TAMPA – You would fully expect a seasoned NFL veteran such as wide receiver Riley Cooper to stand out at a rookie minicamp such as the one Buccaneers held this weekend. And in that regard at least, Cooper did not disappoint.
Whether it was a pass catcher, a route runner or just the way he absorbed the playbook, Cooper looked like a keeper compared to a lot of the other wideouts participating in the Bucs camp.
But simply standing out above a bunch of rookies was never going to guarantee Cooper a spot on the Buccaneers roster and Bucs coach Dirk Koetter explained why last weekend.
Cooper hasn’t played in the NFL since 2015 and Koetter made it clear that if Cooper had tried to earn a spot with the Bucs back then or even last year he might have easily made it. But not now.
It’s not that Cooper’s skills have eroded. It’s just that the Bucs are a much better team now and as they continue to get better it’s going to be harder for any player, even seasoned veterans, to make the team now.
“We’re full at 90 (players on the roster), so we’d have to trade some guys out for a tryout guy (to make it),’’ Koetter said. “And we’ll have some meetings on that in the next couple of days.
“But I think just in general, our roster is deeper than it was a year ago, so it’s getting tougher and tougher to make it here. I mean, you start thinking, yeah, we’d like to have this guy but who do you let go?’
“So it’s not so easy. And I know (general manager) Jason (Licht) and his guys are watching practice and thinking the same thing, so there are some guys that a year or two ago might have had a better chance but we’ve got a deeper football team than we did (then).’’
One of the positions Koetter said is deeper now is wide receiver, so Cooper, who will not be signed at this point, was clearly facing an uphill battle from the beginning with the Bucs.
That doesn’t mean he can’t be signed at some point. As Koetter noted, Cooper did stand out, and in a good way. So he could still wind up in a Buccaneers uniform should injuries strike.
But the fact Cooper won’t be wearing a Bucs uniform now is probably a good thing. Had it been the other way around, Bucs fans might have reason to suspect the actual depth of their receiving corps.