In addition to releasing Michael Koenen, the Buccaneers have waived three players to reach the 75-man roster limit Tuesday and placed Akeem Spence (back) on the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform list. Spence will be eligible to return after six weeks.
Of the three players who were waived, the most notable include cornerback Leonard Johnson and wide receiver Robert Herron. Tampa Bay also waived center Josh Allen, who didn’t play a down since joining the practice squad in September, 2014.
Johnson, an undrafted free agent out of Iowa State in 2012, has spent the past three seasons as the team’s primary nickel corner. For his career, Johnson has tallied 148 tackles, five interceptions and five fumbles. The 25-year old struggled at times last season, as both head coach Lovie Smith and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier singled out the nickel position as an area they needed to get better play from.
Tampa Bay rotated in Isaiah Frey last season and signed former Cowboy Sterling Moore, who’s recently been taking reps at nickel, this past offseason.
On Tuesday Frazier spoke about how critical the nickel corner is to the defense and the impact Johnson’s release has on the position.
“Unfortunately, Leonard gets injured and we knew we weren’t going to have him for a while and then some other guys have to step up,” Frazier said. “That gives Isaiah Frey a chance and Sterling Moore a chance. Those guys will probably be the primary guys competing for the job. We have one other guy, Jude (Adjei-Barimah) – I won’t even try to pronounce his last game – but he’ll have a chance to compete and get some reps in the Thursday night game as well. He’s a young kid from Bowling Green who’s shown flashes here at training camp. We have some options, but hopefully one of those guys will step up and be the guy.”
In Herron’s case, while the second-year pro seemed to be making strides and turning heads at camp, he was battling in a deep group of wide receivers. The Buccaneers will likely keep no more than seven wideouts, and Herron’s lack of involvement in the return game might have hurt his chances.
Herron, a sixth-round pick in 2014, barely cracked the lineup his rookie year and only caught six passes for 58 yards and one touchdown.
Because these three players were waived (less than four years of NFL experience), it is not out of the question that Tampa Bay could bring them back. If none of the 31 other teams make a claim, the Buccaneers are free to sign them within league rules.
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
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