When the Tampa Bay Buccaneers released Tyler Johnson in August, head coach Todd Bowles had to explain parting ways with the team’s most productive receiver in the preseason.
Bowles and company could go back on that decision after the Houston Texans waived Johnson on Tuesday, October 25. Johnson caught 11 passes on 13 targets for 133 yards in three preseason games with the Bucs. The Texans didn’t take advantage after signing him and only played him for 29 offensive snaps with no targets.
Johnson’s departure from the Bucs didn’t come down to on-field production on offense. The third-year veteran posted 48 receptions for 529 yards and two touchdowns in his first two seasons, and had made seven catches for 76 yards in six career playoff games.
“That was tough,” Bowles told reporters on September 1 regarding the decision to cut Johnson. “Again, we have a lot of receivers and when you get down to a fifth and sixth receiver — Jaelon [Darden] returns punts and kicks, [and] Tyler was the sixth receiver to dress on Sundays. You’ve got to be able to play special teams and contribute. [He is] a great pass receiver, very good catcher — he can catch the ball — [he’s] a very good player, but no special teams value.”
“Once you get down past the top four and five, you’ve got to have more value then just catching the football because you won’t dress on Sundays,” Bowles added. “You know, that was a big reason behind it. We felt ‘BP’ [Breshad Perriman] can do a lot of things on special teams, we feel Scotty [Miller] can do some things as well. So that’s what it came down to.”
Johnson out-performed all of the aforementioned players on offense in the preseason. Though Johnson doesn’t have the same skill level of Mike Evans for example, the former Minnesota Golden Gophers star could add depth and experience to a struggling receiver corps. Johnson also knows the offense and has prior chemistry with Bucs quarterback Tom Brady.
The Bucs have $4.3 million in salary cap to work with, per Over The Cap, and fit Johnson under the cap amid other needs before the November 1 trade deadline.
Other Bucs Receivers Haven’t Panned Out
Miller, who remains the subject of trade rumors, has 10 catches on 22 targets for 79 yards and no touchdowns this season. He also hasn’t made a major special teams play yet.
Darden didn’t break out in the first seven games of his second season. He has just two catches for 26 yards. Other than a 24-yard punt return, Darden averages 9.18 yards per return.
Perriman produced the most of the three receivers Bowles and company chose over Johnson. In five games, Perriman has six catches for 89 yards and a touchdown.
Injuries Augment Bucs’ Receiver Needs
Injuries have plagued the receiving corps — including Perriman — this season. Perriman will play on Thursday against the Baltimore Ravens for the first time since October 16. He has dealt with knee and hamstring injuries this season amid three games missed thus far.
Julio Jones (knee) hasn’t played since the first half of a Week 4 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Chris Godwin missed time due a hamstring injury. Russell Gage will miss a game for the first time this season on Thursday, but hamstring injuries have been a problem for him since training camp.