Rachaad White

Buccaneers Aiming To Add Running Back

Coming off a season in which they ranked last in rushing, the Buccaneers did not bolster their backfield in the draft. Rachaad White remains on track to be Tampa Bay’s starter.

The Bucs are aiming to add a veteran to their backfield equation, per ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler, who indicated during a recent SportsCenter appearance (h/t Bleacher Report’s Erin Walsh) the team is seeking “an RB2” to work behind White. A 2022 third-round pick, White totaled 481 rushing yards (3.7 per carry) last season and minimized Leonard Fournette‘s role as the campaign progressed. The Bucs still 76.9 yards per game.

Tampa Bay released Fournette, a mutual separation, despite signing the former top-five pick to a three-year deal worth $21MM in 2022. Fournette remains unsigned. The Bucs were mentioned as an Ezekiel Elliott suitor in March; Elliott remains unsigned. While Fowler mentioned Elliott as a candidate to fill this role, a Cowboys return also remains on the table. That said, the Bucs did hire ex-Cowboys running backs coach Skip Peete this offseason. Peete worked with Elliott from 2020-22.

Chase Edmonds signed with the Bucs in March, coming over after the Broncos released their 2022 trade acquisition. But the team does not appear confident in the ex-Cardinal as its locked-in backup. Beyond Elliott and Fournette, the most obvious free agent to fit this job description is Kareem Hunt, a former rushing champion who spent three-plus seasons as Nick Chubb‘s top backup. Mark Ingram is also available, and the two-stint Saint is hoping to play a 13th NFL season.

If the Bucs ventured into the trade market, Dalvin Cook becomes an obvious name to monitor. The Vikings are open to trading their six-year starter, having re-signed backup Alexander Mattison. Cook is due a $10.4MM base salary, which would be a tough sell for a Bucs team that spent much of the offseason clearing cap space. The Bucs would need to make payroll adjustments with any backfield addition, considering they sit last in cap space (barely $600K) as of Tuesday. Going into his age-28 season, Cook would also be a clear candidate to start for his next team.

Bengals and Titans trade rumors — involving Joe Mixon and Derrick Henry, respectively — have died down, and they never took off after Austin Ekeler requested to be moved. Few teams are in the market for this position, but the Bucs appear prepared to make a move fairly soon.

Buccaneers Rumors: CBs, OL, RBs, Mason

In line with reports we’ve been following all summer, it appears that Tampa Bay cornerback Jamel Dean has seized the starting job opposite Carlton Davis, according to Greg Auman of The Athletic. Dean was battling it out with Sean Murphy-Bunting who has held a starting role for much of his young career with the Buccaneers but whose injuries last season left the door open for Dean to make a run for the position. Recent reports seemed to indicate that Dean had the inside track on the starting role, but Auman was able to confirm it.

It was also discussed recently that if Murphy-Bunting was unable to win the job, he would only be able to come on the field in a backup capacity, since the Buccaneers would prefer to man three safeties in their nickel package this year. In nickel packages, Tampa Bay will use Davis and Dean on the outside with safeties Antoine Winfield, Logan Ryan, and Mike Edwards manning the rest of the secondary.

Head coach Todd Bowles spelled out the situation for Murphy-Bunting after awarding the starting job to Dean, saying that “he doesn’t plan on rotating his outside corners,” meaning that Murphy-Bunting’s playing time will largely come as a sub in both base and nickel packages.

Here are a few more rumors coming out of central Florida, starting with some more news on the depth chart:

  • After a frustrating offseason that saw Tampa Bay offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs deal with a postseason ankle injury, and an oblique strain once his ankle had healed, the 23-year-old finally got some good news. After he practiced the last two days, Bowles told the media that Wirfs was trending towards being able to play in Week 1, according to Andrew Crane of the Tampa Bay Times. Another youngster should be joining Wirfs on the line as rookie second-round pick Luke Goedeke is in line to start at right guard for the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay doesn’t really have much of a choice with Aaron Stinnie and Ryan Jensen on injured reserve, but Goedeke will get an early opportunity to prove his draft-stock.
  • Despite his lack of experience against elite talent, rookie running back Rachaad White is drawing elite comparisons. The smooth, patient running-style that has drawn comparisons to such standouts as Marcus Allen, Edgerrin James, and Le’Veon Bell, has elevated White above Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Giovani Bernard on the depth chart, according to Auman. Tampa Bay realized that potential talent when they drafted him in the third round and they’ll hope to see some of those comparisons make their way into football games.
  • Tampa Bay got a little bit of breathing room in their cap space today as starting guard Shaq Mason agreed to restructure his contract, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. The renegotiated deal will free up over $6MM against the cap this season for the Buccaneers.

NFL Draft Pick Signings: 5/12/22

Thursday has featured several rookie deals finalized. Here are the mid- and late-round draftees to sign their four-year contracts today:

Arizona Cardinals

Atlanta Falcons

Buffalo Bills

Cleveland Browns

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

  • WR Montrell Washington (fifth round, Samford)

Detroit Lions

Houston Texans

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • RB Snoop Conner (fifth round, Ole Miss)
  • CB Gregory Junior (sixth round, Ouachita Baptist)
  • CB Montaric Brown (seventh round, Arkansas)

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

Minnesota Vikings

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tennessee Titans