Tampa Bay Buccaneers depth chart: new linemen spur competition

The Bucs added Vita Vea to a defensive line that struggled to get pressure on quarterbacks last year. Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY Sports

With free agency and the draft completed and OTAs and minicamps scheduled for the next month and a half, here's a closer look at the depth chart for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Note: Starters in bold).

Bucs rookies typically come in as backups during OTAs, although Vita Vea is already penciled in as a starter opposite Gerald McCoy because he was drafted 12th overall. If a rookie is listed as a backup, that doesn't mean he'll remain a backup heading into next season -- it's merely a starting point.


Quarterback (3): Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin

Fitzpatrick returns for his second year as the Bucs' backup after going 2-1 and throwing seven touchdowns starting for an injured Winston. This is important considering Winston is still being investigated by the league regarding allegations that he groped a female Uber driver, and could be disciplined. Griffin, who suffered a sprained AC joint to his right shoulder, was outperforming Fitzpatrick in training camp before the injury. He will again battle Fitzpatrick for that second spot.

Running back (4): Peyton Barber, Ronald Jones, Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims

Barber will enter offseason practices as the starting running back, but if Jones performs the way he did at Southern California, he can step into the starting role. Rodgers is a three-down back, while Sims is more of a third-down back.

Wide receiver (6): Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries, Chris Godwin, Bobo Wilson, Justin Watson.

Evans and Jackson will start on the outside with Humphries in the slot. Jackson will remain the team's true vertical threat. Godwin will be a backup on the outside but should see more looks after a strong finish to 2017. Watson gives the Bucs another big-bodied target on the outside.

Tight end (4): Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard, Alan Cross, Antony Auclair

The Bucs will continue to utilize a lot of two-tight-end sets, with Brate serving as the F-tight end (also known as the H-back) and Howard as the Y-tight end, with run-blocking and pass-catching responsibilities.

Tackle (3): Donovan Smith, Demar Dotson, Leonard Wester

Smith will start at left tackle and Dotson at right tackle, although Dotson is recovering from offseason knee surgery and isn't expected to be ready until training camp. Wester will serve as the backup swing tackle.

Guard (4): Ali Marpet, J.R. Sweezy, Caleb Benenoch, Alex Cappa

Marpet will move from center to left guard, his third position along the offensive line since 2015, with Sweezy back at right guard, although he is recovering from surgery to repair a lower leg injury suffered at the end of last season. Benenoch can serve as a backup guard and tackle.

Center (2): Ryan Jensen, Evan Smith

Jensen will take over for Marpet, who moves to left guard. Smith will continue to serve as a backup guard and center.


Cornerback (8): Brent Grimes, Vernon Hargreaves, Carlton Davis, M.J. Stewart, Ryan Smith, Javien Elliott, Maurice Fleming

Grimes' spot as the outside corner is solidified. Hargreaves will get a strong push for the second outside spot from Davis who, at 6-foot-1 and 206 pounds, gives them the length they've wanted to pair up against bigger receivers such as Michael Thomas, Devin Funchess and Julio Jones (speed might be another story). Smith and Adjei-Barimah will also compete on the outside. Hargreaves, Stewart, Elliott and Adjei-Barimah can play nickelback, too.

Safety (5): Justin Evans, Chris Conte, Keith Tandy, Jordan Whitehead, Isaiah Johnson

Evans will start at free safety, although the Bucs generally refrain from using the "strong" and "free" terminology since they use their safeties somewhat interchangeably. The real question is who will start at strong safety. Conte and Tandy both have experience, but the undersized Whitehead packs a different kind of punch.

Linebacker (7): Lavonte David, Kwon Alexander, Devante Bond, Kendell Beckwith, Adarius Taylor, Cameron Lynch, Jack Cichy

Last year's starting strongside linebacker, Beckwith, will miss the offseason program as he recovers from ankle surgery, and there's a strong possibility that he misses training camp and even the start of the regular season, so Devante Bond steps in for him there. Taylor is coming off December leg surgery for a fractured tibia and fibula.

Defensive line (12): Jason Pierre-Paul, Vinny Curry, Gerald McCoy, Vea, Noah Spence, Beau Allen, Mitch Unrein, William Gholston, Will Clarke, Ryan Russell, DaVonte Lambert, Channing Ward, Stevie Tu'ikolovatu

There's no way the Bucs keep 12 defensive linemen, but this shows how much they prioritized the unit this offseason, and how much competition they want to create after producing just 22 sacks last season. Curry steps in to take over Gholston's strongside defensive end role. Spence is coming off his second shoulder surgery in two years. If he can return to health, he'll serve as a third-down rusher, which is where he shines. Allen won't be a starter but will get a lot of snaps along the interior.

Special teams

Punter (1): Bryan Anger

Anger performed so well last season that he was drug tested by the league following the Bucs' 26-24 win against the New York Giants, after he boomed 53- and 62-yard punts.

Kicker (1): Chandler Catanzaro

Catanzaro becomes the Bucs' eighth kicker in six seasons. Since 2014, Catanzaro has made 84.4 percent of his field goals, including 34-of-43 on kicks from 40-49 yards (79.1 percent) and 7-of-13 on kicks from 50-plus yards (53.8 percent).

Long-snapper (1): Drew Ferris

Ferris, who had brief stints with the New York Jets and Seattle Seahawks and was completely out of the league last season, is the only long-snapper on the Bucs' roster. Garrison Sanborn, the Bucs' starting long-snapper from last season, remains a free agent.

Kick returner (1): Rodgers

The majority of the Bucs' kick returns in 2017 were handled by Bernard Reedy, who was cut in November. After that, Rodgers assumed the role with Sims also contributing. Bobo Wilson has experience in college at both punt and kick returns.

Punt returner (1): Adam Humphries

This was also an area Reedy handled, but Humphries has done a lot in this area, averaging 11.38 yards per return on 30 punt returns since his rookie season in 2015.