Today’s minor moves consistent exclusively of players getting released/waived from injured reserve. If players are placed on IR during the preseason, they’re not allowed to be activated by their team during the regular season. However, getting released from IR allows them to sign elsewhere and play immediately.
The most notable name on the list is kicker Zane Gonzalez, who has seen time in 63 career games. He most recently got into 12 games for the Panthers during the 2021 campaign, connecting on 20 of his 22 field goal attempts and 22 of his 23 extra point tries. The veteran will likely need an injury to hit before he gets another gig.
Following the retirement of Tom Brady, the Buccaneers will be facing a pseudo-rebuild in 2023. Before they get to a challenging regular season, the team was forced to cut down their roster to 53 players today:
After sitting out the 2021 campaign, Deadrin Senat got into 12 games for Tampa Bay in 2022. The defensive tackle ultimately finished the campaign with 17 tackles, one sack, and a pair of QB hits. The former third-round pick got into 22 games for the Falcons to begin his career.
Although never quite reaching the heights of his tenure with the Bengals, Vigil has a history as a strong contributor and potential starter at linebacker. Coming off a season that saw him only play in four games for the Cardinals before getting put on injured reserve, Vigil failed to stick in New York and will need to find his next opportunity elsewhere.
Vallejo’s tenure in Minnesota lasted a short two weeks. The special teams specialist will have to keep searching for his 2023 home.
Following the 53-man roster cutdown deadline Tuesday, many teams will make slight tweaks to their rosters. In addition to waiver claims, teams can begin constructing their 16-man practice squads today. These Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints moves are noted below.
Here are Wednesday’s NFC South transactions, which will continue to be updated throughout the day.
Ryan is expected to return soon, Greg Auman of The Athletic tweets. His release — from a contract containing no fully guaranteed money — is likely connected to Ryan Jensen‘s impending IR trip.
The Bucs should also be expected to retain Griffin on their 16-man practice squad, which can include up to six vested vets. Griffin has gone through a lengthy career without much actual usage. A 2013 Saints UDFA, Griffin has been with the Bucs since September 2015. Odds are, after he re-signed to stay in Tampa again this offseason, the veteran QB is part of the initial 2022 Bucs P-squad. Griffin, 32, has played in two career games. He would be the Bucs’ fourth passer — behind Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert and Kyle Trask — if kept. So, the same arrangement as 2021.
The Bucs signed Avery last week. Avery spent the offseason with the Steelers but did not make their cut to 80; the Steelers have since traded for Broncos backup OLB Malik Reed. Borregales’ exit will give Ryan Succop the kicker job for a third straight year. After the Bucs went through several years of kicker instability, Succop has done well to inject reliability into the equation. Succop’s extension runs through 2023.
Surratt went undrafted last year after opting out of the 2020 college football season, an option given to all football players that year due to COVID-19. He considered entering the 2020 NFL Draft after an impressive redshirt sophomore season at Wake Forest, but ultimately decided to return before eventually opting out. Despite only playing in 9 games with the Demon Deacons in 2019, Surratt totaled 66 receptions for 1,001 yards and 11 touchdowns. Unfortunately, averaging 111.22 receiving yards per game in 2019 didn’t build his draft stock enough for the 2021 Draft. Surratt has spent time on the practice squads for the Lions and the Birmingham Stallions of the USFL but hasn’t seen the field for either. The Chargers will hope to tap into that explosive play from three years ago.
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.