The Bucs won't announce their final cuts and 53-man roster until Saturday afternoon, but here's the first twist: Channing Ward, an undrafted rookie defensive lineman from Ole Miss, announced on social media Thursday night that he's made the Bucs' 53-man roster.
Ward is 6-foot-4 and 279 pounds, and while he's listed as a defensive end, he's another versatile lineman that defensive line coach Jay Hayes likes to shift inside in the Bucs' nickel defense, using ends inside as tackles. After only two tackles in limited reps in the first three preseason games, Ward had four tackles in the second half of Wednesday's preseason finale against the Redskins, and all four came from the defensive tackle position.
Ward got a call from Hayes with the good news Thursday night, and posted on Instagram: "Hard work (does) pay off. I made the team for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Words can't explain how happy I am right now."
The Bucs could still be active in adding players waived by other clubs this weekend, but for now, it's one of the better underdog stories on the Bucs' roster. Ward started only four games in his career at Ole Miss, finishing with 110 tackles and 6.5 sacks as part of a talented defense. He signed with the Bucs as an undrafted rookie, getting just a $5,000 signing bonus.
If Ward makes the cut at defensive line, he's likely either a sixth defensive end -- which would probably mean Kourtnei Brown doesn't make the cut -- or he could count as the fourth defensive tackle, a spot that's been a depth concern throughout the preseason. At 279 pounds, he'd be the Bucs' second-biggest defensive end, just behind Will Gholston, who's 6-6, 281.