Dee Delaney

Latest On Tampa Bay’s Cornerbacks Room

The Buccaneers allowed depth players Richard Sherman and Pierre Desir to walk in free agency this offseason, but held onto their most important free agent cornerback when they re-signed Carlton Davis to a three-year, $45MM contract. Besides the departures of Sherman and Desir, and the rookie depth additions that counteract them, the room looks quite the same as it did last season. If the position group can stay healthy, how does the depth chart play out with most of last year’s contributors returning? Let’s take a look. 

Davis is the only for sure starter at cornerback for Tampa Bay. He’s been a consistent starter since getting drafted in the second round in 2018, but really broke out in his second year of NFL football. After a rookie season that saw him break up only 4 passes, Davis exploded in coverage recording 19, 18, and 11 passes defensed in each year after. Davis has six interceptions in his first four seasons (four in 2020, alone), but his 52 total passes defensed says plenty about his ability to make plays on the ball. He’ll enter the season as the team’s No. 1 cornerback, with questions surrounding who will be No. 2.

Jamel Dean is likely the top prospect to start opposite Davis in base formations. He or his competition for that second spot, Sean Murphy-Bunting, would still see plenty of the field as the third cornerback, as the Buccaneers primarily utilize a nickel defense, but, when utilizing only four defensive backs, Dean is currently the favorite to be on the field. Not only are they competing for a spot atop the depth chart, but, considering both were members of Tampa Bay’s 2019 draft class, they will also be striving to earn a new payday like Davis’ in their contract years.

Dean didn’t enter the 2021 NFL season as a starter, but, after an elbow injury sent Murphy-Bunting to injured reserve, Dean took over and made the most of his opportunity. Dean has consistently missed at least two games every season with injury, but, considering the extended time Davis and Murphy-Bunting missed last season, two games doesn’t seem so bad. With 33 passes defensed, Dean has shown the ability in coverage to stay close and make plays on the ball. The biggest downside to his game is that Dean hasn’t quite been able to convert those plays into turnovers, only totaling five interceptions over three seasons. Dean possesses ideal size and speed for the position and was even graded one slot above Davis last season according to Pro Football Focus’ position rankings (subscription required).

Murphy-Bunting was drafted one round earlier than Dean and, so far, his opportunities have reflected that. Last year was the first that saw Murphy-Bunting miss time due to injury, but that doesn’t make Dean’s impressive showing in his absence any less inimical to Murphy-Bunting’s starting role. The injury last season really limited Murphy-Bunting, as PFF graded him out as the 90th cornerback in the NFL, compared to Dean and Davis’s 20th and 21st, respectively. Murphy-Bunting has shown the player he can be when healthy, though, and if that version of him shows up for competition, he may find his way back into a solidified starting role. As a rookie, Murphy-Bunting showed off his ball skills with three interceptions. While he only has one pick in the next two regular seasons, he was able to reel in an interception in three-straight playoff games in 2020. Which version of Murphy-Bunting the Buccaneers get this season will largely affect the starting roles, but, as mentioned above, Tampa Bay’s nickel defense should allow plenty of snaps for both Dean and Murphy-Bunting.

Now Tampa Bay does have another option. If either Dean or Murphy-Bunting struggle coming into the season, the Buccaneers could move Logan Ryan, whom they signed in the offseason to fill in the free safety role left vacant by Jordan Whitehead‘s departure, back to his natural position of cornerback. Ryan hasn’t played cornerback since 2019, but he serves as a more-than-qualified “break glass in case of emergency” option.

Behind the top three corners, Tampa Bay returns Ross Cockrell, Dee Delaney, and Rashard Robinson. Cockrell is a journeyman cornerback with plenty of starting experience with his past teams. He and Delaney filled in a bit as starters when Davis and Murphy-Bunting were out last year, but, over the course of the season, Cockrell proved the most effective backup cornerback. Delaney made the most of his defensive opportunities getting an interception and two passes defensed in five games of extended action on defense. Delaney is a core special teamer, though, and really only serves as a depth piece on defense. Similarly, though Robinson has starting experience from his time in San Francisco, he mainly served as a reserve cornerback last year in Tampa Bay.

Rookie fifth-round pick Zyon McCollum and undrafted rookies Kyler McMichael and Don Gardner round out the roster for Tampa Bay at cornerback. They may be able to fight their way onto the 53-man roster by proving their worth on special teams, but McCollum is probably the only rookie here who may find his way into the cornerback rotation as a depth piece.

Tampa Bay’s nickel look should field, essentially, four cornerbacks, with Davis, Dean, Murphy-Bunting, and Ryan all surrounding starting strong safety Antoine Winfield Jr. Dean and Murphy-Bunting will compete throughout the preseason to determine who stays on the field in base formations. Cockrell and Delaney will likely continue their role as key backups. Robinson may find himself competing with McCollum for a roster spot, with McMichael and Gardner attempting to beat the odds. The Buccaneers know they can achieve success with this roster of cornerbacks, based on its similarities to last season, but just how they choose to employ their corners will determine how much success they can achieve.

Minor NFL Transactions: 5/25/21

We’ll keep tabs on today’s minor moves here:

Arizona Cardinals

Las Vegas Raiders

  • Waived: Kamaal Seymour

Philadelphia Eagles

Seattle Seahawks

  • Signed: TE Cam Sutton

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Redskins Cut Nicholson, Four Other DBs

Despite Montae Nicholson having one more season on his rookie contract, the Redskins will waive the fourth-year safety, Mike Garafolo of NFL.com tweets.

Nicholson worked as a full-time starter for last season’s Redskins team, being a first-stringer in 13 games. His departure will create more than $2MM in cap space for Washington, which also cut veteran cornerback Kayvon Webster (Twitter link via ESPN’s Adam Schefter). The latter is a vested veteran and will go straight to free agency, while Nicholson will hit the waiver wire.

As it turns out, this was part of an interesting position-specific purge. The Redskins cut three other defensive backs as well, dropping cornerbacks Coty Sensabaugh, Dee Delaney and Breon Borders.

In his full-time role, however, Nicholson did not fare especially well. Pro Football Focus graded the former fourth-round pick as its third-worst safety in 2019. PFF also graded Nicholson as one of the league’s worst safeties in 2018. The Michigan State alum did intercept two passes in his third season and, due to his experience, profiles as an interesting waiver claim for a team in need of safety help.

Both Sensabaugh, 31, and Webster, 29, played in just two games with Washington last season. They joined the team as late-season injury replacements.

Redskins Make Flurry Of CB Moves

The Redskins are going to be pretty shorthanded in Week 17 as they seek to officially eliminate the Cowboys from the playoffs. After already shutting down starting quarterback Dwayne Haskins, the team is now placing cornerbacks Quinton Dunbar and Danny Johnson on inured reserve. In corresponding roster moves, they signed Dee Delaney and added Breon Borders off the Jaguars’ practice squad.

Dunbar had missed the last two weeks with a hamstring injury. He’ll finish the year with four interceptions and eight passes defended in 11 games, all starts. This is the second straight campaign that he’ll finish the year on IR, as a shin issue limited him to only seven games last season. Back in January of 2018, he inked a three-year extension worth $10.25MM. The 2015 UDFA from Florida has one more year left on his deal.

Johnson is a 2018 UDFA from FCS school Southern. He signed with Washington and made the 53 as a rookie, appearing in 14 games while playing a limited role. He started this season on the reserve/PUP list, and was activated a couple of weeks ago. He immediately slid into the starting lineup, starting each of the past two games.

Delaney is a 2018 UDFA from Miami, who has bounced around and appeared in two games for Jacksonville as a rookie. Borders is a 2017 UDFA from Duke who has spent the past few years going on and off various teams’ practice squads. With veteran Josh Norman still in the doghouse, it’s possible both see the field in Week 17.

NFL Workout Updates: 12/17/19

Here are Tuesday’s notable workout updates:

Chicago Bears

Dallas Cowboys

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Los Angeles Chargers

  • LB Cameron Judge*, LB Nick Usher*

Washington Redskins

 

* = CFL player

NFL Workout Updates: 12/11/19

Here are Wednesday’s workout updates:

Chicago Bears

Cincinnati Bengals

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Miami Dolphins

Seattle Seahawks

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL Workout Updates: 12/3/19

Today’s notes from the workout/visit circuit:

Arizona Cardinals

Carolina Panthers

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

Tennessee Titans

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/26/19

We’ll keep track of today’s minor moves here:

Buffalo Bills

Cincinnati Bengals

Cleveland Browns

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Miami Dolphins

New England Patriots

New Orleans Saints

New York Jets

San Francisco 49ers

Minor NFL Transactions: 7/30/19

Today’s minor moves:

Baltimore Ravens

  • Waived: OLB/DE Markus Jones

Buffalo Bills

  • Retired: OL Isaac Asiata

Detroit Lions

  • Signed: DT Frederick Jones
  • Waived: WR Brandon Reilly

Indianapolis Colts

  • Signed: WR Roger Lewis, OG Ian Silberman
  • Waived: LB Drew Lewis, OG William Poehls

New England Patriots

  • Signed: OT Martez Ivey
  • Waived/Injured: OL Cole Croston

New York Jets

  • Signed: OL Ryan Anderson, CB Dee Delaney
  • Waived: LB Jeff Allison, OL Toa Lobendahn

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

  • Placed on IR: TE Troy Niklas

Minor NFL Transactions: 5/1/19

Today’s minor moves:

Cleveland Browns

  • Waived: G David Bright

Jacksonville Jaguars

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

  • Signed: S P.J. Locke (undrafted college free agent)

Seattle Seahawks

  • Waived: OL Marcus Henry