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When you return all 22 starters from a Super Bowl-winning squad and pair them with offseason acquisitions, via free agency and the draft, sacrifices will have to be made to put together the best 53-man roster possible.
That is the predicament that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers currently face, and it’s a good problem to have. Tampa Bay will utilize the next two months to analyze every member of its roster to identify the ideal makeup of each position on the team, most likely shaking up its depth from a year ago as the starting lineup is filled with incumbents.
As such, some players who have logged snaps for the Buccaneers may not be able to stick around, and could be on the roster bubble.
Below, you can find numerous veterans who have logged snaps with the Buccaneers that will have to fight for their roster spot throughout training camp and the upcoming preseason.
Quarterback Ryan Griffin or Blaine Gabbert
The Buccaneers selected Kyle Trask in the second round of the recent NFL Draft to groom as a potential heir to Tom Brady, so unless he completely crumbles throughout the preseason, Trask is a lock to make the roster.
That leaves Griffin and Gabbert, both seasoned Bucs vets, competing for the job behind Brady and in front of Trask, as Tampa Bay won’t want to rush their rookie onto the field in an extreme situation such as Brady suffering an injury.
Both Griffin and Gabbert re-signed with the Bucs on one-year deals this offseason, but Gabbert’s contract is fully guaranteed while Griffin’s has no guarantees. That makes sense – Gabbert served as the Buccaneers’ QB No. 2 last year over Griffin, appearing in four games. Barring a fantastic preseason showing from Griffin in August, the writing is seemingly on the wall.
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Running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn
Releasing Vaughn as he enters his second pro season would come as a big surprise, but should Tampa Bay feel comfortable with carrying three experienced running backs into the season – Ronald Jones II, Leonard Fournette, and Giovani Bernard – Vaugn could become expendable.
Vaughn was a third-round pick in 2020 and had a strong game against the Detroit Lions this past year, but lost a fumble against Washington in the Wild Card round and was inactive for the rest of the postseason.
Head coach Bruce Arians is a noted fan of Vaughn’s, but appeared frustrated by the running back’s absence during organized team activities. Vaughn eventually showed up to camp, but those words are a testament to how competitive the preseason will be for spots on the roster.
Wide receiver Justin Watson
Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio Brown, Scotty Miller, second-year pro Tyler Johnson, and rookie Jaelon Darden make up what is expected to be the Buccaneers six-man wide receiver room in 2020. It’s hard to argue against the group as one of the best in the entire NFL.
In which case, Watson is most likely an odd-man-out, despite his experience in a depth role for Tampa Bay over the past few seasons.
Watson has played in 39 games for the Bucs since his fifth-round selection in 2018, catching 23 passes over the past two years but only seven in 2020. Although he’s familiar with what Tampa Bay asks of its receivers, there simply might be too much talent ahead of him on the depth chart to warrant a roster spot.
Offensive tackle Josh Wells
One would figure the Buccaneers value Wells’ experience in the league – seven years and 67 appearances – guarantees his safety on the roster. That may be true, as Wells is a serviceable depth piece.
However, Brad Seaton could push Wells for his spot with a strong preseason. Seaton spent the 2019 season on the Bucs practice squad, before opting out of the 2020 season amid the coronavirus pandemic. Tampa Bay respected his opt-out, keeping Seaton on the roster, and Arians went on to suggest that he was impressed with Seaton’s performance in OTAs.
There could be a legitimate battle here for Tampa Bay’s swing tackle position.
Edge rusher Quinton Bell, Cam Gill, or Anthony Nelson
Joe Tryon’s first-round selection means Tampa Bay will be forced to let go of some experienced depth at outside linebacker. Who will stay and who will go has yet to be determined.
Nelson was a fourth-round pick by Tampa Bay in 2019 and has contributed in a depth edge rushing role as well as on special teams in 25 games, tallying a sack, a forced fumble, and 26 tackles. Gill has 12 games of experience under his belt, and memorably strip-sacked Patrick Mahomes in the Super Bowl. Bell has appeared in five games for the Bucs, but has yet to accumulate any stats.
So long as Tampa Bay carries four edge rushers into the season, Nelson is the most likely candidate for the fourth spot. Gill may put up a solid fight, though.
Cornerback Herb Miller
Miller hasn’t played much for the Buccaneers as he signed with the team as an undrafted free agent last offseason. He intercepted a pass against Detroit in his second career appearance, however, and took on a special teams role through the end of the season.
Now, Miller has serious competition for his role as Tampa Bay’s true outside cornerback backup. The Bucs selected Chris Wilcox in the seventh round this year, and signed several experienced free agents in Nate Brooks, Antonio Hamilton, and Dee Delaney after the draft. May the best man win.