TAMPA — Bucs coach Bruce Arians and general manager Jason Licht have gradually taken shears to what remained of Licht’s already beleaguered 2016 draft class, with the team’s surprising release of first-round pick Vernon Hargreaves serving as the most-recent cut.
Hargreaves, selected 11th overall after standout careers at the University of Florida and Wharton High in New Tampa, was the fourth member of team’s seven-player 2016 draft class to be cut this season.
The Bucs previously cut second-round pick Noah Spence before the season began, released offensive tackle Caleb Benenoch, the team’s fifth rounder, after Week 1 and parted ways with sixth-round pick Devante Bond during last month’s off week days before the league hit the outside linebacker with a four-game PED suspension.
That leaves just one member of the team’s 2016 class on the active roster, seldom-used cornerback Ryan Smith, who served a four-game suspension for a failed PED test to open the season. The team primarily uses Smith on special teams and prior to last week, he hadn’t played a defensive snap.
The 2016 draft class immediately came under scrutiny when Licht took kicker Roberto Aguayo in the second round. Aguayo was cut after just one season with the team after converting only 71 percent of his field goal attempts, including 5 of 11 from 40 yards or longer.
As for this year’s dismissals, Arians gave each player an opportunity to impress a new coaching staff. He anointed Hargreaves the leader of a young secondary upon his arrival, predicting that Hargreaves would be well suited playing more man coverage in defensive coordinator Todd Bowles’ new defensive scheme. But Arians also criticized his hustle and dedication, sitting him from an early training camp practice because he needed to “get his mind right.”
Spence began training camp atop the depth chart at one outside linebacker position over current NFL sack leader Shaquil Barrett, but his snaps dropped as the preseason progressed and he fell out of favor with the coaching staff because of his inability to play the run.
The Bucs gave Benenoch all camp to solidify a swing lineman spot, but were so unimpressed they traded for tackle Jerald Hawkins before the season began.
And the team tried to convert Bond from an inside linebacker to the outside, where he’d get more playing time, but he was set back by injuries and eventually lost his opportunity when his suspension was handed out.
Smith figures to earn more playing time from the team cutting Hargreaves, but Arians said before last week’s game that he would primarily be used in nickel and dime packages on defense.
|Vernon Hargreaves III||CB||Florida||1--11||Bucs released the Tampa product on Tuesday after three-plus seasons. He got benched for not hustling on a tackle in Arizona game.|
|Noah Spence||DE||W.Kentucky||2--8||Injury and ineffectiveness derailed Spence's tenure. After his release in August, he signed with Washington where he has one sack in six games.|
|Roberto Aguyao||PK||FSU||2--28||Aguyao lasted one season before getting cut in the 2017 training camp. Went unpicked in recent XFL draft.|
|Ryan Smith||CB||NC Central||4--10||Suspended four games at start of 2019 season for PED violation, remains on team.|
|Caleb Benenoch||OL||UCLA||5--9||Started 22 games in three seasons, including all 16 in 2018. Released in preseason, he's since been cut by the Patriots and Panthers. Currently out of football.|
|Devante Bond||LB||Oklahoma||6--8||Released and suspended four games for PED violation midway through 2019. He's currently out of football.|
|Dan Vitale||FB||N-western||6--28||Failed to make 2016 final cut; now on the Packers roster and married to Lightning radio analyst Caley Chelios.|