Tampa Bay doesn't report to Celebration Hotel in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. for the start of training camp until July 25 and the Bucs won't kick off the 2008 regular season until Sept. 7.
But now that the 2008 NFL Draft has concluded many Bucs fans want to know what Tampa Bay's roster might look like when the Bucs announce their 53-man roster in early September.
Some jobs still are up for grabs in Tampa Bay, but for the most part the Bucs roster is set. Late-round draft picks like linebacker Geno Hayes and running back Cory Boyd and the team's undrafted free agents, which will be announced later this week, will be hard-pressed to make the club this year due to the fact that the Bucs added a lot of competition and depth to their roster through free agency.
That said, here's an early 53-man roster prediction for the Bucs fans that want to know how things probably will shake out in training camp and preseason.
TAMPA BAY'S PROJECTED 53-MAN ROSTER
QUARTERBACKS (4) Jeff Garcia Pro Bowl QB is undisputed starter in Jon Gruden's offense, but he needs to stay healthy. Brian Griese Journeyman QB could win backup job behind Garcia in second stint with Tampa Bay. Luke McCown Will need to beat out Griese if Bucs only decide to keep 3 QBs. Josh Johnson Talented athlete could be used as a Kordell Stewart/Slash-type player while being groomed to play quarterback in the NFL.
RUNNING BACKS (4) Earnest Graham Likely will be primary ball carrier while Cadillac recovers from knee injury if he doesn't hold out. Michael Bennett Speedy RB should see more playing time with a full offseason under his belt. Warrick Dunn Gruden is itching to showcase the 33-year-old Dunn in the passing game. Cadillac Williams Likely headed for PUP list, but the Bucs like his progress and feel he could play in 2008.
FULLBACK (1) B.J. Askew Good blocker, receiver. Could see playing time reduced due to two-back sets.
WIDE RECEIVERS (6) Joey Galloway Speedy WR should put up Pro Bowl-caliber numbers as long as he's healthy. Ike Hilliard Aging veteran still is a reliable third-down threat, but not guaranteed a starting job. Dexter Jackson Speedster likely will make biggest impact on special teams as a rookie. Maurice Stovall Needs to put together another strong training camp and have it carry over into the regular season. Michael Clayton Former first-round pick isn't guaranteed a roster spot and could be used as trade bait. Antonio Bryant If Bryant stays out of trouble, he's talented enough to beat out Paris Warren for a roster spot.
TIGHT ENDS (3) Alex Smith Probably the most balanced tight end the Bucs have on their roster. Ben Troupe Could push Smith for playing time. Can stretch the field as a receiver. John Gilmore Replaces Anthony Becht as Tampa Bay's blocking tight end.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8) Luke Petitgout Coming off knee injury, but should be ready for camp and start at left tackle in ‘08. Arron Sears Sears impressed at left guard as a rookie. Could earn backup center role, too. Jeff Faine Highest-paid center in the NFL should solidify that position for the Bucs. Davin Joseph Wasn't as impressive as Bucs had hoped in second year. Needs to live up to first-round billing. Jeremy Trueblood Might have been the most consistent player on Tampa Bay's O-line in 2007. Donald Penn Will compete with Petitgout, but if the veteran is healthy, Penn likely will be a backup. Jerremy Zuttah Third-round pick. Versatility could come in handy on game days. Anthony Davis Roster spot could come down to Dan Buenning and Davis. Buenning could be out if Zuttah and Sears can play center.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (9) Gaines Adams Former first-round pick can't afford to suffer through a sophomore slump. The Bucs need him to show real progress as a pass rusher and starter. Greg White Wants a new contract, but former Arena Football League player may not put up better numbers (eight sacks, seven forced fumbles) than last year. Jovan Haye Restricted free agent likely will sign tender, but final year of his contract is a motivation. Chris Hovan Arguably the most consistent defensive lineman on the team. Bucs would love to get more sacks out of him. Ryan Sims Made good progress in first year in Tampa Bay. Will compete with Hovan for playing time at nose tackle. Dre' Moore Bucs and Haye have been talking about a long-term deal since October. Moore, a fourth-round pick, is an insurance policy and has good upside. Greg Peterson Former fifth-round pick must make significant progress at under tackle in second year. Showing versatility could help him, too. Jimmy Wilkerson Good run stuffer, but must show better pass rush skills than Charles Bennett. Marques Douglas Youth could prevail as the final roster spot could come down to Douglas and Kevin Carter, who was cut and re-signed this offseason.
LINEBACKERS (6) Derrick Brooks Looking to return to the Pro Bowl in what could be his final year in the NFL. Barrett Ruud Will need to create more turnovers to make the Pro Bowl in 2008. Cato June Coming off broken foot. Bucs hope he will be ready for training camp. Quincy Black Could replace June on the strong side should an injury occur. Adam Hayward Needs to build on rookie year to earn backup spot on weak side. Teddy Lehman Lehman isn't guaranteed anything. Backup middle linebacker spot will come down to he, Matt McCoy, Ryan Nece or Antoine Cash.
CORNERBACKS (5) Ronde Barber Must create more turnovers to return to the Pro Bowl after a one-year absence. Aqib Talib First-round pick will try to replace Brian Kelly at left cornerback, but probably will see action in nickel and dime as a rookie. Phillip Buchanon Looking to prove he's worthy of a long-term deal as a starter. Eugene Wilson Winner of battle between Wilson and Buchanon could be in Tampa Bay's long-term plans while the other hits free agency in 2009. Torrie Cox Could beat out Sammy Davis in camp, where he typically shines.
SAFETIES (4) Jermaine Phillips Motivated by bounce-back 2007 season and the fact that he's in a contract year. Tanard Jackson Looking to build on impressive rookie outing and possibly make the Pro Bowl. Sabby Piscitelli Is healthy and wants to start, but Phillips might not allow that to happen. Will Allen Good special teams player and valuable backup with experience.
KICKER (1) Matt Bryant Kicking job is his after making nearly 85 percent of his FGs in 2007.
PUNTER (1) Josh Bidwell Reliable, strong leg nearly earned him another trip to the Pro Bowl last year.
LONG SNAPPER (1) Andrew Economos Bucs like his long-snapping skills enough to keep a roster spot for him.
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