With all 22 starters from last season’s Super Bowl roster already in place for the 2021 season, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers further solidified its secondary depth on Tuesday.
According to The Athletic’s Greg Auman and since confirmed by the team on April 13, the Buccaneers have re-signed veteran cornerback Ross Cockrell to a two-year contract, returning a backup and special teamer who contributed throughout the playoffs.
The Bucs beat writer later tweeted that the deal is worth $2.11 million with league minimum salaries of $990,000 this season and $1.12 million for the 2022 campaign.
Bucs' deal with corner Ross Cockrell is two years, $2.11 million — league minimum salaries of $990,000 in 2021, $1.12 million in 2022, with up to $450,000 in playtime-based incentives each season. Smart depth to guard against injuries in defensive secondary.
— Greg Auman (@gregauman) April 14, 2021
Auman added that Cockrell “gives the Bucs a fourth proven corner” and “filled in well last season when needed after starting the year in Tampa Bay’s practice squad.” The 29-year-old now rejoins a unit featuring Carlton Davis, Sean Murphy-Bunting, Jamel Dean and Herb Miller.
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Bruce Arians Named Cockrell Among Tampa’s ‘Best Pickups’
Cockrell saw action in all four postseason games for the Bucs amid injuries in the secondary. He played 20 snaps on defense in the NFC Divisional Round win at New Orleans where he tallied a tackle and a pass deflection.
“Ross Cockrell has been one of the best pickups we’ve had the entire season,” Arians said prior to Super Bowl LV, per Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com.
Most of Cockrell’s playing time last year came on special teams. He played 34% of the team’s special teams snaps in the regular season and as much as 67% in the playoffs, particularly in Super Bowl LV. He had 11 tackles and a pass deflection during the regular season in 12 games played, which included two starts. His first ironically came against the Kansas City Chiefs in November 2020 — the team the Bucs would later defeat in the Super Bowl.
When Todd Bowles and company did count on him on defense last season, Cockrell stepped up, posting the third-lowest mark among cornerbacks for yards allowed per cover snap in the slot (0.68), according to Pro Football Focus.
Cockrell: ‘I Just Knew This Was the Right Place’
The 2014 fourth-round draft pick has compiled seven interceptions, 45 pass breakups and 230 combined tackles in six seasons with five different teams, including the Buffalo Bills (2014), Pittsburgh Steelers (2015-16), New York Giants (2017) and Carolina Panthers (2018-19). Cockrell has started 45 career games, with more than half (23) coming during his time in Pittsburgh. He has also appeared in nine playoff games throughout his seven-year career.
After departing Carolina in free agency, the former Duke football star had a contract fall through to return to the Giants last August, Newsday’s Tom Rock reported.
Tampa later signed Cockrell to its practice squad in September 2020 when a couple of spots opened up, according to Smith.
“Coming to Tampa — that was just a God thing,” Cockrell told Duke University Communications in March. “I can’t even really explain it. I wasn’t really thinking about going to Tampa, but I got the call here and I just knew this was the right place.”