TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers must cut their roster to 53 by 4 p.m. ET Saturday, Sept. 2. Here’s a final 53-man roster projection:
Griffin, who's coming off a great camp and actually out-performed Ryan Fitzpatrick, signed a one-year contract extension on Wednesday. He's currently recovering from a sprained AC joint in the shoulder of his throwing arm, which kept him out of the final three preseason games. The team can keep him on the initial 53-man roster for a day before moving him to injured reserve, which can free up an additional roster spot. They can also name him as one of two players designated to return.
Peyton Barber edges rookie Jeremy McNichols for the fourth and final roster spot. McNichols was coming along on special teams but struggled with blitz pick-up and grasping the playbook. Barber, who has a year in Dirk Koetter's offense, showed the coaching staff that he has the potential to be more than just a power back and has improved quite a bit with his hands and in protection.
The battle for the fifth receiver spot was very close. Reedy caught all six of his targets for 65 yards in three preseason games and had a 10-yard touchdown catch in the fourth preseason game. As head coach Dirk Koetter also pointed out, he had an explosive play in three of those four games. He also brings value as a punt and kick returner. Donteea Dye Jr. missed the majority of the preseason with an ankle injury and narrowly missed catching a touchdown in the third preseason game. Josh Huff had some "wow" moments in camp, but misses the cut because of consistency issues.
The Bucs opt to carry five tight ends. Howard serves as the "Y" tight end, while Brate is the H-back or "F" tight end. Stocker gives them a lot of value as a run-blocker. Cross can do a little bit of everything and had the most productive preseason of all their tight ends, with six catches for 58 yards through three games. He also logged a ton of snaps on special teams. Auclair edges out Tevin Westbrook for the final spot.
Marpet is the starting center with Hawley as the backup. Pamphile is the starting left guard, with Evan Smith as the backup and he can play center. Pamphile can also kick out as a backup right tackle should Dotson's groin injury keep him out longer. Sweezy is the starting right guard and Wester, who played 46 snaps in the third preseason game, locks up the backup swing tackle role. Caleb Benenoch, who was active for five games last year and had a start, is the odd man out.
Jacquies Smith is not on the initial 53-man roster because he's still recovering from a torn ACL. Johnson, who's had a sack, two quarterback pressures and two tackles for a loss, earns the backup strongside defensive end job over Tavaris Barnes and Sterling Bailey. Health is a concern for Johnson, however. He is coming off a fractured hip that forced him to miss all of last year. Stevie Tu'ikolovatu edges Sealver Siliga as the Bucs' big man inside.
Bond's knee injury forces the Bucs to carry six linebackers. Prior to his injury, which is a sprained PCL and is not believed to keep him out for the season, he was consistently getting reps as the first-team strongside linebacker. Beckwith may have edged him out of that job though. Lynch edges out Riley Bullough for the final spot because he offers more in coverage, knows every linebacking position in Mike Smith's defense and plays on every special team.
Knee injuries to Jude Adjei-Barimah and Maurice Fleming have meant the Bucs are lacking in depth here. Smith showed he's a capable backup outside corner, while McClain and Elliott both shined at nickel and have the capability of lining up outside. If need-be, Robinson, their special teams ace, who moved over to safety this year, could line up at corner, although he's been dealing with an injury.
The Bucs re-signed Andrew DePaola, who is coming off a torn ACL, but Sanborn was the one who saw action in the third preseason game, which was telling.