TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a lot of decisions to make as free agency approaches, including what to do with their own group of 17 free agents, whose contracts are set to expire when the new league year begins March 9.
In parts 1-3 of this four-part series, we examined players who are priorities for the team to bring back, and players who would provide valuable depth.
This is the final group of players we look at, and it consists of players who either had limited roles this year, were injured, didn't really stand out, or, in the case of aging veterans, may just decide that this is it. Essentially, the team could move on from these players.
14. RB Antone Smith: Smith saw action inonly three games as a Buc before suffering a season-ending knee injury against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 9. Smith could actually be higher on this list, but the injury and limited sample size has him here. His 47 rushing yards on 10 carries was impressive, but that was mainly due to a 30-yard run against the 49ers. He does have system familiarity with Dirk Koetter's offense from his days in Atlanta.
15. WR Vincent Jackson: Jackson has provided valuable leadership to the Bucs' receiving corps as a consummate pro, and he has been a tremendous mentor for Mike Evans, both on and off the field. But Jackson's play showed noticeable decline in 2016. His timing with Jameis Winston looked off. He wasn't making those leaping catches in traffic or diving into the end zone on those back-shoulder fades we grew so accustomed to seeing. He caught 15 passes for 173 yards and no touchdowns before a knee injury took him out for the season, the final year of a five-year contract where he averaged just over $11 million per season, the second-highest salary on the Bucs' roster behind Gerald McCoy.
After the injury, Jackson quietly faded into the background at One Buc Place and wasn't seen by the media. He continued his charitable efforts in the community with his Jackson in Action 83 Foundation, benefiting military families. He has set himself up nicely for life after football, earning his bachelor's degree from the University of South Florida and opening up a successful South Tampa restaurant, while co-authoring children's books with his wife, Lindsey. Jackson has said that he wants to retire a Buc. Either way, the Bucs need to prepare for life without Jackson, either through free agency, the draft or both.
16. OT Gosder Cherilus: Unfortunately, what many fans will remember from Cherilus this year was against the Dallas Cowboys, where he started in place of injured Demar Dotson. Cherilus suffered a groin injury in that game and tried to muster his way through it but couldn't block David Irving. Because of that, Winston was under constant duress in the fourth quarter. But Cherilus also made noticeable contributions when the Bucs employed him as a jumbo tight end.
In two years with the Bucs, he made just over $7 million. Like Jackson, Cherilus brought a lot of leadership to a young offensive line and he's set himself up nicely for a career after football, which includes real estate development. His charity, the Gosder Cherilus Foundation, has served underprivileged families in the United States and Haiti.
17. DL John Hughes: Hughes was active for four games with the Bucs, bringing depth and experience at a time when the Bucs were down to one starting defensive lineman in William Gholston and had to start two undrafted free agent rookies in Channing Ward and DaVonte Lambert. Once the unit returned to full-strength, with McCoy, Clinton McDonald and Robert Ayers all back, plus the arrival of Sealver Siliga, Hughes' services weren't really needed anymore. He was cut and then brought back the following week, finishing the season inactive for the final three games.