Buccaneers Rumors

Buccaneers Sign Second-Round Pick Chris Braswell

The Buccaneers edge rushing group is going to look a bit different in 2024 after the departure of Shaquil Barrett in free agency. One of the players hoping to help fill that role will be the team’s second-round draft selection this year, Alabama’s Chris Braswell. The first step towards that after the draft has been taken as Tampa Bay announces that Braswell has now signed his rookie contract.

Braswell decided to forgo his senior year of eligibility in Tuscaloosa after a breakout season for the Crimson Tide. Following the 22-year-old’s redshirt seasons, Braswell appeared in every game for Alabama the next two years but only mustered backup numbers with 34 total tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, three sacks, and one forced fumble in both years combined. Last year, though, starting only two games in continued limited time, Braswell showed what he could contribute. He finished second on the team in sacks (8.0) and third in tackles for loss (10.5).

Braswell joins a youthful pass rusher group. 2021 first-round pick Joe Tryon-Shoyinka has been a starter in the group for the last two years. Last year’s third-round pick, YaYa Diaby, is expected to take a step forward in 2024 after leading the team with 7.5 sacks in his rookie season. Adding some veteran presence to the group is Randy Gregory, who split time with the Broncos and 49ers last year.

The Buccaneers pass rushing group failed to produce a player with double-digit sacks last year, though they presented an effective team rush, enough to finish seventh in the NFL is sacks as a team. If they plan on having their first double-digit-sack pass rusher since 2021, someone in the above group will need to break out.

With today’s signing, the team has now signed all but one of their first-round picks. Only first-round Duke center Graham Barton remains unsigned. Here are the others:

Randy Gregory No-Shows Start Of Buccaneers Minicamp

Randy Gregory‘s first year in Tampa Bay hasn’t gotten off to the best start. The veteran edge rusher was a no-show for the first day of mandatory minicamp, with coach Todd Bowles declaring it an unexcused absence.

[RELATED: Randy Gregory Files Lawsuit Against NFL, Broncos]

“It’s disappointing when anybody is not here but we’ll deal with it,” Bowles said (via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times). “It’s minicamp and we’ll go accordingly.”

Gregory joined the Buccaneers earlier this offseason, signing a one-year pact that could be worth up to $5MM. The signing reunited the pass rusher with ex-Cowboys assistant George Edwards. The two worked together in Dallas from 2020-21, when Edwards served as a senior defensive assistant. Edwards is now in charge of an OLB grouping that’s supposed to include Gregory.

The beginning of the veteran’s career was define by suspensions. While Gregory has generally avoided trouble in recent years, the player recently filed a lawsuit against the NFL and the Broncos, where he played for one-plus seasons. Gregory claimed that he’s been fined more than $500K over the past year-plus for taking medications that include THC. The suit alleges discrimination, with Gregory claiming he was denied a therapeutic use exemption for this medication before being slapped with a $533K fine. Bowles declined to say whether the player’s absence was related to the lawsuit.

Of course, Gregory will also be subject to fines for missing practice, with Stroud noting that the player could face $100K in penalties. Fortunately for the Buccaneers, the team has a relatively deep group of outside linebackers that includes recent second-round pick Chris Braswell.

Latest On Buccaneers, T Tristan Wirfs

JUNE 11: Wirfs is indeed in attendance at minicamp, as detailed by Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. As a result, he will not be subject to fines. Stroud adds, though, that the team does not want Wirfs to take part in on-field work given the fact he was absent from OTAs. His next participation in that respect could be delayed until a deal is worked out.

JUNE 5: Tristan Wirfs is not expected to join some of this year’s contract-seeking players in skipping minicamp. The All-Pro Buccaneers tackle is on track to show for the team’s mandatory workouts next week, ESPN.com’s Jenna Laine notes.

This is not believed to be a contentious negotiation, even though Wirfs has skipped Bucs OTAs. He is viewed as a key component in an aggressive Bucs retention strategy — one that has already produced new deals for Baker Mayfield, Mike Evans, Lavonte David and Antoine Winfield Jr. this offseason.

The Bucs have operated differently from most teams when it comes to retaining players. They let the above-referenced quartet play out their contracts and retained them all, doing so via deals just before free agency (Evans, Mayfield), in free agency (David) or an extension after a franchise tag (Winfield). Tampa Bay has managed to complete deals to keep players on the cusp of free agency for years, retaining the likes of Shaq Barrett (2021), Carlton Davis and Ryan Jensen (2022), and Jamel Dean (2023) on big-ticket deals either just before the market opened or shortly after that year’s legal tampering period began.

Wirfs going down this path would make him a clear candidate for a franchise tag. Most teams prefer to have their extensions done before a player’s contract year, reducing leverage that comes from free agency nearing. The Bucs have zagged here, in many cases, though it would be interesting to see them go down this road with a player who is in line for a potential tackle-record deal. For now, Wirfs is tied to an $18.6MM fifth-year option salary.

GM Jason Licht called a Wirfs extension a key piece of the team’s puzzle, and Laine adds indications point to the 2020 first-round pick landing an extension that surpasses the four-year, $112MM accord the Lions authorized for Penei Sewell. Like Sewell, Wirfs has played both right and left tackle as a pro. Sewell, however, played on the blind side as a rookie due to a Taylor Decker injury. The Bucs moved Wirfs to the higher-profile tackle spot last season, and he delivered a third Pro Bowl showing.

Wifs, 25, moving to left tackle would have seemingly raised his asking price. That may still be the case, but Sewell earned a $28MM-per-year payday — $3MM north of the LT market’s ceiling — after two years as a high-end right tackle. While the Bucs are not believed to be close on terms with their two-time All-Pro blocker just yet, the team has a second Wirfs contract squarely on its radar. The sides will reconvene at minicamp next week.

Minor NFL Transactions: 6/10/24

Today’s minor moves:

Detroit Lions

  • Waived: LB Steele Chambers

New York Giants

Seattle Seahawks

  • Waived/injured: NT Buddha Jones

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Brightwell was waived/injured by the Giants in May but ultimately reverted to IR. The former sixth-round pick struggled to carve out a role behind Saquon Barkley in New York. Brightwell’s tenure with the Giants will officially end with the RB having collected 256 yards from scrimmage.

Thompkins suffered a hamstring injury in late May that ultimately led to him getting waived/injured. As ESPN’s Jenna Laine notes, it’s about a two-week recovery timeline for the Grade 1 strain, meaning the wideout should be on the brink of full health.

Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times passed along a troubling wrinkle to the situation last week, noting that Thompkins’ release quickly followed public accusations of spousal abuse from his estranged wife. The woman, Maria Castilhos, posted pictures of injuries that she claims were sustained in February of 2023.

“First and foremost, Deven categorically denies the allegations levied against him by his estranged wife, Maria Castilhos,” attorney Brett Gallaway said in the statement. “Unfortunately, Deven and Maria have been going through a contentious divorce proceeding and child custody battle, and it appears that she thought it would help her case to release these false and defamatory videos.

“… We expect he will be fully exonerated after a review of the facts, background, and clear ulterior motive behind the release of these videos and fabricated assault allegations.”

Thompkins served as Tampa Bay’s primary returner in 2023, finishing with 16 kickoff returns (for 327 yards) and 25 punts (for 234 yards). The former UDFA had a limited role on offense, hauling in 17 catches for 83 yards and one touchdown. As Stroud notes, coach Todd Bowles said the “door is open” to Thompkins returning to the Buccaneers once he’s healthy, although the team has already replaced him on the roster with Cody Thompson.

WR Sterling Shepard Addresses Bucs Deal

Sterling Shepard will not be with the Giants in 2024, but he will attempt to continue his career with the Buccaneers. The veteran wideout agreed to a Tampa Bay deal on Thursday which came together in relatively short order.

While in conversation with veteran NFL reporter Josina Anderson, Shepard explained that quarterback Baker Mayfield reached out earlier this week to see if he was prepared to play another season in the NFL. The two were teammates at Oklahoma, and a reunion was one of the scenarios Shepard was willing to consider in the event he committed to suiting up for the 2024 campaign.

The 31-year-old noted that he “turned done other opportunities” before a potential Bucs deal came on his radar. Mayfield informed Shepard that his name was being floated by Tampa Bay with respect to interest, which paved the way for the latter’s agent to reach out. A tryout was arranged, and Shepard’s performance earned him a contract and the opportunity to carve out a role on Tampa’s receiver depth chart.

Mike Evans – who signed a two-year deal including $29MM fully guaranteed this offseason – remains the Buccaneers’ top option in the passing game. Fellow Pro Bowler Chris Godwin is under contract for one more year, although his future is less certain at the moment. Tampa Bay also has a pair of recent draft investments (2023 sixth-rounder Trey Palmer and 2024 third-rounder Jalen McMillan) set to play a role on offense this year.

Shepard will look to earn playing time as part of that group. The former second-rounder had a consistent New York tenure from 2016-20, but injuries limited him to 10 games across the next two campaigns. Last season, he occupied a minor role on a Giants team transitioning to younger options at the receiver spot. Shepard will now have an unexpected opportunity to re-build his value to an extent while playing with Mayfield for the first time since 2015.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Shepard said (via Jared and Paul Schwartz of the New York Post).“I can’t say I wanted to experience that, I always wanted to be a Giant but I’m not mad at it, man. It’s a really good situation, they have a really good football team, really talented football team and I get to be reunited with my boy and get to play with him a little bit. I’m excited about it.”

Bucs, WR Sterling Shepard Agree To Deal

After eight years in New York, Sterling Shepard is set to join a new team for the first time in his career. The veteran wideout has an agreement in place with the Buccaneers, Mike Garafolo of NFL Network reports.

To little surprise, Garafolo notes this will be a one-year pact. Many free agents still on the market this deep into the offseason take on deals of that length as they attempt to use the summer as a means of carving out a roster spot. In Shepard’s case, doing so would give Tampa Bay an experienced pass-catching option. He will receive $1.21MM on the veteran salary benefit, Greg Auman of Fox Sports adds.

The 31-year-old has played 90 games, including 74 starts. Shepard proved to be a consistent producer with the Giants, recording between 586 and 872 yards each year from 2016-20. He was a favorite of both Eli Manning and Daniel Jones, drawing at least 83 targets every season during that span. Injuries have proven to be a hindrance since then, however.

Shepard suffered an Achilles tear in December 2021, limiting him to seven games. That was followed by a torn ACL early in the 2022 campaign, which led to further missed time and minimal production. The Giants’ longest-tenured player entered last offseason on the roster bubble after signing another pact for the veteran’s minimum. Shepard played 15 games in 2023, but he made just 10 catches; New York elected to go in a different direction this year at the WR spot.

Now, a reunion with quarterback Baker Mayfield is in store. He and Shepard were teammates at Oklahoma, and strong play with a familiar face during training camp could allow the latter to secure a spot on the depth chart. Tampa Bay has Mike Evans and Chris Godwin in place for at least one more season, and the team also rosters Trey Palmer along with third-round rookie Jalen McMillan.

Shortly after moving on from returner Deven Thompkins, the Bucs added Cody Thompson to the receiver mix. Shepard will be competing with the latter for reps during the summer as he attempts to rebound from the missed time and underwhelming totals of the past three years. Remaining healthy in 2024 would go a long way to meeting both goals while also helping his free agent stock.

Minor NFL Transactions: 6/5/24

Here are Wednesday’s minor moves:

Carolina Panthers

  • Released from IR via injury settlement: OL Ilm Manning

Cleveland Browns

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Waived/injured: WR David White

Pittsburgh Steelers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

White suffered a torn ACL during one of the Jaguars’ practices last week, Doug Pederson said recently. The Jags signed White as a UDFA following a career at Western Carolina. White will revert to the Jags’ IR list if unclaimed, with this process generally leading to an injury settlement that moves the player off the team’s roster. White was among five UDFAs receivers the Jags signed this year.

A sixth-round Titans draftee back in 2021, Breeze was most recently with the Texans. He spent the second half of last season on Houston’s practice squad, staying on the AFC South champions’ 16-man unit until season’s end. No reserve/futures contract emerged for the Oregon alum, however. Breeze has played in 11 career games, splitting his career in Tennessee and Detroit.

Minor NFL Transactions: 6/4/24

Today’s minor moves:

Atlanta Falcons

  • Claimed off waivers (from Patriots): OL Andrew Stueber
  • Waived: WR JaQuae Jackson

Buffalo Bills

  • Signed: LB Shayne Simon
  • Waived/injured: OL Tommy Doyle

Cleveland Browns

Houston Texans

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Washington Commanders

After missing most of the past two seasons due to a knee injury, Ryan Jensen announced back in February that he was going to retire. The Buccaneers made the move official today, although that won’t be the end of their cap commitment to the offensive lineman. As Greg Auman of FOX Sports notes, since Jensen’s contract was pro-rated, the Buccaneers will be hit with a combined $16.6MM in dead cap over the next two seasons.

The Browns cleared up their depth chart a bit by cutting kicker Lucas Havrisik, leaving the organization with Dustin Hopkins and Cade York to compete for the starting job. Havrisik got into nine games with the Rams last season, connecting on 15 of his 20 field goal tries and 19 of his 22 extra points. In other kicker moves, the Commanders have added Ramiz Ahmed in the wake of the Brandon McManus release.

11 Teams Gain Cap Space From Post-June 1 Cuts

Early June no longer means a mid-offseason update to the free agent market, as teams can designate players as post-June 1 cuts months in advance of that date. But June 2 does bring an annually important date in terms of finances. This year, 11 teams will see their cap-space figures expand thanks to post-June 1 release designations. One other club — the Broncos — used a post-June 1 designation, but they will not save any money from the historic Russell Wilson release.

Teams are permitted to designate two players as post-June 1 cuts ahead of that date. This designation spreads a player’s dead money hit over two years as opposed to a 2024-only blow. Courtesy of Spotrac, here are the savings this year’s teams to make post-June 1 designations will receive:

Arizona Cardinals

Baltimore Ravens

Buffalo Bills

Dallas Cowboys

Denver Broncos

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Las Vegas Raiders

Miami Dolphins

New Orleans Saints

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Broncos’ overall Wilson cap hit, even with the quarterback’s $1.21MM Steelers salary factoring into the equation, will more than double any other single-player dead money number in NFL history. The now-Sean Payton-led Broncos, after a failed effort to move Wilson’s guarantee vesting date beyond 2024, will take their medicine for bailing 18 months after authorizing a five-year, $245MM extension. Denver will absorb the lion’s share of the dead money this year, taking on $53MM. The team will not receive the cap credit from Wilson’s Steelers deal until 2025, per Spotrac.

Annually making exhaustive efforts to move under the cap, the Saints will be hit with more than $30MM in total dead cap from the Thomas and Winston contracts. Redesigning both in 2023, the Saints will take on $8.9MM in 2024 dead money on Thomas and $3.4MM on the Winston pact. Mickey Loomis‘ operation is once again at the bottom of the NFL in future cap space, being projected to come in more than $84MM over the 2025 cap.

Baltimore structured Beckham’s one-year, $15MM contract to void, and the team will take on more than $10MM in total dead money on it. The bulk of that will come in 2025; the post-June 1 cut will produce $2.8MM in 2024 dead cap this year.

NFL Front Office Updates: Pats, Bills, Bucs

Teams around the league continue to make adjustments here and there to their front office and scouting staffs. One such team is the Patriots, who are operating under new leadership at the top of the front office with Bill Belichick departed.

New England is reportedly parting ways with pro scout Joe Anile, according to Neil Stratton of SucceedinFootball.com. Anile joined the Patriots after five years in the Jaguars’ front office. He only spent one year as a pro scout in Jacksonville before leaving for the same role in New England.

Anile is the nephew of longtime NFL scout and front office executive Dom Anile, who rose to the rank of assistant general manager of the Colts back in the mid-2000’s.

Here are a couple of other front office updates from around the league, starting with a rival of the Anile’s former team:

  • The Bills will see football analyst Evan Weiss depart, per ESPN’s Seth Walder. Weiss will be departing the NFL ranks of football analytics in favor of a job at FanDuel, presumably doing a bit of the same work. The Northwestern grad had been with Buffalo since joining the team as an intern in 2018.
  • Lastly, the Buccaneers are bringing on a new hire in Jeremiah Bogan, according to a post from Bogan’s account on X. Bogan’s announcement revealed that he will be hired on as a scouting assistant. He joins Tampa Bay’s scouting department after spending the last four months as director of player personnel and NFL liaison at UConn. Prior to that, he spent the 2023 season as assistant director of player personnel at LSU while also serving as a national scout for the East/West Shrine Bowl.