TAMPA — The Bucs, like all teams, submitted their final roster to NFL headquarters Friday night.
But in Tampa Bay's case, the word "final" is used loosely.
On a day when teams were required to trim rosters to the regular-season maximum of 53, the Bucs made tough decisions, but in no way is their roster complete as general manager Mark Dominik scans the waiver wire and free agents for gems. In fact there were only 52 names left on the roster at the end of the day.
Among Friday's decisions was releasing defensive tackle Amobi Okoye, after an injury settlement with the offseason pickup, and training camp darling Tiquan Underwood, a receiver who had showed top-end speed.
The Bucs also jettisoned receiver Jordan Shipley, a late-preseason pickup who was released by the Bengals, because of their deep receiving corps and possible concerns about his 2011 knee injury.
The Bucs kept eight defensive linemen and two quarterbacks. They went with five receivers instead of six, and went heavy at safety, with five (including veteran Cody Grimm, who was on the bubble).
The Bucs kept six of their seven draft picks, including running back Michael Smith, linebacker Najee Goode and safety Keith Tandy. Seventh-round pick Drake Dunsmore, a tight end, was the lone draft pick released.
Another rookie of note: Clearwater's Leonard Johnson, an undrafted cornerback from Iowa State and former Largo High star, made the cut after a strong camp and preseason.
The Okoye decision was one of the most notable. He was a key offseason acquisition, but the Bucs apparently weren't willing to risk the $1.8 million in base salary he was due if he was on the roster on opening day given Okoye's troublesome knee injury that has kept him out of practice and preseason games.
Okoye, the Chicago Sun-Times reported, was close to reaching a deal to return to the Bears, for whom he played last season.
Okoye had a supposedly routine minor knee surgery in June, but issues continue to persist. He told the Times this week that he felt better than he had in weeks and had an eye toward playing in the opener. But having rarely practiced and played did him in. Coach Greg Schiano foreshadowed the decision on Thursday: "At the end of the day, you've got to go out and earn a spot."
Underwood was consistently impressive but the Bucs appear to have opted for receivers with more versatility. The oft-injured Sammie Stroughter is not only productive slot receiver but is adept at fielding punts and kickoffs.
Shipley also is a potential special teams contributor, a player Schiano has said is a "natural" at fielding punts. But with such little time to evaluate him — and in the absence of a major impact — the Bucs just didn't see enough to retain him.
Schiano had said receiver was going to be a position where decisions would be difficult. The call on Underwood was more sensitive given the fact he played Schiano at Rutgers and the two have a good relationship.
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The Bucs have issues to address and are expected to do so in the coming days. Defensive line is a priority, with little experience behind the starters.
Bucs depth chart
|WR||Vincent Jackson||Arrelious Benn|
|LT||Donald Penn||Demar Dotson||Bradley Sowell|
|RG||Ted Larsen||Derek Hardman|
|RT||Jeremy Trueblood||Jamon Meredith|
|TE||Dallas Clark||Luke Stocker||Danny Noble|
|WR||Mike Williams||Preston Parker||Sammie Stroughter|
|QB||Josh Freeman||Dan Orlovsky|
|RB||Doug Martin||LeGarrette Blount||Michael Smith|
|DT||Gerald McCoy||Wallace Gilberry|
|DT||Roy Miller||Gary Gibson|
|RDE||Adrian Clayborn||George Johnson||Daniel Te'o-Nesheim|
|SLB||Quincy Black||Dekoda Watson|
|MLB||Mason Foster||Adam Hayward||Najee Goode|
|LCB||Aqib Talib||E.J. Biggers||Myron Lewis, Brandon McDonald|
|RCB||Eric Wright||Anthony Gaitor||Leonard Johnson|
|SS||Mark Barron||Cody Grimm|
|FS||Ronde Barber||Ahmad Black||Keith Tandy|
P: Michael Koenen; PK: Connor Barth; KO: Michael Koenen, Connor Barth; H: Michael Koenen; LS: Andrew Economos; PR: Preston Parker, Sammie Stroughter; KR: Preston Parker, Sammie Stroughter