Buccaneers cut veteran wide receiver in shocking move, so what happens next?

Tampa Bay made the surprising decision to cut this three-year wide receiver who figured to play a big role on the Bucs' special teams
Jacksonville Jaguars v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jacksonville Jaguars v Tampa Bay Buccaneers / Julio Aguilar/GettyImages

As offseason workouts move forward and the 2024 season continues to wear on, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and other teams have had to make tough decisions to their roster. Every year, the NFL sets three dates as deadlines for teams to cut their roster down to specific numbers.

The first deadline this season is Tuesday, August 17, when teams have to cut their roster down to 85 players. Over the next two weeks, teams are required to lower their roster total to 80 players by August 24, and the obvious 53-man mark on August 31.

On Thursday, general manager Jason Licht wasted no time getting closer to the 85-player total set in August, cutting veteran wide receiver Deven Thompkins with an injury designation. This comes three seasons after Thompkins signed with Tampa Bay as an undrafted free agent out of Utah State.

Buccaneers stunning cut Deven Thompkins, so what happens next?

During his two seasons as a Buc, Thompkins played in 22 games and caught 22 of 35 targets for 115 yards and a touchdown while running 10 times for 82 yards. With production like that, it's hard to justify the Buccaneers' need for Thompkins as a receiver with Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Josh Palmer, Jalen McMillan, and Rakim Jarrett already signed.

That said, it's worth noting that Thompkins was quite impactful as a punt and kick returner for Tampa Bay since entering the league in 2022. As a rookie, Thompkins took 12 kickoff returns for 263 yards and 382 all-purpose yards. In 2023, Thompkins thrived as the Buccaneers' primary return specialist, playing in all 17 games and returning 16 kickoffs for 327 yards and 25 punts for 234 yards.

With the new kickoff format being introduced to the NFL in 2024, Tampa Bay is looking to take a different approach to its kickoff personnel. During Tuesday's practice session, Thompkins was seen getting reps as a returner. Palmer, McMillan, and running backs Rachaad White and Bucky Irving also got reps, and figure to take over return duties in place of Thompkins.

In 2024, ten players on the kicking team and at least nine players on the receiving team will line up just five yards apart and can't begin running until the ball gets back to the returner. Only kickers and returners can move before the ball is returned.

In addition, kickers will kick the ball from their own 35-yard line with the 10 other members of the kickoff return unit at the opposing 40-yard line. Due to these rule changes, the effectiveness of the Buccaneers' returns will be even more pertinent in giving Baker Mayfield and the offense good starting field position and even gaining momentum from a big return.

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