The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are loaded with big-name, talented players this NFL season. One position that they have not lacked for star power in recent seasons is the wide receiver spot. Homegrown players Mike Evans and Chris Godwin have been with the team for years, but they have had some recognizable players alongside them as well.
The last two seasons, Antonio Brown lined up alongside Evans and Godwin, giving Tom Brady the best trio to target in the NFL. This offseason, the team signed future Hall of Famer Julio Jones to upgrade the position.
While those players receive a lot of headlines, the team has done a great job rounding out the depth chart at wide receiver as well. This offseason, those players are receiving a lot of praise for how well they are performing.
Leading that group is Russell Gage Jr. Gage signed a three-year deal with Tampa Bay as a free agent worth $30 million. He will be a major factor in the lineup, as Gage will likely assume one of the starting spots alongside Evans until Godwin is healthy enough to get back on the field.
Head coach Todd Bowles pointed out that Gage has stood out thus far, as he has been unrecoverable in practice. Another player garnering attention is Tyler Johnson.
The Minnesota standout was a fifth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft and he appeared in all 17 games last season. While he struggled at times, drawing the ire of Tom Brady on a few occasions, he is making a strong case to earn a spot on the 53-man roster.
“Tyler came in in great shape,” Bowles said. “I think he’s learned the offense a little more, so he’s playing a lot freer than he was the last two years. This is a great camp for him. He’ll get a lot of playing time, and we’ll get to see what he’s really doing.”
Kick and punt returner Jaelon Darden looks like the leader in the clubhouse for those roles but could factor into the game plan at wide receiver as well. General manager Jason Licht commented on the improvements that Darden has made.
While they would love to keep everyone, cuts eventually have to be made. Undrafted standouts Deven Thompkins and Jerreth Sterns are looking to make a name for themselves. Veterans Scotty Miller, Breshad Perriman, and Cyril Grayson are also battling for final roster spots. Should things not work out in Tampa Bay, they will likely find jobs elsewhere around the league for wide receiver needy teams.
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