Why did the Tampa Bay Buccaneers cut wide receiver David Boston?
That question was front and center in the minds of Bucs fans on Sunday morning after Boston was released on Saturday afternoon to make room on the active roster for offensive lineman Scott Jackson. But with the distraction that was a 27-0 thumping of the Buccaneers at the hands of the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, that question has largely gone unanswered – until now.
PewterReport.com has spoken with sources inside One Buccaneer Place to find out why Boston was released instead of a lesser-name player such as wide receiver Paris Warren, or one of the team’s seven linebackers, such as Wesly Mallard or Antoine Cash. Here’s what we’ve found.
Even on the day after Boston originally made the 53-man roster, head coach Jon Gruden delivered a cryptic clue about the former Pro Bowl receiver, who was still making his way back from season-ending knee surgery in 2005 with the Miami Dolphins.
“He’s still not, in my opinion, all the way back but he’s on his way,” Gruden said on September 3.
The bottom line is that Boston was not all the way back from his injury and lacked explosiveness off the line of scrimmage and in and out of his breaks. His 40-yard time, which was not revealed to Pewter Report, was respectable, but his quickness wasn’t back to pre-injury levels.
Although he did shine in the season finale at Houston with eight catches for 69 yards, apparently Boston needed to have a performance like that to actually make the roster. Reports that Boston had essentially made the roster based on an impressive training camp were premature.
While he looked very good in training camp, Boston failed to impress in the first three preseason games, netting just one catch for 11 yards and failing to separate from cornerbacks. In his player evaluation, Gruden always places an emphasis on the performance in the preseason. In his eyes, it’s under the lights that count.
Most of Boston’s production against the Texans came against second- and third-string defensive backs and he never proved that he was capable of separating against top-flight, starting cornerbacks. He never showed that burst that made him one of the most dangerous wide receivers in the NFL in his days as a Cardinal or even a San Diego Charger.
Although he was signed because of his NFL experience in case of an injury to Joey Galloway or Ike Hilliard, the Bucs’ elder statesmen at wide receiver, Boston isn’t completely healthy and back to his Pro Bowl ability yet.
On Monday, Gruden expressed his disappointment in releasing Boston while having to clear a roster spot due to injuries to guards Davin Joseph and Dan Buenning.
"It is crushing to me, you know, but when you have an injury, one of the most unfortunate things about this business is that when you get a guy who is hurt and you don’t put him on IR, it is not like you are creating a roster spot," Gruden said of Joseph's injury. "He is still on the team and is going to come back at some point, but you have to make room for somebody else. Given the fact that Davin Joseph and Dan Buenning are out for [who] knows how long, we had to get another guard up in case we lost a guard, obviously, in this game. Losing David Boston is certainly disappointing to me and I will just leave it at that.”
Because Boston isn’t in position to cover kicks or return them, he doesn’t have the value of a player like Warren, who will do those things. Boston also doesn’t have the knowledge of Gruden’s offense that Warren does. Like Hilliard, Warren knows all three wide receiver positions – X (split end), Z (flanker) and Y (slot) – and the Bucs have great value in that.
Although he doesn’t have top speed or a huge frame, the workman-like Warren is known as a player who doesn’t make many mistakes. He also has a knack of finding the end zone, recording a total of four touchdown passes in the past two preseasons. In 2005, Warren led the Bucs with two TD passes and caught a total of three passes for 74 yards. In 2006, Warren had six catches for 51 yards and again led Tampa Bay with two touchdowns.
As long as Boston is on the free agent market, there is the chance that he may return to the roster at some point if injuries hit at wide receiver because of his exposure to Gruden’s system. Expect the Bucs to monitor his progress this season and check in on him as his knee continues to heal. If he can return to 100 percent health, Tampa Bay may re-sign Boston at some point.
“I am not going to speculate," Gruden said on Monday. "We are going to try to do what we feel we have to do to a degree and what we want to do, secondly. We have to take a look at what we need from a health standpoint and what gives us a chance to compete and really what could help us down the road becomes secondary sometimes. We are going to have to get all the information and go from there.”
Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com