TAMPA, Fla. — One guard is a six-time Pro Bowler, the other a perennial question.
One offers credibility, the other incredible baggage.
One represents a strong past, the other a shady future.
Well done, Bucs. After the wild developments Monday, when coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht wined, dined and questioned controversial guard Richie Incognito as part of a five-hour meeting in Tampa, they announced a smarter development Tuesday afternoon when they gained Logan Mankins in a trade that sent tight end Tim Wright and a reported fourth-round draft pick in 2015 to the New England Patriots.
Later Tuesday, they placed cornerback Danny Gorrer, sidelined by groin problems last year, on injured reserve and waived offensive tackle Matt Patchan, cornerback Deveron Carr and tackle J.B. Shugarts. They also were awarded off waivers defensive back Marc Anthony, formerly of the Tennessee Titans, and offensive lineman Jeremiah Warren, formerly of the Cleveland Browns. Their roster stands at 75 players after the 4 p.m. deadline.
Still, Mankins’ addition was the day’s story.
"Tough football player, a real man, everybody loves him, great guy in your locker room," Bucs coach Lovie Smith said of Mankins. "And that’s earned from playing so many years of top-level football. And then opponents, from talking to them, they know what to expect going against him. He’s one of those guys that comes to work everyday with his lunch pail, exactly what we need on our football team and of course in the offensive line room."
Now there are more decisions to make. The deadline to reach the 53-man roster limit is 4 p.m. Saturday. Here’s an overview of what has been done and choices to be made before Saturday afternoon.
MOST SURPRISING CUT
OL Jace Daniels
Daniels, signed as a college free agent in May 2013, received looks at guard with the Bucs’ first-team offense in training camp after Jamon Meredith was moved from starting guard to backup tackle following a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars to open the preseason. At the time, the switch to Daniels was surprising given his relative unknown status because he spent Weeks 6-17 last year on the Bucs’ practice squad.
Still, Daniels’ departure isn’t too shocking. Patrick Omameh and Oniel Cousins received starts at guard in the second and third preseason games, and Daniels became less of a factor as the weeks passed. But his fall from a brief first-team player in the Bucs’ guard shuffle to an inclusion in the first round of cuts is notable.
PLAYERS ON THE HOT SEAT
DE Da’Quan Bowers
No player has been viewed with a more skeptical eye throughout training camp than Bowers. He entered with an upfront challenge from general manager Jason Licht that he had to show he wanted to make the team. After Bowers’ decent showing against the Jaguars — he had three tackles with time at defensive tackle as well as his usual end spot — he became sidelined with a groin injury and has done little since then.
With Adrian Clayborn as the assumed starter at one end position, and if Larry English gains enough of the coaching staff’s trust with a strong showing Thursday against the Washington Redskins at Raymond James Stadium, Bowers could find himself looking for a new job. No doubt, Bowers is talented. But that talent hasn’t been on display enough for him to feel comfortable. He has been sidelined too often for him to be anything more than a borderline call.
RB Jeff Demps
Demps entered training camp with intrigue after the former track star made a renewed commitment to football. Still, Demps has failed to establish himself within the Bucs’ competition at running back, totaling 21 carries for 61 yards. Even with rookie Charles Sims expected to miss 12-14 weeks because of ankle surgery, Demps will be a tough call.
Even though Demps received reps at special teams in training camp, Solomon Patton has established himself as the coaching staff’s preferred option on kick and punt returns. Despite Demps’ notable speed, it’s hard to see where he fits into the Bucs’ current plans. He would have bolstered his prospects with a strong showing on special teams. But his future with the Bucs appears tenuous.
PLAYER ON THE RISE
WR Solomon Patton
The Florida product saw his stock improve with the waiving of wide receivers Skye Dawson, Eric Page and Tommy Streeter on Sunday. He has averaged a team-best 29.5 yards per kickoff return on six attempts this preseason, with a long of 33 yards. He also has a team-high five punt returns in the preseason, with an average of 8 yards per try.
The Bucs’ coaching staff was searching for someone to establish themselves on special teams. With questions about Patton’s ability to contribute on offense — he has one catch for 8 yards in the preseason — he could find his niche as a return man. That’s a solid rise for a player who latched onto the Bucs as an undrafted college free agent in the offseason.
TOUGHEST CALL REMAINING
Patrick Omameh (66).
What will become of Oniel Cousins and Patrick Omameh with Mankins’ addition?
With Mankins’ addition at left guard, the Bucs’ situation at the position receives more clarity. Still, who will play right guard? Either Omameh or Cousins will likely fill the position. Cousins has had a rough preseason, so Omameh could be the favorite to fill the slot. Both players have produced plenty of tape throughout the preseason, so the staff will have no shortage of material to go on in making a decision.
If Omameh is given the nod, Cousins could be in danger of not making the 53-man roster. The Bucs’ guard situation has included no shortage of intrigue throughout the preseason. This will be the latest twist.