Buccaneers: Tyler Johnson could be on the outside looking in

Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler Johnson, Tampa Bay Buccaneers Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Life could get more complicated for Tyler Johnson on the Buccaneers.

By this time, everyone who knows the Buccaneers knows that the wide receiver room is packed tighter than a can of sardines.

There are so many good players it holds to reason that someone will end up on the cutting room floor. The issue with that is if someone like Tyler Johnson gets cut, the likelihood of them making it through the waiver wire gauntlet and safely onto the practice squad is slim to none.

Say the Buccaneers end up keeping seven wide receivers. Yes, it could happen if one of them shows up particularly well on special teams, like rookie Jaelon Darden, for instance. It’s no accident that he happens to wear Number 1.

Now, remember back all those years, and years, and years ago when you may or may not have played sports. Who wore No. 1? Unless they were sadistic and some were/are, most coaches wouldn’t dare let a loafer wear the 1. To wear the one, the player had to be good. He had to be better than good. He had to be the best.

Now, I am not saying that Darden is the best wide receiver on the Buccaneers, after all, he’s a “rook,” and we haven’t even seen him in action during a preseason game. But by the reports, one has to think we have a hot commodity on our hands by the juice coming out of One Buc. It doesn’t matter that he was a fourth-round pick. It doesn’t matter in the least. What matters is that he is on an NFL team and that he has a better than even chance of making the 53. After all, he has done everything that was asked of him, and after a first few incidents of dropsy, has comported himself very well.

Darden will cause a ruckus when the Bucs decide to trim the squad down to 53. It’s almost a foregone conclusion that Darden is a keeper. They picked him for his speed and elusiveness for running back kick-offs and punts. That he has performed so well as a receiver is a bonus, and he has performed well enough that he may well be in the running for the 3, 4, or 5 wide receiver spot. What that means is someone is going to be looking in from the outside, and the most likely candidate is Tyler Johnson

Tyler Johnson has his hands full in a competitive camp

Johnson is a burgeoning receiver who had a great rookie season fighting for playing time against the likes of Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Antonio “AB” Brown, Scotty Miller, and Jaydon Mickens. He was one step behind Miller at the end of the season, but now things have changed.

Now, with the advent of Darden, it looks like times might be even tougher for Johnson. Say the Bucs opt to keep six wideouts. We know Evans, Godwin, AB, and Scotty Miller are likely locks in that room.

That leaves two more seats. In all likeliness, Darden will replace Mickens as the return man. That leaves one seat left. Who is it who gets that seat? Johnson or Mickens? Or maybe one of the other up-and-coming young studs on the 90-man roster.

All of this is speculation, no doubt. And whoever has to make that choice must keep in mind that the team would likely want to keep Johnson. And if Johnson ends up on a waiver wire, there are 31 other teams that are just drooling to see that happen. And the Jacksonville Jaguars would absolutely love to have a wide receiver like Johnson fall into their lap. As last season’s bottom rung team, they get the very first choice on anything in the waiver wire. No doubt that Johnson could start on any other team in the NFL.

For that matter, so could Mickens. It’s been said before, although not often about Tampa Bay, a lot of these players are going to find themselves a place to play on another team. Other teams pay just as much attention to the Buccaneer’s cast-offs as the Buccaneers pay attention to theirs.

The best time to steal someone is when they hit the waiver wire. It wasn’t too long ago that Tampa sharpened its 53 with talent that was waived by other teams. Ultimately, decisions have to be made. The ax has to fall. And often, the result of that happening can be painful.

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At this point, the book says Johnson holds a spot by his fingernails. But then, that means someone like Mickens is going to take the fall. Still, Tampa could opt to keep a seventh wideout. Who knows, they might be good enough to serve on special teams as a gunner.