Breaking down Bucs' key roster decisions
The Bucs faced some tough decisions today at the NFL deadline for final cuts. Let's take a look at some of the more interesting calls they made, breaking down the why and how and what it all means.
S Ahmad Black: If you're surprised Black was cut, you haven't been paying attention. He spent pretty much the whole preseason on the shelf with a high ankle sprain. The depth at safety, where the Bucs have a good deal of experience, worked against him. The bottom line with Black is that coaches couldn't evaluate him because he wasn't on the field. The NFL lockout killed his chances, because he didn't have an offseason to at least begin showcasing his skills.
Look for Black to be placed on Tampa Bay's practice squad in the coming days.
S Devin Holland: This was a bit of a head scratcher, but Holland's aggressive play throughout the preseason and, in particular, the final preseason game at Washington, grabbed his coaches' attention. He finished with an interception, two pass deflections and intercepted a two-point conversion attempt. He proved to be a big hitter, too, drawing league fines in his first two exhibition games, including one for an illegal hit on Patriots running back Danny Woodhead. The Bucs clearly see something in Holland, even if his inclusion on the roster could be short-lived.
Holland is the sort of player Raheem Morris loves, a feisty guy who fights for every inch. If he makes it, Holland's a great story: an undrafted prospect out of McNeese State winding up on NFL roster.
Tight end: The Bucs cut all three contenders for the No. 3 tight end spot: Daniel Hardy, Nathan Overbay and Ryan Purvis. What that should tell you is that none of them distinguished himself in camp or the preseason. Hardy showed some athleticism and seemed to be the leading candidate, but the Bucs were clearly uninspired by this group.
What now? Look for the Bucs to make an immediate move at tight end, whether via the waiver wire or by signing a free agent. Right now, Kellen Winslow and Luke Stocker -- who is coming off a hip injury -- are the only tight ends on the roster.
Linebacker: The Bucs cut Tyrone McKenzie on Friday and then released Lawrence Simoni and Derren Smith, leaving them with just five linebackers. They're particularly vulnerable at middle linebacker, where there is no true backup for rookie Mason Foster.
But that might be temporary. The Bucs will lean on Adam Hayward as a backup to Foster right now, but they are said to be looking for a young veteran at linebacker who could augment the depth, especially at middle linebacker. That's a position you should keep an eye on.
WR Ed Gant: The Bucs kept six receivers on the final roster, but it had to hurt to release speedster Ed Gant. He opened the eyes of many fans in Thursday's preseason finale, but the Bucs have long admired his great speed and playmaking ability. So, why did they let him go? Well, for one, Gant isn't as valuable on special teams as players like Preston Parker and Micheal Spurlock, something that, perhaps, made this decision a bit easier.
If Gant remained on the roster, chances are it would be hard to find playing time for him. The rationale, then, is to use that roster spot on a position where depth is more important. So, look for the Bucs to try to get him back on their practice squad, taking a calculated risk on a player they honestly like.
RBs Allen Bradford/Mossis Madu: The Bucs kept sixth-round pick Bradford but released Madu, which seems a bit curious based on preseason performance. The Bucs have a group of backs who are very similar in that none of them possesses the quickness or elusiveness of Madu. LeGarrette Blount, Earnest Graham, Kregg Lumpkin and Bradford are all on the bigger side and run with power -- not that there's anything wrong with that.
Madu will be on the practice squad, which will give him additional opportunity to show his talents to the Bucs' coaches. But, for now, the Bucs have opted to go without Madu's skill set, which differs from the other backs who remain on the roster.
There are likely to be additional roster moves through the weekend, so check back here and follow me on Twitter for updates.