Beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday every NFL team can begin putting together their eight-man practice squad. NFL teams consider this an important proving ground to keep players they believe can help them down the road.
But it's a free-for-all for every NFL team, as any player can sign with any team's practice squad. It's almost like a college recruiting trip — except it's usually done by phone and it takes about 24-48 hours to complete. Good, young players aren't on the market very long.
Teams usually have a short list of players they want to keep from their own roster cuts, plus a short list of players from other teams, likely ones that were on their "Hot Lists" during draft research.
A team may establish a practice squad of no more than eight players who do not have an accrued season of free agency credit or who were on the 45-player active list for less than nine regular season games during their only accrued season. A player cannot participate on the practice squad for more than two seasons. Six or more regular-season games on a club's active or inactive, reserved-injured, or "physically unable to perform" (PUP) lists constitutes an "accrued season."
For that reason, wide receivers Chad Lucas and Chad Owens — both released this week — probably won't be practice squad signees. Lucas spent 2005 on Green Bay's practice squad and part of 2006 with Tampa Bay's practice squad. Owens spent a good portion of the last two seasons on Jacksonville's practice squad, plus has played in five regular-season games.
All of these guys may be out of chances.
So, who among the Buccaneers is eligible for the practice squad? Here are some possibilities from the players the Bucs released this week:
Sean Douglas, P: Tampa Bay released him earlier this week. They could choose to re-sign if, if they like. But Douglas only punted twice for a 36.5-yard average. He'll be on speed-dial in case Josh Bidwell gets hurt.
Kyle Smith and Jovon Bouknight, WR. Each were released on Monday. Smith had one catch in preseason and Bouknight had none. The Bucs typically keep at least one wide receiver on the practice squad.
Marcus Hamilton, CB. The Bucs liked him during training camp, but they needed more experience at the corner position, so they kept Sammy Davis. He's a Cover 2 corner, having played it at Virginia, and would be a great developmental choice for the Bucs.
Kenneth Darby, RB. Rushed for more than 100 yards in preseason, but his fine play dropped off a bit as the preseason went on. Still, he has rushing and receiving ability, the latter of which Jon Gruden values greatly.
Carlos Hendricks, CB. He challenged for a roster spot at corner, but made a few too many mistakes in the last two preseason games. He flashed some ability, though, enough to keep him in the mix until the final cuts. He's played a lot of football already this year, as he distinguished himself in the final season of NFL Europa.
Byron Storer, FB. He could be a fullback the Bucs would like to develop, but frankly I didn't see enough from him during training camp or the preseason to warrant such a signing.
Enoka Lucas, OL. He made it through the first round of cuts, which surprised me. He has the versatility to play both center and guard, and the way the Bucs go through offensive linemen, signing Lucas might not be a bad idea. Still, I didn't see enough of him to believe he'll be around next week.
Jonathan Clinkscale, OL. He's another lineman with two-position versatility. But after bouncing off and on Tampa Bay's practice squad the past two years, he may be out of time.
Other possibilities: DE Tim Jones, T Jabari Levey, C Nick Milhauser, DE Jeremy Pittman and T Dennis Roland. Many of them were released earlier in the week in the first round of cuts. Roland played on Thursday, but he was probably auditioning for other teams.
Matthew Postins covers the Buccaneers for BucsBlitz.com and the Charlotte Sun-Herald in Port Charlotte, Fla. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers Association and has won national awards for his Buccaneers coverage from the PFWA, the National Newspaper Association and the Associated Press Sports Editors. He is also a contributor to the Scot Brantley Show from 4-7 p.m. weekdays on WHBO 1490-AM in Tampa-Clearwater.