Only a day after Jaelon Darden’s surprising release from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the young wide receiver has a new home, and he made a strong statement to go with it.
The Cleveland Browns signed Darden on Wednesday, December 7, after Tuesday’s release by the Bucs. The second-year receiver from North Texas posted on social media “they thought I was over with” plus a screen shot of NFL Network reporter Ian Rapoport’s report of the signing.
Darden could help the Browns with wide receiver depth amid wide receiver Anthony Schwartz going on injured reserve. The Browns might not need Darden as badly as a punt returning because of Donovan Peoples-Jones, who recently returned a punt 76 yards for a touchdown in Week 13.
Todd Bowles: ‘We Did What Was Best for the Team’
Bucs head coach Todd Bowles called Darden’s release one that the staff had to make.
“Well, it’s tough any time you release somebody — he’s a talented player. We thought we did what was best for the team at that point in time,” Bowles told reporters on Wednesday, December 7. Hopefully he catches on somewhere else, but we’re auditioning guys now like we have been. Whether it’s Gio [Bernard], whether it’s Scotty [Miller], whether it’s somebody else we’re auditioning, we’ll make that decision at the end of the week.”
While the Bucs had good punt return production from Darden, 10.6 yards per return, his role in the passing game failed to develop. Darden had two receptions for 26 yards this season. He also once returned kicks as a rookie, but he lost out to rookie running back Rachaad White for most of this season.
“Yeah, that was part of it. That was a big part of it,” Bowles said about finding a better use for that roster spot. “He didn’t do [anything] wrong physically —it wasn’t because he did anything. It was just us moving forward, it was better…He hadn’t played offense in a while and we had some returners, some guys who did a few more things.”
The Bucs selected Darden in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft out of North Texas for his speed. Darden finished his unfulfilled tenure with the Bucs with eight catches for 69 yards and 50 punt returns for 300 yards plus 21 kick returns for 426 yards. His longest punt and kick returns with the Bucs were 43 and 34 respectively.
Bucs Get K.J. Britt Back From Injured Reserve
The Bucs got a little healthier on Wednesday as linebacker K.J. Britt returned from injured reserve.
Tampa Bay announced the designation on Wednesday for the second-year linebacker from Auburn, who plays regularly on special teams. Britt sustained an ankle injury in Week 7 against the Carolina Panthers and hasn’t played since.
His return can help depth at linebacker behind Lavonte David and Devin White. The Bucs only had Olakunie Fatukasi of late backing up David and White. Britt has two tackles on defense this season, but he produced more as a rookie on defense with seven tackles, a quarterback hit, and a pass deflection.
Besides Britt’s return to practice, the Bucs added to the practice squad with the signings of safety Nolan Turner and tackle Grant Hermanns. Turner previously spent time on the Bucs practice squad and moved up to the active roster for a four-week stretch where he played on special teams. Hermanns spent time on the New York Jets and Miami Dolphins practice squads this season.