Tampa Bay BuccaneersKeep informed with our daily updates: News, notes and more throughout the month of January
January 30 Updates
The Buccaneers have some salary cap management to do before the NFL's new league year begins on March 15. On Monday, they were informed of the exact target for that work.
As reported on NFL.com, teams were informed by the league on Monday that the 2023 salary cap would be $224.8 million per team. Teams must be compliant with that number by the start of the new league year. According to Spotrac, the Buccaneers existing player contracts for 2023 plus accelerated cap hits (dead money) for some expiring contracts puts the Bucs approximately $56 million over that target. Teams projected to be over the cap generally become compliant through some combination of contract restructuring, contract extensions and released players.
The information shared by the league on Monday did not come as a surprise, as projections for the 2023 cap had been in the $225 million range. The exact figure is a jump of $16.6 million from the 2022 cap of $208.2 million, an increase of nearly 8% from a year ago.
Potentially complicating the Bucs' efforts to get under the cap is a lengthy list of pending free agents from their own roster. That list includes Tom Brady, Lavonte David, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Mike Edwards and Anthony Nelson.
January 27 Updates
The Buccaneers got their search for a new offensive coordinator underway during the final full week of January, interviewing a quartet of candidates. Denver Broncos Passing Game Coordinator & Quarterbacks Coach Klint Kubiak was first to visit the AdventHealth Training Center on Wednesday, and he was followed by Minnesota Vikings Wide Receivers Coach Keenan McCardell and Jacksonville Jaguars Passing Game Coordinator Jim Bob Cooter on Thursday. On Friday, the Buccaneers also interviewed Cincinnati Bengals Quarterbacks Coach Dan Pitcher, though this one was conducted virtually because the Bengals are preparing to play in the AFC Championship Game. The Bucs' interview process is expected to continue next week.
The Buccaneers have a vacancy at the OC position after parting ways with Byron Leftwich on January 19. Leftwich had held that post for the previous four seasons. The Buccaneers will also be hiring several other new assistants, including a running backs coach, a wide receivers coach and a quarterbacks coach.
CLICK HERE for more on Jim Bob Cooter, HERE for more on Keenan McCardell, HERE for more on Klint Kubiak and HERE for more on Dan Pitcher.
Height: 6-4Weight: 347 lbsCollege: Washington
January 23 Updates
After adding tight end Dominique Dafney on Monday, the Buccaneers have now signed a total of 16 players to reserve/futures contracts for the 2023 season. Those deals will take effect when the new league year starts on March 15. Most of those are actually re-signings, as 14 of the 16 were either on the team's practice squad when the season ended or cut just before the final game. The two newcomers are Dafney and tackle Michael Niese.
Those additions have increased the number of players under contract with the Buccaneers for 2023 to an even 50. The offseason roster limit is 90 players. The Buccaneers have a long list of pending free agents to sift through in the coming weeks, including Tom Brady, Lavonte David, Anthony Nelson, Jamel Dean, Mike Edwards and Sean Murphy-Bunting.
CLICK HERE for more on the team's most recent futures signing.
Height: 6-1Weight: 225 lbsCollege: Memphis
January 18 Updates
The Buccaneers added two more players to their growing list of 2023 reserve/futures signings on Wednesday, bringing back inside linebacker J.J. Russell and bringing in tackle Michael Niese. The team started the process of fleshing out its 2023 offseason roster on Tuesday with the inking of 13 other players to futures deals; all 13 were players whose practice squad contracts expired at the end of the season.
Russell, who spent most of the season on the Bucs' practice squad before a promotion in December, was off the roster completely when the season ended, having been released to make room for the activation of center Ryan Jensen from injured reserve. Niese spent most of his rookie season on the Chicago Bears' practice squad after originally signing with the Broncos as an undrafted free agent out of Temple in May.
CLICK HERE for more on the Bucs' 2023 signings.
Height: 6-0Weight: 185 lbsCollege: LSU
January 17 Updates
Buccaneers wide receiver Russell Gage appears to have escaped serious injury after a scary moment late in the Monday night Wild Card loss to Dallas. Gage was taken off the field on a stabilizing board and a cart and later transported to a nearby hospital after a hit on an incomplete pass left him prone on the turf, struggling to get up. On Tuesday afternoon, Head Coach Todd Bowles provided a very welcome update on Gage's status.
"Yeah, he just has a concussion," said Bowles. "He should be released later this afternoon. His neck is fine and right now he has all his extremities moving."
A concussion is, of course, a significant injury but Gage's short stay in the hospital is a relief to the entire team, nonetheless.
Height: 6-4Weight: 306 lbsCollege: Notre Dame
January 14 Updates
It appears very likely that the Buccaneers will have their two starting offensive tackles back for Monday night's Wild Card playoff game against Dallas, as Donovan Smith and Tristan Wirfs have been practicing without limitation this week. However, it is far less certain who will be holding down the middle of that line.
Starting center Robert Hainsey has been limited by a hamstring strain during the week of practice and starting left guard Nick Leverett - who is also the primary backup to Hainsey at the pivot - was downgraded from limited participation to non-participation in practice on Thursday due to knee and shoulder ailments. In addition, John Molchon, another option at both guard and center, is dealing with an ankle injury. Then there is Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen, who hasn't played this season due to training camp knee injury but could conceivably be activated from injured reserve prior to Monday's game.
The Buccaneers don't expect to have concrete answers to their guard and center spots until Monday.
"We haven't ruled anybody out," said Head Coach Todd Bowles after the Bucs' final practice of the week on Saturday. "Everybody's available. We'll see who's the healthiest and we'll talk about it and make that decision. They're all sore. They've got two more days, two-and-a-half more days to go. We'll give them time and we'll make that decision probably on the day of the game."
Height: 6-6Weight: 338 lbsCollege: Penn State
January 12 Updates
The Buccaneers' first injury report of Wild Card Week was as encouraging as anticipated, and that's especially true for the offensive line.
Left tackle Donovan Smith and right tackle Tristan Wirfs both sat out the regular-season finale due to foot and ankle issues, respectively. Both were full participants in the first full-speed practice of the week on Thursday, however. In fact, Wirfs did not even appear on the injury report. Wirfs, who was active but did not play in Week 18 in Atlanta, clearly saw the benefits of an added week of rest. And Smith, who had also missed the Bucs' Week 16 game in Arizona for the same injury, has seen significant improvement.
"He's feeling better," said Head Coach Todd Bowles. "He's feeling a lot better."
The Bucs do have some concerns in the middle of the line, as center Robert Hainsey (hamstring), guard Nick Leverett (knee/shoulder) and guard John Molchon (ankle) were all limited on Thursday. Leverett and Molchon are the Bucs' other primary options at center if Hainsey can't play on Monday.
CLICK HERE for a more detailed look at the Bucs' Thursday injury report.
Carlton Davis III
Height: 6-1Weight: 206 lbsCollege: Auburn
The Buccaneers, who rested nine players in Week 18 due to injury or illness, are optimistic that they will be closer to full strength for Monday night's playoff game against the Cowboys. In some cases, the team is still playing a waiting game, anticipating a better feel for who will be available by the end of the week. However, there is no question mark about the availability of cornerback Carlton Davis, who has missed the last two games due to a shoulder injury.
"He's good to go," said Head Coach Todd Bowles of Davis after practice on Thursday.
The Buccaneers will put out their first injury report of Wild Card Week later on Thursday afternoon but Bowles did indicate that starting center Robert Hainsey was limited in practice due to the hamstring injury he sustained in Atlanta last Sunday. Leverett, who moved to center after Hainsey got hurt, would likely be the first choice to step in there Monday, as well, but he is also dealing with a sore leg. For both players, Bowles said it was a matter of waiting to see how they feel in a few days.
Ryan Jensen, the Bucs' Pro Bowl center who has missed the whole season with a knee injury, continues to practice with the team during a 21-day window since he was designated to return from injured reserve. Given the other injuries at the position, a return of Jensen would be impeccable timing, but Bowles says nothing about his situation has changed from last week.
"We'll see how he is by the end of the week," said Bowles. "He's coming along, he's practicing hard, so we'll see where he is. He's got some tests to pass."
Defensive lineman Vita Vea, who has been dealing with a calf injury for approximately a month, played in the Bucs' division-clinching win over Carolina in Week 17 but was held out last Sunday. He was able to participate in practice on Thursday.
"He came out and did some stuff," said Bowles. "He's coming along. We'll progress it during the week."
Height: 6-4Weight: 347 lbsCollege: Washington
January 11 Updates
With their typical practice schedule pushed back a day in the lead-up to a Monday night game, the Buccaneers held a bonus walk-through on Wednesday. They are not required to put out their first injury report until after Thursday's practice, but it appears as if that list will be less daunting than it has been in recent weeks. Or perhaps all season.
The Bucs had eight players inactive or held out of their Week 18 game against Atlanta due to injury: Vita Vea, Donovan Smith, Tristan Wirfs, Carlton Davis, Mike Edwards, Logan Ryan, Carl Nassib and Julio Jones. In addition, Mike Evans sat out the game due to illness. They may have all or most of those players participating in practice on Thursday.
"Well see," said Offensive Coordinator Byron Leftwich on Wednesday. "This is probably the healthiest we've been since OTAs. We were banged up in OTAs. So it's good to have our guys out there."
Leftwich's assessment echoed Tom Brady's words on his "Let's Go" podcast on Monday. "I believe we're going to be as healthy as we've been all year," he said. Linebacker Lavonte David also noted after Wednesday's walk-through that it was good to have most of the team's regular defenders on the field together again.
Height: 6-4Weight: 306 lbsCollege: Notre Dame
January 9 Updates
Center Robert Hainsey left Sunday's game in Atlanta due to a hamstring injury, creating uncertainty in the Buccaneers' O-Line lineup for the start of the playoffs. On Monday, Head Coach Todd Bowles said Hainsey's hamstring is "sore" and that he had not yet had an MRI examination but could get one if it proves troublesome enough.
The possibility of Hainsey being unavailable for Monday's playoff opener against Dallas unsurprisingly turned the conversation to Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen, who has not played since suffering a knee injury on the second day of training camp. Jensen was designated for return from injured reserve on Wednesday, January 28 and has been practicing with the team since. That designation opened a 21-day window during which Jensen can be added back to the active roster at any point; if that does not happen during that window, he would revert to injured reserve and would be done for the season. The Bucs have until next Tuesday to make that decision, so Jensen does not have to be activated before Monday's game.
"The window is starting to close this week so we'll see where we're at," said Bowles, though he did not predict one way or another whether Jensen could return as early this week. "I'll give you the same answer as last week: status quo. He's working hard and we like to see him out there but we'll see."
The Buccaneers will hold an extra walk-through on Wednesday and then start their usual practice schedule on Thursday.
CLICK HERE to hear more from Coach Bowles in his day-after-game press conference.
Height: 6-1Weight: 208 lbsCollege: Penn State
January 5 Updates
Wide receiver Chris Godwin is closing in on 100 catches on the season, which would make him just the second player in franchise history to reach that mark. Through 16 games, Godwin ranks third in the NFL with 7.0 receptions per game.
"He should get that," said Godwin's teammate Mike Evans appreciately. "He deserves that. He should get all of that. He's a hell of a player. He should be up for Comeback Player of the year. I don't know who's all in the running, but he came back from an injury late in the season last year and he's still one of our best players."
As Evans notes, Godwin has racked up 98 catches for 968 yards and three touchdowns despite suffering a significant knee injury in mid-December of the 2021 season. Godwin surprised many by recovering quickly enough to start the first game of the season, and even though a hamstring injury then cost him the next two games, he came back from that absence better than ever. He has caught at least five passes in every game since, a 13-game streak that is the longest for any player in the NFL this season.
The NFL's annual Comeback Player of the Year award is meant to honor a player who has shown perseverance in overcome adversity, often in the form of returning from a serious injury and playing at a high level. Last year, it was awarded to Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow, who guided the Bengals to the Super Bowl one year after his rookie season was ended prematurely by a knee injury.
CLICK HERE for more thoughts from Mike Evans.
Height: 6-5Weight: 236 lbsCollege: Florida
January 4 Updates
Head Coach Todd Bowles plans to play his healthy starters on Sunday in Atlanta, even though the outcome of the game will have no bearing on the playoff standings. That doesn't mean every starter will necessarily finish the game.
On Monday, Bowles confirmed that Tom Brady will start in Week 18 but left the door open to possibly relieve him at some point. There is even a chance that second-year player Kyle Trask could see his first NFL regular season action. Bowles indicated that Trask has "a good chance to dress," rather than be placed on the game day inactive list like usual, but that veteran Blaine Gabbert would remain in the number-two role.
"If Tom comes out, Blaine would go in after him," said Bowles. "And if Blaine comes out, Trask will go in after him."
A second-round draft pick in 2021, Trask has been inactive for all but one game during his first two seasons. He was active in Week Eight against Baltimore this season when the Bucs had seven injured players on the active list, but he did not play in the game. In two preseason stints, he has played in six games and completed 72 of 122 passes for 769 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions.