuable reserve for a team that has already managed to bring back all 22 starters from the Super Bowl, along with multiple key role players.
Cockrell first joined the Buccaneers on September 23 of last season, initially signing to the practice squad before being promoted to the active roster in October. He didn't immediately see much playing time on defense behind the starting cornerback trio of Carlton Davis Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting. However, when both Davis and Dean missed time due to injury in the second half of the season Cockrell stepped in and kept the secondary from faltering, playing 270 defensive snaps over the final 10 games.
Through the first 10 weeks of 2020, Cockrell had played only one snap on defense, as the Buccaneers had a set starting cornerback trio of Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting. However, injuries inevitably entered the picture in the second half of the season. Davis and Dean missed two games each and all three were sidelined for portions of games at some point. Cockrell proved to be the glue that held it all together. He would end up with 270 snaps over the final 10 games, including 38 or more in four contests and eight in the Super Bowl. He played both on the outside and in the slot depending upon where he was most needed at the time.
Cockrell finished 2020 with 11 tackles, one tackle for loss, one quarterback hit and one pass defensed, and he quickly displayed a firm grasp on Todd Bowles' schemes. He added one tackle and one pass defensed in the playoffs.
Overall, Cockrell has played six seasons (plus one spent on injured reserve) for Buffalo, Pittsburgh, the New York Giants, Carolina and Tampa. He has appeared in 80 regular-season games with 40 starts, recording 230 tackles, seven interceptions and 45 passes defensed. He started all 16 games for the Steelers in 2016 and 11 for the Panthers in 2019.