TAMPA — The Bucs made their final eight cuts Saturday to arrive at their 53-man roster, with three Gators among the most surprising players released.
Undrafted rookie Solomon Patton, who seemed to have both return jobs locked up, was waived, as was former Olympic sprinter Jeff Demps, who wasn't able to showcase his elite speed in preseason action. And veteran safety Major Wright, who had 100 tackles for the Bears last season, was released after working as the team's No. 3 safety throughout the past month.
All six 2014 draft picks made the roster for the Bucs, who had several under-the-radar players make the cut (for now). That included undrafted rookie Josh Allen of Louisiana-Monroe, now the team's backup center; defensive end Scott Solomon, who had just 16 snaps in the NFL last season; guard Rishaw Johnson, acquired from the Chiefs last week; and fullback Jorvorskie Lane and nickel defensive back Quinton Pointer, signed off the street in the spring.
In all, 24 of the 53 players joined the Bucs in 2014, and another three were on the team last year but didn't play a down; linebacker Danny Lansanah played one game. So half the roster hasn't played for Tampa Bay, emblematic of the busy offseason under first-year coach Lovie Smith and first-year general manager Jason Licht.
"It's one of my hardest days," Smith said Friday as the team cut 14 players, including veteran kicker Connor Barth, "when you've been around a lot of guys and you have to give them bad news, as much as anything. That's what's kind of going on right now. … A lot of moving parts are going on while we're going through this process."
There are signs the team isn't done tweaking its roster — there are only three healthy safeties, with backup Bradley McDougald nursing a knee injury, so the club might have an addition coming to offset the loss of Wright.
There are 10 offensive linemen, two more than the team opened with last year — those 10 include four who have never played in an NFL game.
Local Gator fans had hoped to see the speed of Demps and Patton, but the team will go in a different direction on returns, perhaps to No. 2 running back Bobby Rainey, who averaged 10 yards on three punt returns in preseason.
In addition to the three Gators, the Bucs cut five other players: defensive tackles Matt Masifilo and Ronald Talley, tight end Cameron Brate, linebacker Brandon Magee and quarterback Mike Kafka.
Making the cut was defensive lineman Da'Quan Bowers, who had missed the past three games with a groin injury but showed enough, with versatility to play inside as a third-down defensive tackle as well.
Starting at noon today, the Bucs can assemble a 10-player practice squad, which could include Kafka, as well as undrafted rookies who missed the cut such as Brate, linebacker Nate Askew and cornerback Keith Lewis. Tampa Bay also could claim players waived or released as other teams made their cuts to 53 on Saturday.
Another roster spot should open up in a few days, when rookie running back Charles Sims is expected to be tagged as "injured reserve-designated for return," which will allow him to recover from ankle surgery and return in Week 9.
Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and at (813) 226-3346. Follow @gregauman.