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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Go Heavy on Front Seven in Initial 53-Man Roster

Tampa Bay kept six edge rushers but only two quarterbacks through Tuesday's roster cuts, also going deep at cornerback and retaining a surprising six undrafted rookies


The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made 37 roster moves on Tuesday to trim a 90-man roster down to the regular-season limit of 53, in the process creating a roster that tilts a bit towards defense thanks to depth at outside linebacker and cornerback. That first roster also has a deep rookie presence, including a possibly unprecedented six undrafted free agents.

Three spots were used for specialists – kicker Chase McLaughlin, punter Jake Camarda and long-snapper Zach Triner – creating the possibility of an even 25-25 split between offense and defense, but the Buccaneers actually kept 26 defensive players through the initial cutdown. That includes six outside linebackers – an unusually high number at that position – and six cornerbacks.

There is, of course, the potential, or perhaps even likelihood, of additional moves in the days to come that will even that split up a bit. The Buccaneers only kept two quarterbacks, releasing third-stringer John Wolford, and also went a bit lighter than usual at receiver with five players retained through the cuts.

Head Coach Todd Bowles indicated throughout training camp that the Bucs' pool of undrafted rookies was particularly impressive. In the end, the team chose to retain a half-dozen of them: cornerback Christian Izien, wide receiver Rakim Jarrett, cornerback Derrek Pitts, running back Sean Tucker, outside linebacker Markees Watts and safety Kaevon Merriweather.

Starting Wednesday, the Buccaneers will begin building a 16-man practice squad, which means that many of the players who did not make it through Tuesday's cuts will be back in the building.

Listed below is how the initial 53-man roster breaks down, with the players listed alphabetically at each position (rookies marked with a ^).

Quarterbacks (2): Baker Mayfield, Kyle Trask

Mayfield won the starting job in a training camp battle with Trask, a 2021 second-round draft pick, but the Buccaneers were very pleased with the performance of both passers in the preseason. The Bucs released John Wolford, so will either be looking to bring the former Ram back on either the active roster or the practice squad or will be looking for a third passer on the waiver wire.

Running Backs (4): Rachaad White, Chase Edmonds, Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Sean Tucker^

White looked impressive in Saturday's preseason finale against Baltimore, his only game action this summer, and is the clear lead runner in the backfield. Edmonds was unable to play in the last two preseason games due to a minor injury but the Buccaneers still like his potential as a change-of-pace, pass-catching back. Vaughn is heading into the last season of his rookie contract and Tucker showed enough in camp to grab the last RB spot.

Wide Receivers (5): Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Rakim Jarrett^, Trey Palmer^, Devin Thompkins

This unit has undergone a deep transformation, as Evans and Godwin are the only returning receivers from the opening-day roster a year ago. Thompkins did make his way onto the roster last year as an undrafted rookie, taking over late as the punt and kickoff returner, and he has had an impressive second training camp. Palmer was the star of the preseason with a series of highlight-reel catches and Jarrett gained momentum early in his rookie camp and never slowed down. It's a bit unusual for the team to run with just five receivers on the 53-man roster, so there may be some moves still to go at this spot.

Tight Ends (4): Ko Kieft, Cade Otton, Payne Durham^, David Wells

No surprises here as the Bucs have spent three draft picks on tight ends in the last two offseasons and are now building on Otton, Kieft and Durham. The team under current management has tended to keep four tight ends on the active roster, and Wells showed more than enough as a pass-catcher to warrant that fourth spot. It also helps that Durham could have a significant role on special teams, as he tied for the team lead in the preseason with two kick-coverage stops.

Offensive Linemen (9): Matt Feiler, Luke Goedeke, Robert Hainsey, Nick Leverett, Cody Mauch^, Justin Skule, Aaron Stinnie, Brandon Walton, Tristan Wirfs

This nine-man unit does not include Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen, who was placed on injured reserve. That presumably makes Hainsey, who opened all 16 regular-season games at center last year at the position, the starter, though the team is also confident in Leverett. This is a deep group, particularly considering that reserves Leverett, Stinnie and Walton can play multiple positions. It's also worth noting that all four anticipated reserves have started regular-season games in the NFL.

Defensive Linemen (6): Greg Gaines, Will Gholston, Mike Greene, Calijah Kancey^, Logan Hall, Vita Vea

There is a lot of turnover in this group as well, as only Gholston, Hall and Vea return from last year's squad. Kancey didn't play in the preseason due to an early-camp calf injury but is expected to be an inside pass-rushing catalyst next to Vea. Gaines and Gholston are a reserve duo with a very deep level of experience, and Greene was a training camp star, earning a good deal of first-team snaps after spending last season on the practice squad as a rookie.

Outside Linebackers (6): Shaquil Barrett, Yaya Diaby^, Cam Gill, Anthony Nelson, Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Markees Watts^

Bowles made it clear early in camp that the outside linebacker position was going to be the toughest one to manage during the cuts to 53, and the end result bears that out. The Bucs only kept four edge rushers to start last season and have not gone deeper than five at any point since Bowles' arrival in Tampa in 2019. Yet here we are with six to start the season. Barrett has made what appears to be a triumphant return from a midseason Achilles tendon tear last year and the team is anticipating a third-year jump from Tryon-Shoyinka. The wild card here is Watts, who first arrived in Tampa as a tryout player in rookie minicamp but was too impressive to expose to waivers.

Inside Linebackers (4): K.J. Britt, Lavonte David, SirVocea Dennis^, Devin White

The Buccaneers ran with four off-ball linebackers for most of the 2022 season and appear ready to do the same in 2023. David and White are the unquestioned starters and Britt spent last season as the primary backup to both spots, though neither starter ended up missing time. The big change is the addition of Dennis, a fifth-round draft pick who may have some rookie value as a pass-rusher in certain personnel packages.

Cornerbacks (6): Carlton Davis, Jamel Dean, Dee Delaney, Josh Hayes^, Zyon McCollum, Derrek Pitts^

The Buccaneers went a bit deeper at this spot than usual, particularly considering that rookie safety Christian Izien is slated to take over the starting slot corner job. Some of that has to do with versatility, as both Delaney and Hayes are considered good options at safety. McCollum profiles as the first man in if the Bucs are without either outside corner, while Delaney can play in the slot or on the outside. Pitts is probably the most unexpected keeper on the first 53-man roster.

Safeties (4): Christian Izien^, Ryan Neal, Kaevon Merriweather^, Antoine Winfield Jr.

Winfield is the only holdover in this group from last year, and he is making a welcome transition back from his 2022 dual role as a safety/slot corner to the free safety job. Neal is the obvious second starter, but otherwise the Buccaneers are without any experienced depth at the position. As noted above, Izien will be playing a significant role as the slot corner to start the season. Merriweather is yet another undrafted free agent who had an impressive training camp.

Specialists (3): Jake Camarda, Chase McLaughlin, Zach Triner

McLaughlin won the kicking battle with Rodrigo Blankenship and then went out and had a sublime performance on Saturday night with six successful kicks in six tries, including field goals of 47 and 48 yards. Camarda is coming off a rookie season in which he set several franchise records and raised expectations for his second campaign. Triner held off a competition from rookie snapper Evan Deckers.

Here is the full Tampa Bay Buccaneers' 2023 Roster.

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