According to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (via Twitter), there was a bit of competition for offensive lineman Kyle Hinton’s services. The 2020 seventh-round pick spent much of the season on the Vikings practice squad, and they looked to sign him to a reserve/futures contract. However, he ended up opting for the Falcons, who gave him an $100K signing bonus.
Just in time for tonight’s postseason game, the Buccaneers are receiving a significant boost to their offensive line. The team announced that center Ryan Jensenhas been activated from IR, putting him in line to make his season debut against the Cowboys. In a corresponding move, special teamer J.J. Russellhas been waived.
Jensen suffered a major knee injury in late July, and his availability for the season was immediately called into question. It was long presumed that he would be sidelined for the entire campaign, something which substantially compounded the Buccaneers’ issues along the interior of their o-line. The retirement of Ali Marpetand free agent departure of Alex Cappaleft the team without any of their 2021 starters at guard or center throughout the 2022 campaign.
To little surprise, then, Tampa Bay struggled mightily on the ground this season. The Buccaneers finished dead last in rushing yards per game, averaging only 77 yards in that department. The absence of a balanced attack weighed down the team’s offensive consistency despite their success through the air (270 passing yards per game, second-most in the league). Jensen’s return, assuming he is able to play close to his Pro Bowl level, could go a long way towards solving that issue.
The 31-year-old has been a mainstay in the middle of Tampa’s offensive front since signing with the team as a free agent in 2018. He had yet to miss a game during his time with the Bucs prior to this summer’s injury, making him a dependable member of the team’s decorated offense. It remained uncertain for much of the campaign when (if at all) Jensen would be able to return this year, but a comeback was confirmed to be a distinct possibility last month when he returned to practice.
Uncertainty still remains at the left guard spot for Tampa Bay heading into the final contest of the wild-card round, but with Jensen expected to start, their offense will be better-positioned to pull off an upset over Dallas. This move leaves the Buccaneers with three IR activations remaining for the postseason.
Allen suffered a biceps injury in the Steelers win over Las Vegas, requiring surgery, according to Mark Kaboly of The Athletic. With two games remaining and Pittsburgh in danger of elimination from postseason contention, Allen’s 2022 season has likely come to an end.
Murphy has missed the last five games for the Cardinals while dealing with a back issue, so while it’s not necessarily a further setback for Arizona, the transaction indicates that Murphy will miss the rest of the season before going into free agency. With Murphy absent, the Cardinals have started veteran Antonio Hamilton across from Marco Wilson.
Buccaneers running back Leonard Fournette exited the team’s game against the Seahawks in Munich due to a hip pointer two weeks ago and was unable to get right during Tampa Bay’s bye week. Fournette has been ruled out as the team comes back for a game in Cleveland this week, and Tampa Bay will activate running back Giovani Bernard from injured reserve, providing a little depth at the position, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network.
Fournette started out the season as the Buccaneers’ top rusher. As the season has progressed, though, third-round rookie running back Rachaad White has earned more and more carries, slowly taking away from Fournette’s role. The trend has advanced to the point that White was named Tampa Bay’s starting running back when the team traveled to Germany. Fournette still contributed to the team’s win, rushing for 57 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown but was removed from the rotation due to the hip injury.
Bernard’s role has drastically diminished since his tenure in Cincinnati. In his first year with the Buccaneers last season, Bernard’s carries dropped from 124 in 2020 to only eight. Tampa Bay utilized the veteran solely as a pass catcher out of the backfield. Even that role seemed to diminish this season as Bernard only appeared on special teams during the two games before going on IR.
With Fournette out, White will remain unchallenged as the team’s starting running back this week. Third-year back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, whose role has also drastically decreased this season with the emergence of White, should serve as the No. 2 running back behind White with Bernard contributing as a potential third-down receiving back, if at all on offense.
In order to make room for Bernard on the roster, the Buccaneers has waived linebacker J.J. Russell. Their linebacker depth won’t be depleted, though, as practice squad linebacker Ulysees Gilbert will be a gameday elevation against the Browns.
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.