Buccaneers Rumors

Examining The Buccaneers’ RB Situation

Running back Ronald Jones was a disappointment for the Buccaneers and dynasty fantasy football players alike last year, as the 2018 second-rounder turned in a very quiet rookie campaign. The USC product did not displace Peyton Barber as Tampa Bay’s lead back, as many expected, and in fact played only 90 offensive snaps all season. Meanwhile, Barber started all 16 games and led the club in rushing yards for the second straight year, though he only managed 3.7 yards per carry.

Given that the Bucs did not do much to upgrade their RB room in free agency or the draft this year, Jones has a good opportunity to break out in his second professional season. And, as Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk writes, Jones plans to do just that.

He said, “I just want to lead the team in rushing and be that player who can ignite the offense and things like that, because that’s who I am. I’m a playmaker. I just want that opportunity.”

To that end, Jones says he has put on 13 pounds of muscle. He added, “[l]ast year was a disappointment for me. I’m putting in the work to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Unsurprisingly, Greg Auman of The Athletic believes that Jones is a lock to make the club, as there is no way the Bucs will give up on a second-round running back so quickly. However, Auman also notes that Barber has garnered plenty of praise from Tampa Bay’s coaching staff this year, and since Barber is eligible for unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career in 2020, he will be plenty motivated (Twitter link). In fact, Auman believes that Barber will lead the team in rushing for the third consecutive season, though he also notes (via Twitter) that Jones emerging as a solid complementary option would still be a big help to the offense.

Auman believes one of the other available spots on the Bucs’ RB depth chart will be filled by 2019 UDFA Bruce Anderson, who excelled at North Dakota State and who offers solid pass-catching ability, which is not a strong suit of either Barber or Jones. Veteran Andre Ellington — who was out of football in 2018 but who played for new HC Bruce Arians in Arizona — would seem to have a decent chance of making the team, though Tampa Bay could also elect to carry just three RBs (unless a backup like Dare Ogunbowale wins a job as a return specialist).

The club will almost certainly remain on the lookout for veteran depth, and players like Jay Ajayi and old friend Jacquizz Rodgers remain available. An intriguing name or two may also shake loose from another club’s roster as the regular season gets closer.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFC South Notes: Buccaneers, Panthers

When Buccaneers cornerback Ryan Smith was suspended for the first four games of the season earlier this week it seemed to spell trouble for him. Smith’s standing was already in question after the Bucs used multiple early picks on cornerbacks during April’s draft, and the suspension didn’t look good. However, it turns out that at least Tampa wasn’t caught off-guard by the news. “They’ve known about it since before the draft and have already done things knowing it was coming. This is news to us, but not to them,” tweeted Greg Auman of The Athletic.

Auman also added “don’t look for the Bucs to do anything in response to today’s news of Ryan Smith’s suspension.” For now it doesn’t look like Smith’s roster spot is in danger. The 2016 fourth-round pick has played a big role the last two years, starting a combined 16 games. Last year he played around 40 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, while also playing a huge role on special teams. While the Buccaneers knew it was coming and appears to be standing by him for now, he’s not exactly in the clear. The young guys will be getting more run while he’s out, and there might not be much playing time left for him by the time he returns if they seize the opportunity.

Here’s more from the NFC South:

  • Speaking of the Buccaneers, there were also some interesting nuggets in Auman’s recent roster projection. Notably, Auman projects Alex Cappa to start at guard. A third-round pick last year, Cappa appeared in only six games with no starts as a rookie. Cappa was an upside prospect from D-II Humboldt State, so he was always going to take a while to develop. It’s especially interesting because there have been rumblings that Cappa isn’t progressing like the team was hoping. Jenna Laine of ESPN.com was recently told that Cappa “still isn’t where they’d like him to be yet,” and she floated the potential acquisition of additional interior offensive linemen (Twitter link). Cappa had dominant film in college (look it up, some of it is hilarious), but he was always facing off against weaker competition. It’ll be interesting to see what he looks like when he finally steps on a pro field.
  • We’ve seen a few notable players switch agents recently, including Kenny Stills and Duke Johnson. Add Panthers receiver D.J. Moore to the growing list. Moore is now with NFL super-agent Drew Rosenhaus, according to Joseph Person of The Athletic. Person reports that Moore decided to switch agents after his former agent Damarius Bilbo was suspended for three months back in January. Moore just finished his rookie season so he won’t be eligible for a new contract for a while, but this is still something to keep an eye on. Rosenhaus has a reputation for playing hardball with teams, and this could come back into play in the future. A 2018 first-round pick from Maryland, Moore had a promising rookie season, racking up 788 yards on 55 catches.
  • In case you missed it, Saints rookie Carl Granderson was recently sentenced to six months in jail.

NFL Suspends Buccaneers CB Ryan Smith

Buccaneers cornerback Ryan Smith has been suspended without pay for the first four games of the 2019 regular season for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances. Smith will be eligible to participate in all offseason and preseason practices and games, but will not begin regular season action until September 30, following the team’s Week 4 game against the Rams. 

We are disappointed that Ryan will be unavailable for the first four games of the season,” GM Jason Licht said in a statement. “We do extensive training and education for our players regarding the league’s polices, but ultimately each individual is responsible for what they put in their bodies.”

The ban could have a major impact on Smith’s future with the club. After earning a proven performance escalator last year, Smith is slated to earn a $2MM base salary in 2019. But, if the Bucs cut him, they’ll be on the hook for just $148K in dead money, resulting from his original rookie signing bonus.

The 2016 fourth-round pick has started 16 games over the last two seasons, but he was on shaky ground even before the suspension. After taking corners in the second and third round of this year’s draft, the Buccaneers could be poised to move on from him and allocate his slated salary elsewhere.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NFL Supplemental Draft Order

The NFL’s Supplemental Draft order does not go by the inverted win/loss records of clubs. Instead, the order is dictated by a weighted lottery that uses a team’s win percentage as just part of the equation. Here, via Tom Pelissero of NFL.com (Twitter link) is the complete order of the supplemental draft:

1. Lions
2. Broncos
3. Jets
4. Cardinals
5. Giants
6. Bills
7. Raiders
8. 49ers
9. Jaguars
10. Packers
11. Bengals
12. Bucs
13. Falcons
14. Vikings
15. Redskins
16. Titans
17. Dolphins
18. Steelers
19. Panthers
20. Browns
21. Ravens
22. Patriots
24. Seahawks
25. Eagles
26. Texans
27. Bears
28. Colts
29. Saints
30. Chiefs
31. Chargers
32. Rams

The supplemental draft is conducted via email. If multiple teams submit a pick for the same player in the same round, this order dictates which club gets the player. Of course, any team picking a player in the supplemental draft will sacrifice the corresponding pick in the 2020 draft.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Devin White To Sign 'Any Day'

  • Things reportedly aren’t going well between rookie first-round pick Josh Jacobs and the Raiders. There’s a holdup in negotiations over his rookie deal, and it looks like Jacobs isn’t going to report to training camp in a couple of weeks. Don’t expect anything similar for linebacker Devin White and the Buccaneers. The fifth overall pick in April’s draft is going to sign “any day now,” and “you can bet he won’t miss a meeting,” writes Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). The Bucs are counting on White to play a huge role for their revamped defense, so it’s good to hear there’s no drama surrounding his contract.

Bucs Sign Third-Round CB Jamel Dean

With rookies set to report to training camp in two weeks, the Buccaneers have almost finished signing their entire draft class. Today, the organization announced that they’ve signed third-round cornerback Jamel Dean to his rookie contract.

Dean struggled through knee injuries early in his collegiate career, but the defensive back improved his draft stock over the past two seasons. In 26 games at Auburn, Dean compiled 73 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, a pair of interceptions and 17 passes defended. The cornerback’s measurables (six-foot-one, 206 pounds) already impressed scouts, but he stole the show at the NFL Scouting Combine after running the best 40-yard dash time among cornerback prospects.

The Buccaneers’ secondary struggled in 2018, meaning Dean should have an opportunity at a role heading into next season. Vernon Hargreaves and Carlton Davis are projected to start on the outside, while Ryan Smith or M.J. Stewart will have first dibs at the nickel spot. However, Dean will have a chance to compete with second-round rookie Sean Murphy-Bunting for backup reps.

Following today’s signing, first-round linebacker Devin White is the only Buccaneers rookie left unsigned. The Buccaneers’ entire draft haul is listed below:

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Jason Pierre-Paul

Jason Pierre-Paul doesn’t appear particularly close to returning to football activities. The Buccaneers defensive end shared a video of himself to Instagram recently, in which he can be seen wearing a bulky brace on his neck, per Florida Football Insiders. Pierre-Paul, of course, suffered a serious neck injury in a car accident back in May. At the time there was concern he’d miss the entire season, but JPP ended up avoiding surgery and as of right now the hope is he’ll be able to return at some point this year.

That being said, he’s still going to be sidelined for a significant period of time, and the last we heard is that he’ll be out until November at the earliest. FFI has details on the accident, including that his car “did a 360 degree wipeout into a guardrail.” The injury was a massive blow to the Buccaneers’ defense, which is hoping for a resurgence under new coach Bruce Arians. JPP had his best season in years in 2018, racking up 12.5 sacks. Tampa will need some unproven players to step up for their pass-rush in his place, and hopefully the former Giant can make it back as soon as possible.

Buccaneers Sign C Josh LeRibeus

The Buccaneers have signed center Josh LeRibeus, according to a team announcement. LeRibeus, a former third-round pick of the Redskins, most recently played for the Saints. 

LeRibeus was one of five veteran players who took part in the Buccaneers’ minicamp in early June on a tryout deal. The SMU product profiles as a depth option for the Bucs and offers some experience in the way of 28 career appearances with 12 starts.

In 2015, LeRibeus was the starting center for the Redskins and helped them place 10th in scoring. He also made three starts at left guard for the Saints last year, but the Bucs probably plan to use him in the middle after referring to him as a center in their press release.

With LeRibeus in the fold, the Bucs are back to the 90-man roster max. Last week, they dropped down to 89 players with the release of running back Shaun Wilson.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Buccaneers Waive Shaun Wilson

The Buccaneers cut running back Shaun Wilson, according to a team announcement. The second-year pro will go on waivers, giving the league’s other 31 teams an opportunity to claim him.

Wilson started the 2018 season as the Bucs’ main kickoff returner and appeared in five games. In that span, he ran for 29 yards off of six carries, caught three passes for five yards, and returned seven kickoffs for 122 yards.

The former UDFA out of Duke had his season shortened by shoulder surgery but is presumably healthy now. He’ll look for a new gig while the Bucs will move forward with running backs Peyton Barber, Ronald JonesAndre Ellington, Dare Ogunbowale, and Bruce Anderson.

More On Byron Leftwich's Role With Bucs

Not long after the Buccaneers hired Bruce Arians as their head coach in January, we learned that Arians’ new OC, Byron Leftwich, would be calling the team’s offensive plays and that Arians considered Leftwich a rising star in the coaching ranks. And as Jenna Laine of ESPN.com reports, Arians’ confidence in Leftwich is such that Arians himself is not even in Jameis Winston‘s quarterbacks meeting rooms — despite Arians’ reputation as a quarterback whisperer — and Leftwich is running those meetings. This is a critical campaign for Winston, who is playing under his fifth-year option, and therefore something of a crossroads for the franchise itself. Leftwich has a lot on his plate for a young coach, but Arians clearly believes he is up to the task.