The Tampa Bay Buccaneers released three-time Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell on January 22, less than 24 hours before the team’s NFC divisional playoff showdown against the Los Angeles Rams. Bell’s release comes exactly one month after the Bucs signed him, on December 22, 2021.
The waiving of Bell coincided with several roster moves, including the activation of running back Leonard Fournette, who had been sidelined for the last four games with a hamstring injury. Tampa Bay also activated speedy receiver John Brown, whom the team signed to its practice squad on January 13.
Brown was signed prior to the team’s Wild Card playoff victory over the Philadelphia Eagles on January 16 but did not suit up. However, with wide receiver Breshad Perriman ruled out against the Rams, Brown could see action in the game. In addition to Perriman, Tampa Bay is dealing with multiple injuries among its receivers: Chris Godwin is out for the season, and Cyril Grayson (hamstring) was listed as questionable on the latest NFL injury report.
One of the more perplexing roster moves Saturday was the elevation of quarterback Ryan Griffin from the practice squad. The Buccaneers will have four quarterbacks active against the Rams, with Griffin joining backup Blaine Gabbert and rookie Kyle Trask as depth behind Tom Brady.
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No Reported Injuries to Brady, Gabbert or Trask
The elevation of Griffin prompted speculation about Brady’s status, but The Athletic’s Greg Auman reported no issues with the Buccaneers’ starting quarterback.
“Elevating QB Ryan Griffin from practice squad seems curious, but I’m told there isn’t anything to read into concerning the health and status of the Bucs’ top three quarterbacks,” Auman said in a series of tweets. “With Ryan Griffin getting elevated, important to remember there are no cap consequences to elevating a player in the postseason. Game check is paid by the league, not team, so even if you know a player is inactive, helps them to elevate them.”
Arians on Brown: ‘Looked Really Good & He Fit Right In’
Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians hinted that the team may need Brown to play against the Rams. Tyler Johnson and Scotty Miller are other receivers who are candidates for increased snaps in the playoff matchup.
“John Brown has looked really good and he fit right in,” Arians said during his January 21 press conference. “He had a lot of recall of what we were doing. So, we’ll see if we’re going to make that move, because Cyril [Grayson] practiced today some and looked OK.”
The Bucs Could Look to Re-Sign Bell if They Advance in the Playoffs
Bell played in three games during month-long stint with the Buccaneers, including the team’s playoff win over the Eagles. He had eight carries for 18 yards along with four receptions for 31 yards, according to Pro Football Reference.
He became expendable with the activations of Fournette and running back Giovani Bernard, who was placed on injured reserve on December 14 after injuring his hip in Week 14. The performance by running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn in the win over the Eagles (53 yards rushing and a touchdown) likely contributed to Bell’s release.
As Auman pointed out, the Bucs could look to re-sign Bell to their practice squad if he passes through waivers unclaimed. This likely would take place only if Tampa Bay beats the Rams and advances to the NFC Championship on January 30.
“If Le’Veon Bell clears waivers as expected, Bucs can bring him back on practice squad to have as depth,” Auman tweeted. “He scored on a two-point conversion and caught a touchdown from Tom Brady in his brief stint in Tampa.”