The Buccaneers were forced to make one final decision prior to Tuesday’s deadline for NFL rosters to be cut down to 75 players. With 76 players on their roster, the team had one too many and thus were forced to say goodbye to someone.
The result was the team letting go WR Dexter Jackson, and in the process admitting to a huge mistake in reaching for the receiver in last year’s draft.
Jackson has been surrounded by controversy since his entrance in the NFL after the Bucs used the second round pick (58th overall) to select the former Appalachian State receiver.
Considered to be a bust by many fans, Head Coach Raheem Morris wouldn’t go that far.
"It's hard for me to sit here and tell you that any man that made it to the NFL, any guy that got here in this league and did as well as they did training and did as well as they did in preparation, and to be able to come in here and call him a bust, that's just not my responsibility on that young man, especially with what he did for us, his efforts in the offseason, his efforts now,” Morris said on Monday. “Did he fit our mold? No, he didn't fit what we wanted to do.”
Although being drafted due to his speed to play the role as kick and punt returner, Jackson never became comfortable in the role and admitted that he just wasn’t used to taking the kind of hits that are delivered in the NFL.
After playing in only seven regular season games last season, Jackson averaged only 23.4 yards per kick return with a long of 45 and 4.9 yards per punt return before being replaced by RB Clifton Smith, who went undrafted the same year.
His lone career highlight came in the form of an 83-yard punt return for a touchdown during his rookie year in a preseason game against the Texans, the same team the Bucs face on Friday.
When questioned by the media about whether Jackson was given an equal chance to make an impact at wide receiver, Bucs head coach Raheem Morris admitted that the position quickly became crowded.
"I think we gave everybody an opportunity on this team to show up as a wideout, to show up as a return man, to show up in any situation and compete,” Morris said. “We just decided to go in a different direction. Some of it was due to other people coming along, other people emerging. The kid's a great kid. I can't take anything away from what he did. He did everything I asked. He worked his tail off. But as an organization, it was time for us to go in a different direction."
The next date Bucs fans should be aware of is September 5th, which is the day rosters must be cut down to 53 players.
In other team news, the Buccaneers have the retained the rights for WR Kelly Campbell, who was released earlier this week by the team after signing in the offseason, and have placed him on injured reserve.