The Buccaneers have cut cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (via Twitter). Tampa Bay selected Hargreaves in the first round (No. 11 overall) of the 2016 draft and exercised the fifth-year option of his rookie deal back in May, which would have kept the Florida product under club control through 2020.
However, the fifth-year option would have come with a $9.9MM salary and was guaranteed for injury only, so Hargreaves will not have any impact on the Bucs’ cap in 2020. This move comes on the heels of Hargreaves being benched in the second half of Sunday’s victory over the Cardinals for not hustling, and may have been done to send a message to the rest of the locker room. As Jenna Laine of ESPN.com writes, Hargreaves planned to speak with head coach Bruce Arians to discuss the benching and expressed confidence that he and Arians could resolve any issues they might have, but the fact that his lack of hustle was not an isolated incident could have contributed to his ouster. Laine reminds us that Arians sat Hargreaves on the first day of OTAs because he was “not mentally ready to practice.”
The Bucs’ decision is particularly telling given that they have the worst pass defense in the NFL and now have just three healthy corners on the roster. As Greg Auman of The Athletic notes, Tampa will turn to rookies Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting as its starters (Twitter link). Auman tweets that, given the youth and injuries along the CB depth chart, the club is likely to add a corner from outside the organization to replace Hargreaves.
Hargreaves rarely lived up to his first-round billing during his tenure with the Bucs, struggling both outside the numbers and in the slot. However, given his youth and upside, he will surely garner interest from other clubs in need of secondary help. Now that we are past the trade deadline, Hargreaves is subject to waivers, and while he is due just $980K for the remainder of the 2019 season, a team that claims Hargreaves off waivers would also be putting itself on the hook for the 2020 option year. As such, teams may wait for Hargreaves to clear waivers and then attempt to sign him as a free agent.
“After thoughtful consideration over the past few weeks, Coach Arians and I came to the conclusion that we needed to make this change. Decisions such as this are always difficult, but we felt it was in the best interest of the team to part ways with Vernon at this time and allow him to explore other opportunities. We are disappointed that it did not work out here for Vernon, and we wish him continued success moving forward.”
Hargreaves, a collegiate standout with the Gators, ends his Bucs tenure with two interceptions — including one pick-six — 19 passes defensed, and 164 total tackles in 35 games (33 starts). Injuries limited him to just 10 games between the 2017-18 seasons.
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