The source of some strange, unpredicted preseason trades in the past few weeks, the Cardinals have been busy trying to figure out the 53-man roster they’ll open the season with. While some of their biggest cuts came in the days leading up to the deadline and the team is likely to continue making adjustments leading up to opening day, here are the cuts made to officially set team’s initial 53-man roster:
The release of the long-time Cardinals long snapper, Brewer, comes as a bit of a surprise as the only other long snapper on the roster, undrafted rookie Matt Hembrough, is currently on injured reserve. They’ll likely target a free agent who is left available after cut day.
Quarterback Kyler Murray was not moved from the physically unable to perform list, nor was cornerback Garrett Williams moved from the non-football injury list. Both will attempt to make returns shortly after the start of the season. Rookie backup center Gaines’ first NFL season is unfortunately over before it could begin after sustaining a knee injury in the team’s preseason finale.
Breon Borders has been hit with a two-game suspension, according to ESPN’s Field Yates (on Twitter). It’s uncertain what warranted the ban. Borders has seen time in 32 career games (six starts), compiling 42 tackles and one interception. He spent most of the 2022 campaign on the Bears practice squad, getting into one game with the big-league club.
Cameron Dantzler is now headed to a third city this year. The Bills will give the former Vikings third-round pick a chance, doing so not long after the Commanders moved his rookie contract off their payroll.
The Bills are signing the fourth-year cornerback to a one-year deal, according to the team. Washington had claimed Dantzler’s rookie deal in March, but the Mississippi State product will now attempt to play his fourth NFL season in Buffalo.
While the Bills have been busy with defensive transactions over the past few days, extending Ed Oliver and signing Leonard Floyd, the three-time reigning AFC East champions have not done too much at corner this offseason. The team selected Alex Austinin Round 7 but is largely running it back at the position. Dantzler figures to compete for a backup job. In a corresponding move, Buffalo waived cornerback Kyler McMichael.
The Vikings used Dantzler as a regular starter last season, doing so despite drafting Andrew Booth in the 2022 second round. Dantzler, 24, played ahead of Booth and worked as the team’s primary boundary corner opposite Patrick Peterson. The Vikings have moved on from both veterans, with Peterson now with the Steelers. After adding Brian Flores as defensive coordinator, Minnesota has retooled on that side of the ball this offseason. Dantzler has 26 starts on his resume, bringing extensive experience to a Bills team that has seen injuries make a major impact on its depth at this position in recent years.
Tre’Davious White‘s long-awaited return from an ACL tear did not come until Thanksgiving, with the team’s No. 1 corner being out a full calendar year. Emerging seventh-round pick Christian Benford also missed eight games as a rookie. Dantzler stands to join Benford as a backup for a team eager to play 2022 first-rounder Kaiir Elam alongside White.
Pro Football Focus graded Dantzler as a mid-tier corner last season, slotting him 65th at the position. The advanced metrics site viewed Dantzler’s work in 2020 and ’21 as superior, grading the 6-foot-2 cover man in the top 25 each year. The Bills will take a flier, with the former SEC defender aiming to avoid being cut by a third team in 2023. Buffalo also rosters fourth-year corner Dane Jackson (22 career starts) and Siran Neal, with Taron Johnson still in place in the slot.
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.
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.
The Buccaneers added three UDFA wideouts, including the 5-9, 195-pound Sterns. The receiver had an iconic season at Western Kentucky, leading the nation in receptions (150), receiving yards (1,902), and touchdown catches (17). Only three players have accomplished this “Triple Crown” feat over the past 20 years, with Sterns joining DeVonta Smith and Michael Crabtree.
Fatukasi is the younger brother of New York Jets defensive tackle Folorunso Fatukasi. The younger Fatukasi finished his collegiate career with a 2021 campaign that saw him compile 85 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks.