Nick Leverett

Buccaneers Considering O-Line Trades

Between Tom Brady‘s second and third Buccaneers seasons, Tampa Bay’s interior offensive line has gone from one of the league’s most stable areas to an undependable spot. Injuries to Ryan Jensen and Aaron Stinnie followed the exits of Ali Marpet and Alex Cappa. The Bucs endured more issues Saturday night, when both Robert Hainsey and Nick Leverett went down during the team’s preseason finale.

Hainsey, who is in line to replace Jensen at center, suffered an ankle injury. The Bucs do look to have caught a break with the second-year blocker, whom Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com tweets could return by Week 1 after X-rays revealed a short-term injury. Leverett suffered a shoulder malady, and Wilson adds that is also not considered to be a serious issue (Twitter link). But the run of injuries this position group has suffered cannot exactly be ignored.

[RELATED: Jensen Injury Not Season-Ending?]

This latest round of setbacks reminds of how much has changed for the Bucs’ offensive line, which does have trade acquisition Shaq Mason healthy as the regular season nears. Todd Bowles confirmed the team will look at acquisitions along the O-line.

There is not a sense of urgency unless we lose the two that went down yesterday,” Bowles said, via JoeBucsFan.com. “You have to have someone willing to give you a good football player [in a trade]. Nobody is going to give you a good football player. Nobody is going to feel sorry for you.

We are going to look at the waiver wire. We are going to look at certain trades to see if we can find some things out there. But if there is nothing out there, we still have some guys that can play.”

The Bucs join the Bears and 49ers as known teams to be looking into O-line trades, though this is likely not the only trio making inquiries into availability at these premium positions. Tampa Bay used a third-round pick on Hainsey in 2021 and a second-rounder on guard Luke Goedeke. The latter is expected, due to Jensen and Stinnie’s severe injuries, to be a starter. More clarity on Hainsey’s status will help clear up the Bucs’ O-line picture for Week 1. The team has lost linemen during practice and preseason games this summer. Depth, at least, may be needed this week.

NFC South Rumors: Darnold, Christensen, Bucs, Murphy-Bunting, Werner

As Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield starts to run away with the starting job, questions have been raised about the future of incumbent starter Sam Darnold. When a rumor surfaced that Carolina may be shopping the fifth-year passer, general manager Scott Fitterer pulled Darnold aside to set him at ease, according to Joseph Person of The Athletic.

“I talked to Scott,” Darnold explained. “He said not to worry about it. To be honest, before he talked to me, I didn’t even see it. So I’m just gonna continue to do me and do what I can to put myself in a good position and put this team in a good position.”

Aiding Fitterer in convincing Darnold that he’s not likely to be dealt is Darnold’s $18.86MM salary. There could certainly be a team willing to make a call about Darnold if an injury occurs to their starter, but if the Panthers wanted to offload him, they’d likely have to eat some of his contract, as well.

There’s a good chance, though, that Darnold stays put. As Person explained, “in a league that saw only 12 teams make it through the 17-game regular season in 2021 with one quarterback,” the backup quarterback is still a crucially important position. And, while Darnold may not rank highly among the starters in today’s game, he certainly ranks as one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league. The backup job appears to be his, too, as long as the Panthers continue to slow play the development of rookie third-round pick Matt Corral.

Here are a few other rumors from around the NFC South, starting with another note out of the Tar Heel state:

  • As certain as it seems that rookie first-round pick Ikem Ekwonu will start the 2022 season as the Panthers’ starting left tackle, Carolina is still giving last year’s third-round pick, Brady Christensen, plenty of snaps at the position. According to Person, Christensen took the majority of the first-team reps this past Thursday at the position. Christensen has a highly sought after versatility that gives the Panthers the option of playing him as a guard or a tackle. With Ekwonu still expected to win the starting job, perhaps offensive line coach James Campen just wants to ensure his best backup option has enough experience at one of the offensive line’s most important positions.
  • The Buccaneers‘ interior offensive line will look completely different in 2022 after the departures of Alex Cappa and Ali Marpet, as well as an injury that may cause center Ryan Jensen to miss a significant amount of time. Trade acquisition Shaq Mason will man the right guard position, while the left guard and center positions are still up in the air, according to ESPN’s Jenna Laine. The center position is currently a battle between Robert Hainsey and Nick Leverett. Leverett is also competing for the left guard starting job with Aaron Stinnie and rookie second-round pick Luke Goedeke. A tweet from Bucs staff writer Scott Smith, though, may hint at one of the positions. Smith reports that assistant head coach & run game coordinator Harold Goodwin “hopes a decision (at left guard) will be made prior to the third preseason game” so that the new left guard can “build chemistry with Donovan Smith and (Hainsey).” Smith is projected to be the starting left tackle, so this comment from Goodwin may point to the fact that Hainsey has won the position battle at center.
  • We recently did a rundown of the Buccaneers’ cornerbacks room, but an update, provided by Matt Matera of the Pewter Report, may give us some new information. We claimed that Sean Murphy-Bunting was in a competition with Jamel Dean for the No. 2 cornerback spot opposite Carlton Davis, but that the loser of that battle would still likely get plenty of time as the top option at nickel. According to Matera, though, Murphy-Bunting is no longer working in the slot and is solely competing with Dean for the outside job. Matera adds that Dean seems to have the inside-track which will leave Murphy-Bunting coming off the bench.
  • It appears that Saints second-year linebacker Pete Werner has taken hold of the starting weak-side linebacker position next to Demario Davis, according to Jeff Duncan of nola.com. Duncan comments that the staff’s confidence in Werner is high enough that it assisted in their decision to allow former starter Kwon Alexander to walk in free agency.

Buccaneers Fear Season-Ending Knee Injury For C Ryan Jensen

JULY 29: The Bucs indeed fear Jensen will be out for the season, Rapoport adds. Todd Bowles confirmed Friday the team’s starting center will miss a significant amount of time (video links). The new Tampa Bay HC did not say Jensen would miss the entire season, mentioning a potential multi-month timeline.

The Bucs have already discussed bringing in a veteran, per Bowles, though the fourth-year Tampa Bay staffer said these discussions have not progressed too far just yet. Hainsey, a right tackle at Notre Dame who converted to the interior as a pro, is expected to receive the first crack at replacing Jensen, per Rapoport. Nick Leverett, a former UDFA who played in two games last season, is also in the mix.

JULY 28: A cart transported Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen off the practice field Thursday, and the team is concerned about a long-term absence. The Bucs fear the recently re-signed snapper suffered a serious injury, Ian Rapoport and Mike Garafolo of NFL.com report (on Twitter).

These reports indeed usually precede bad news for teams. The Bucs just gave Jensen a second contract — a three-year, $39MM deal — to return as Tom Brady‘s center. Tests are ongoing here, but a source informed ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter this situation is “not looking good” for the veteran blocker (Twitter link). Jensen is dealing with a major injury, per Aaron Wilson of ProFootballNetwork.com (on Twitter). His season is certainly in jeopardy.

Offensive line continuity played a big part in the Bucs’ surge to the Super Bowl LV championship, but the 2021 playoffs and this offseason have brought uncertainty to Tampa Bay’s front. This year has injected considerable O-line change, with longtime guard Ali Marpet retiring and the Bucs letting their other guard starter — Alex Cappa — defect to the Bengals in free agency. A Jensen absence would create a new issue for the Bucs, who will have the oldest primary starting quarterback in NFL history.

Jensen’s recommitment to the Bucs came just after Brady’s; the ninth-year center re-signed with the team hours after Brady’s unretirement. Jensen has established himself as one of the NFL’s top centers, having moved from sixth-round pick to using a contract-year springboard with the Ravens to a 2018 Bucs deal. On that pact, Jensen did not miss a game. The Colorado State-Pueblo alum has not missed a game since the 2016 season. Jensen, 31, made his first Pro Bowl last season.

Tampa Bay did trade a Day 3 pick to acquire Shaq Mason, reuniting Brady with one of his longtime Patriots guards. But the team could soon be vulnerable at two guard positions. With interior O-line play vital to Brady-led offenses, the Bucs could be in need of another veteran reinforcement. While it is premature here, center does feature an interestingly experienced free agent crop. J.C. Tretter, Matt Paradis and Trey Hopkins remain available.

For now, Robert Hainsey will take over at the pivot, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. Competing for the other guard spot with second-round pick Luke Goedeke and the recently re-signed Aaron Stinnie, Hainsey is a third-round pick in his second season. Tampa Bay quickly addressed the Rob Gronkowski void by signing Kyle Rudolph. If Jensen is set to miss a substantial amount of time, it would not remotely surprise if Tampa Bay signed one of the top free agent snappers.

Minor NFL Transactions: 8/28/21

Here are Saturday’s minor moves. Teams have until 3pm CT Tuesday to cut their rosters down to 53 players.

New York Giants

Pittsburgh Steelers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Buccaneers Sign 11 Players To Futures Deals

The Super Bowl champs have signed eleven players to reserve/futures contracts for 2021. Shortly after their boat parade, the Buccaneers announced low-cost deals for:

The list mostly draws from the team’s year-end practice squad, save for Leverett who was dropped in the postseason for the returning Earl Watford. Now, the Bucs will work to keep the band together with wide receivers Antonio Brown and Chris Godwin, tight end Rob Gronkowski, and edge rusher Shaquil Barrett among those scheduled for free agency.

Buccaneers Add LB Deone Bucannon To Practice Squad

Deone Bucannon has landed back in Tampa Bay. The team announced that they’ve signed the linebacker to their practice squad. To make room, the team released guard Nick Leverett from the practice squad (via The Athletic’s Greg Auman on Twitter).

Linebacker Devin White remains on the reserve/COVID-19 list, and it’s uncertain if he’ll be able to suit up for Saturday’s Wild Card matchup against Washington. At the very least, Bucannon will provide Tampa Bay will some extra depth at the position during practice this week. At the very best, Bucannon could find himself elevated to the roster, with Scott Smith of the team website noting that the veteran is a “candidate” for a promotion.

Bucannon, 28, has plenty of experience with the Buccaneers’ defense, having played five games for the team in 2019 and played four seasons under Bucs head coach Bruce Arians in Arizona. The linebacker split his 2019 campaign between the Buccaneers and Giants, compiling 28 tackles in 14 games. It’s been a while since Bucannon was a full-time starter, but he averaged 71 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 1.5 forced fumbles, and three passes defended in 14.3 games per season between the 2014 and 2017 campaigns.

Leverett was a four-year starter at North Carolina Central University and Rice. He joined the Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent back in April, and he landed on their practice squad in September.

Bucs Sign Josh Rosen To Practice Squad

Josh Rosen has found a new home. The highly drafted quarterback will be signing with the Buccaneers’ practice squad, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL Network (Twitter link).

Rosen will now get to learn from Tom Brady in the quarterbacks room. The UCLA product has had a tough time in the pros, and was just recently cut by the Dolphins after Miami failed to find a trade partner. Heavily hyped coming out of college, Rosen was drafted 10th overall by the Cardinals in 2018. His rookie season was a disaster, as Arizona went 3-13 and head coach Steve Wilks was fired after just one year.

The Cards elected to start fresh the following offseason, drafting Kyler Murray with the first pick and making Rosen expendable. He was quickly dealt to the Dolphins in exchange for a second-round pick. He started three games in Miami but didn’t play well and failed to beat out Ryan Fitzpatrick for playing time.

Obviously Rosen’s circumstances have been far from ideal, and he’s had to deal with things that are extremely rare for such a highly drafted quarterback. Now he’ll be not just learning from Brady, but reuniting with Bucs offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich as well. Leftwich was quarterbacks coach and interim offensive coordinator during Rosen’s season in Arizona, when he started 13 games.

This seems like an ideal situation for Rosen to land, and a chance to jumpstart his career. For the Bucs it’s a nice low-risk signing, as they don’t currently have anyone waiting in the wings for whenever the 43-year-old Brady decides to hang up his cleats. Through 16 career NFL starts Rosen has averaged 5.7 yards per attempt with 12 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.

Here is the Buccaneers full practice squad:

Minor NFL Transactions: 9/4/20

Today’s minor moves:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

  • Waived: DT Hinwa Allieu, FB Mikey Daniel, T Evin Ksiezarczyk, RB Craig Reynolds

Buffalo Bills

Carolina Panthers

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Detroit Lions

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Released: DE Caraun Reid
  • Waived: RB Nathan Cottrell, TE Matthew Flanagan, OL Blake Hance, OL K.C. McDermott, OL Garrett McGhin, LS Matthew Orzech, OL Ryan Pope, OL Austen Pleasants, WR Marvelle Ross

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

New York Jets

Philadelphia Eagles

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Buccaneers Sign 13 UDFAs

After adding seven rookies via the 2020 NFL Draft, the Buccaneers announced the signing of nine undrafted free agents today:

Sinnett is naturally one of the most notable name on the list, as the quarterback guided the University of San Diego to the FCS playoffs after tossing 3,528 yards and 32 touchdowns. While he’s unlikely to crack a roster that includes Tom BradyBlaine Gabbert, and Ryan Griffin, it sounds like the Bucs want to hang on to a developmental QB on their practice squad.

Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle previously reported (via Twitter) that Sinnett will earn $152K in guaranteed money.

Jonsen proved to be a Swiss Army Knife during his time at Montana State, as he finished the 2019 campaign with 580 receiving yards and 527 rushing yards. He also completed six of his seven pass attempts for 64 yards and one score.

UPDATE

The Bucs announced the signing of four additional UDFAs:

  • John Hurst, WR (West Georgia)
  • Nick Leverett, G (Rice)
  • Parnell Motley, CB (Oklahoma)
  • Josh Pearson, WR (Jacksonville State)