Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Roster Moves Up Ahead | S.S. Mailbag

With the league-wide cut-down to 53 players looming, Bucs fans had questions this week about the prospects for Tyler Johnson, Matt Gay, Ryan Griffin and more

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have only two more days to evaluate the 80 players they have in training camp before they have to carve a 53-man roster out of that group for the regular season. Those 80 players include two placekickers – Matt Gay and Ryan Succop – for whom there will surely only be one spot available on the active roster. On Monday, Head Coach Bruce Arians said the Buccaneers will also keep their eyes open for any other potential kicking candidate that becomes available, but that is just normal procedure.

"We'll look at some other people and see if they're any better, just like we do [with] every single position, just like the waiver wire when everybody makes their cuts," said Arians. "Those last five guys are never safe. I don't look at it as any different than those situations."

Indeed, it is common practice for teams to form a 53-man roster at the deadline – in this case, 4:00 p.m. ET on Saturday – and then turn over a few of those spots in the following days as the pool of available players grows. The simple math of the matter is that 32 teams reducing their rosters by 27 spots leads to 864 players on Sunday's waiver wire, give or take a couple dozen who end up on lists such as injured reserve or PUP.

Last year, for instance, the Buccaneers claimed running back T.J. Logan off waivers from the Cardinals the day after the big roster cut. They also gave a tryout to tackle Josh Wells two days before the season opener, after he had been released by the Jaguars, then signed him two days after that first game. A little later in September, the Bucs welcomed back safety Andrew Adams, who had been released by the Lions.

Logan immediately took over as the Bucs' primary kickoff returner and later added punt return duties. Wells stepped in as the swing tackle and made one start at each tackle position. Adams ended up starting 11 games, second-most among all Tampa Bay safeties. The point is the "final 53-man roster" is never the final 53-man roster and some of the players picked up after that big round of cuts can end up in critical roles. Here are a few more examples from the past decade:

View photos of Bucs players in the new 2020 uniforms.

·    In 2018, the Buccaneers claimed outside linebacker Carl Nassib off waivers on Sept. 3 after he had been cut by Cleveland. Nassib became a key part of the team's edge-rush rotation for the next two seasons, with 17 total starts, 6.5 sacks in 2018 and 6.0 more last year.

·    In 2017, the Bucs signed defensive end Will Clarke two days after he had been let go by Cincinnati. Clarke appeared in 15 games for Tampa Bay that season, adding 2.5 sacks.

·    In 2015, Tampa Bay landed quarterback Ryan Griffin with a waiver claim after he was cut by the Saints at the deadline. Griffin has spent the last five years in Tampa, almost all of it on the active roster, and will likely do so again in 2020.

·    In 2014, the Bucs used a waiver claim in early September to get defensive end Jacquies Smith after the Bills let him go. Smith ended up starting 18 games over the next two seasons and racking up 13.5 sacks.

·    In 2010, Tampa Bay claimed rookie running back LeGarrette Blount off waivers from Tennessee after the league-wide cuts. Blount rushed for 1,007 yards and scored six touchdowns in that 2010 season, and finished with 2,103 yards from scrimmage over three years in Tampa.

·    Also in 2010, the Bucs claimed guard Ted Larsen off waivers from New England. A sixth-round draft pick that year, Larsen was pressed into service by a run of O-Line injuries and ended up with 11 starts at left guard. Larsen spent four years in Tampa and has played 10 seasons overall, making 88 career starts.

Now on to your questions for this week.

A reminder that you can send questions to me anytime you want on Twitter (@ScottSBucs) and they're easier to find if you include the hashtag #SSMailbagBucs. We are also now soliciting questions each week on our Instagram page; look for that story on Wednesdays. As always, if you want to get a longer question into the mailbag and would prefer to email your question, you can do so to tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com.

What is the latest on super star receiver Tyler Johnson? Don't seem to be able to find much information.

Thanks.

Norm Feig

Bradenton, FL (via email to tbbsocial@buccaneers.nfl.com)

…and…

Will Tyler Johnson end up on IR?

- @a_fab7, via Instagram

Well, it certainly appears that Tyler Johnson already has a big fan on the Florida Gulf Coast. Johnson was indeed a star receiver at the University of Minnesota and, after the Buccaneers nabbed him the fifth round of the 2020 draft, hopefully he'll become one on the NFL level as well. Scouts say he simply has a knack for getting open at all levels of the defense, and he's a superb athlete who was a star quarterback as a prep.

Johnson hasn't been able to show much of that since the draft, unfortunately. The pandemic wiped out the offseason and the entire preseason schedule, which is a nagging problem for all 2020 rookies, and a lingering soft tissue injury has kept Johnson out of the majority of the team's training camp practices. At one point in the second week, Johnson returned to the field for a practice, only to go back to the sideline in the days that followed.

As such, it's not likely he'll be able to carve out a significant role on offense for the start of the season. The same appears to be true for third-round running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn, who missed some time at the start of camp while on the COVID-19 list. Those are two offensive players for which the Buccaneers have very high hopes, but it may take a little time for them to get assimilated into the offense.

There is some good news. Johnson did take part in Tuesday's practice inside the Buccaneers' indoor facility, at least during the first 30 minutes that are open to media viewing. The Bucs' coaches are not likely to share just how much Johnson did on Tuesday or how he looked, but it certainly is an encouraging development. It would be even more encouraging if he were able to make it two days in a row on Wednesday.

Still, this year's 2020-only injured reserve rules do make it a little more likely that Johnson will start the season on injured reserve. Teams are allowed to bring any player back from injured reserve this year, and they can do so after as little as three weeks, with another three-week window following that in which they can practice without counting against the roster limit. There's an important thing to remember here, though: These rules only begin after the roster cut-down on Saturday. So if the Bucs wanted to do this with any player they have to keep him on the 53-man roster initially and then put him on injured reserve.

Assuming that isn't the case, I would predict that Johnson makes the 53-man roster to start the season. Mike Evans and Chris Godwin are the starters, obviously, and both Scotty Miller and Justin Watson have had strong training camps and look to be more involved in the offense this year. Even if Miller ends up winning the lion's share of the third-receiver job, Watson has big value on special teams. He tied for the team lead in kick-coverage tackles last year. That's four receivers, which means the Bucs could keep Johnson as a fifth and possibly Jaydon Mickens as a sixth receiver if the Bucs want to use Mickens as a punt and kickoff return man. That might make sense because it would give the team a healthy fifth option at receiver if Johnson isn't quite ready to go to start the season.

The incredible depth at receiver in the 2020 draft allowed the Buccaneers to get a player in the fifth round that in other years likely would have gone a round or two higher. There were a whopping 13 wideouts drafted in the first two rounds, which meant most of the teams that had that position as a top need had hit it by then. That led to a lull in the third and fourth rounds as those teams addressed other needs and only six receivers went in those two stanzas combined. That allowed the Bucs to be at the beginning of another run, as eight receivers were selected in the fifth round, the most in that round in draft history.

My point is, this is not a player the Buccaneers are going to want to subject to the waiver wire because they likely believe he would get claimed by another team. So if Johnson does not end up on injured reserve, they'll need to keep a spot for him on the 53-man roster.

Hello again Salty ones, Last week someone ask B.A. about Chris Godwin missing 3 straight practices and B.A. got a little salty himself, whats the latest on Godwin? Also would Matt Gay have to pass through waivers if we wanted to put him on practice squad? Love the Podcast and look forward to it every week

Todd Birchfield Lake Panasoffkee Fl. (via email to saltydogs@buccaneers.nfl.com)

Every now and then I like to steal a question from the inbox to our Salty Dogs podcast, which Jeff Ryan and I record on a weekly basis. I'm just trying to increase the awareness about our podcast, which usually includes a player as a guest. The last three weeks we've talked with rookies Khalil Davis, Chapelle Russell and Parnell Motley. Rookie running back Ray Calais joined us this week; check out our podcast page for all the latest.

Okay, shameless plug concluded. Now let's answer these two questions.

Todd's first reference is to one of the most entertaining quotes from Bruce Arians during this training camp. The Wednesday before last, Aug. 26, Arians was asked about Godwin, who had sat out three practices in the span of about five days. Players getting random days off here and there is nothing new and the Bucs have done that for a lot of their established players in this year's camp. But when Godwin piled a few idle days up in a row, Arians was asked if he could share why. His response:

"That's for me to know and nobody else to find out."

That underscores one of the main differences between this year's practices and a typical training camp. When a camp practice is attended by hundreds of fans – which the Bucs' organization hopes will be the case again in 2021 – and all of those fans have video cameras in their pockets, the flow of information is pretty much wide open. If a rookie is running with the first-team offense, for instance, everybody can see it so there's not much point in being secretive about it.

But there are no fans this year and thus teams around the league have concluded that it makes strategic sense to say a lot less about the specifics of their preparations. There are no injury reports required by the NFL until regular-season games start, so there is no reason that a coach has to share specifics about any injured player right now. It just makes sense.

But that question was asked on a Wednesday and Godwin was back in practice on Thursday. He then took part in the scrimmage at the stadium on Friday. That's no secret; here's a photo of Godwin warming up before that scrimmage that was included in our gallery for the day. Heck, go to the page with all our practice photo galleries – there's Godwin as the lead image for Monday's workout.

So let Bruce Arians be a little salty from time to time if he wants (like a Salty Dog – shameless plug number two). But don't get too worried about Chris Godwin at this time. I don't know about you, but I just did a fantasy draft last weekend and Godwin still went 18th overall.

As for the procedural question on Matt Gay, yes he would have to pass through waivers if the Bucs wanted to put him on the practice squad. All teams have to cut down to 53 players on Saturday, and any cut player who has fewer than four years of accrued free agency credit is subject to the waiver wire. Once players clear that wire on Sunday, that's when teams will begin signing them to their respective practice squads. That's the same logic I applied above to the thought that the Bucs would keep Tyler Johnson on the 53-man roster even if he's not quite ready to play in Week One.

View some of the photos from Buccaneers Training Camp practice at the AdventHealth Training Center.

Will Griffin or Sinnett win the third string spot?

- @griffin.greatness, via Instagram

I think we all know from your Instagram handle what you believe the answer should be!

Tom Brady is obviously the Buccaneers' starting quarterback and Arians has made it clear that Blaine Gabbert will be his primary backup, which means he'll be the second passer active on game days. The Bucs could choose to keep just those two on the 53-man roster and free up a spot for a different position with extra depth, using the practice squad to house a third passer. However, Arians also said on Tuesday that he expects to carry three quarterbacks on the active roster.

One thing to keep in mind is that the Buccaneers, like every team, will be scouring the extremely deep waiver wire created by Saturday's league-wide cuts, looking for potential upgrades at every position. I think that's more likely to come into play at a position like outside linebacker or reserve offensive lineman than at quarterback, but you never know.

If we assume a three-man Buccaneers QB pool is going to come exclusively from in-house candidates, it sure seems likely the third spot will go to Ryan Griffin, much as it did for most of 2015-18. Griffin actually spent all of last year as the number-two quarterback after Gabbert injured a shoulder in the preseason and went on injured reserve in late September. Griffin is an interesting case in that the Bucs liked him enough in September of 2015 to nab him with a waiver claim from the Saints in early September, and he has since stayed put through three different coaching staffs. Each of those staffs has spoken highly of the work he has done on the practice field, and he has commonly performed quite well in preseason games. However, his entire body of work in the regular season – all he's ever got the opportunity to do – consists of two games played and four passes thrown.

Still, Griffin was, again, the number two all of last year so he surely has a good grasp on the offense. It's highly unlikely that Sinnett, an undrafted free agent out of the University of San Diego, could match Griffin's command of the offense right now. And unlike Griffin in years past, Sinnett isn't getting an opportunity in preseason games to show that he's the better choice over an established veteran.

It would be a simple and logical matter to keep Brady, Gabbert and Griffin through to the 53-man roster and then sign Sinnett to the practice squad, assuming he clears waivers. In a season where the concern of a COVID-19 outbreak putting a sudden dent in a specific position's depth chart is hanging over everything, it might make sense to have a fourth quarterback who has some experience with your playbook. And since the practice squad now runs 16 spots deep, it's possible to devote one to a fourth quarterback without messing up your plans to add depth at other positions.

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