The Tampa Bay Buccaneers began Wednesday with a lengthy catalogue of roster moves, one that rivals Santa's list in length, if not joyous anticipation. Like Santa's list, this one had good news for some and not so good news for others.
Most significantly, the Buccaneers placed five players on injured reserve, four of whom were hurt in Monday night's narrow loss to the Atlanta Falcons. Those five are safety Justin Evans, linebacker, Adarius Glanton, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, tight end O.J. Howard and guard J.R. Sweezy. Hargreaves had missed the previous five games due to a hamstring injury, and he made an unsuccessful attempt to return to action last week.
To fill those five spots for the remaining two games of the season, the Buccaneers promoted three players from their practice squad and signed two free agents. The team then filled the three new vacancies on the practice squad with one returning player and two newcomers. Here's the rundown of the busy morning in the Buccaneers' player personnel department:
Placed on Injured Reserve:
- S Justin Evans
- LB Adarius Glanton
- CB Vernon Hargreaves
- TE O.J. Howard
- G J.R. Sweezy
Promoted to the Active Roster from the Practice Squad:
- LB Nigel Harris
- S Isaiah Johnson
- DL Channing Ward
Signed to the Active Roster:
- G Adam Gettis
- CB David Rivers
Signed to the Practice Squad:
- FB Austin Johnson
- WR Devin Lucien
- G Avery Young
Howard and Evans, the Buccaneers' first two picks in the 2017 draft, both suffered ankle injuries against Atlanta, the former while scoring on a 30-yard catch-and-run in the first quarter. Glanton and Sweezy both sustained lower leg injuries in the second half, and Glanton had surgery on Monday night. All four started the Monday night game against the Falcons, with Glanton filling in for an injured Lavonte David.
Howard is tied for the team lead with six touchdown receptions and has a robust per-catch average of 16.6 yards, tops among all NFL tight ends with at least 25 receptions. Evans is tied for the Bucs' interception lead with three and has been an every-down player since Game Four.
Glanton has filled in at both strongside and weakside linebacker during injury absences by David and Kwon Alexander and he has 26 tackles, a sack, two quarterback hits, one pass defensed and one forced fumble. Sweezy was the only Buccaneer lineman who had played every offensive snap of the season before he went down on Monday night. The Buccaneers have lost three of their five offensive line starters in the last three weeks, with only left tackle Donovan Smith and left guard Kevin Pamphile still in place.
Before missing five games, Hargreaves had started eight of the Bucs' first nine contests and contributed 42 tackles and five passes defensed.
Four of the five additions made to the 53-man roster on Wednesday were direct position-for-position replacements for the players headed to injured reserve: guard Adam Gettis for Sweezy, linebacker Nigel Harris for Glanton, safety Isaiah Johnson for Evans and cornerback David Rivers for Hargreaves. The Bucs have sufficient tight end depth to weather the loss of Howard for two games and instead added to the defensive line with Channing Ward.
Gettis (6-3, 315) entered the NFL in 2012 as a fifth-round pick of the Washington Redskins and has since seen action in 17 games, including three games and one start last season with the New York Giants. He had been on New York's injured reserve list for most of this season before being waived in mid-November.
Harris (6-2, 225) will get a chance to complete the true Tampa trifecta in his hometown. After playing his prep football at Hillsborough High School, he stayed home to play for the University of South Florida. He then entered the NFL this past offseason as an undrafted free agent with the Los Angeles Chargers, making the team out of training camp and appearing in five games with one start. The Giants claimed Harris when he was waived in November and he appeared in two more games for New York. In all, he has recorded eight tackles in his rookie season.
Isaiah Johnson (6-0, 209) gets his second promotion of the year; he has been on either the practice squad or the active roster in Tampa every week of the last two seasons. A former undrafted free agent out of South Carolina, Johnson appeared in two games in the first half of this season and made the most of it on special teams with three kick-coverage tackles.
Rivers (6-0, 185) has spent most of his rookie NFL season on the Buccaneers' practice squad, though he had been released in late November. He first entered the league as an undrafted free agent in Green Bay after playing his college ball at Youngstown State. River went to training camp with the New York Jets and appeared in three of the Jets' four preseason games, contributing two tackles and two passes defensed.
Ward (6-4, 279) made the Buccaneers' active roster as an undrafted in 2016 and eventually saw playing time in five games, with one start. That action came in Weeks 3-9, at another time when the Buccaneers were dealing with a rash of defensive line injuries. This year, he had been on the Buccaneers' practice squad for the entire season until his promotion. Ward also spent six weeks late last season on the practice squad before he was promoted back to the active roster for the season finale. He played his college football at Mississippi, appearing in 52 games and recording 110 tackles, 13 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks.
Austin Johnson (6-2, 240) started the 2017 season on Tampa Bay's practice squad and spent four games on that crew before being released. He first arrived in Tampa last December, first on the practice squad before a promotion to the active roster in Week 17. He previously played two seasons for the New Orleans Saints (2014-15), recording 12 carries for 31 yards and a touchdown and seven receptions for 45 yards and one more score.
Lucien (6-2, 200), a former Arizona State standout, was drafted by New England in the seventh round in 2016 and spent his rookie season on the Patriots' practice squad. This year, he was most recently on the Houston Texans' practice squad and has also spent time in Indianapolis and Kansas City.
Young (6-5, 326) played his college ball at Auburn before signing with New Orleans as a rookie free agent after the 2016 draft. A Florida native, he went to training camp this year with the Miami Dolphins.