Jaelon Darden Is Cut

December 6th, 2022

The Buccaneers’ ho-hum return man is no longer on the roster.

Tampa Bay waived returner/receiver Jaelon Darden today. The 2021 fourth-round pick was having a solid season returning punts — he leads the NFL with 31 punt returns and 330 total punt return yards — but has been no factor in the offense. Darden’s decision-making on returns/fair catches was questionable at times.

Joe hopes nothing off the field is tied to this surprising move.

Joe suspects Giovani Bernard will take over the punt return job.

In a corresponding move, Ryan Smith was promoted from the Bucs’ practice squad. Yes, that Ryan Smith, the former Buccaneers cornerback and bad kick returner who was signed off the street last month. He was Tampa Bay’s fourth-round pick in 2016.

118 Responses to “Jaelon Darden Is Cut”

  1. Bucs97 Says:


  2. Ander Says:

    Good move.

  3. Mike Says:

    Well alrighty then….

  4. Jmarkbuc Says:

    Cut Byron next.

  5. LOL Says:

    Lol. Why now? He’s always been meh to bad

  6. mg Says:

    another wasted draft pick

  7. Anonymous Says:

    Makin room for OBJ.

  8. kyle Says:

    can we bring back michael spurlock??? haha

  9. kyle Says:

    im all for walking byron down the plank.. maybe let him try a pass with goedeke blocking….lmfao

  10. Colin in Canada Says:

    Is this a tolerate you until I can replace you move? Not sure how Gio is a real solution here. It’s amazing we can’t find a guy to return punts.

  11. Bird Says:

    There is a God. 😂

  12. Alvin Scissors Harper Says:

    That is great news! Darden has been a complete waste of a roster spot.

  13. Chuckstutz Says:


  14. Anonymous Says:

    Bring back mickens

  15. Christos Says:

    Jason Light should trade all the picks from rounds 4 to 7 and just have four or five picks in the first 3 rounds……. Or maybe ask Schneider from the Seahawks advice for a 5th round Cornerback.
    Ryan Smith was a really good gunner for ST when he was here along with Josh Robinson, not much else but still a great gunner

  16. ClwJB Says:

    Last night, After he hightailed it out of bounds on his last return the Saints guys were laughing at him and calling names normally reserved for cats…

    He looked scared to death in the return game

  17. D-Rok Says:

    I guess no other team wanted to trade for him. Good luck in your future endeavors, Mr. Darden. We had high hopes for some production from you.

    Wonder if this is related to a potential player coming to us via trade? Seems like the Bucs simply wanted a roster spot, or am I reading too much into Darden’s release?

  18. Redeemer Says:

    Why they haven’t tried Miller back their is beyond me. He has the speed. Maybe they’re worried about his hands, or getting hurt. I’d at least try it. Darden was dead weight,. taking up a roster spot to perform one duty isn’t a good allocation of resources

  19. BigMacAttack Says:

    Darden was horrible. A product of bad scouting.

  20. The Beer Whisperer Says:

    It looked like to me, Darden plays scared.
    The Bucs must think so, too.

  21. Defense Rules Says:

    Finally. Glad Ryan Smith got promoted too. That 42-yard return last night could’ve cost us the game IF the Saints had scored (as it was, our defense forced them to punt on that drive). Smith has always been a S/Ts warrior.

  22. firethecannons Says:

    so many other options, Scotty Miller would be the first choice ok with seeing Darden cut–must be more to this story, could of been benched 1st but outright cut off the team is a little severe, he never fumbled either but he couldn’t wait to get away from contact.

  23. Marine Buc Says:

    He wasn’t much of a contributor on offense but I felt pretty confident with him handling punt returns. He was sure handed and didn’t cause us any harm in a very stressful job…

    I also felt confident that he wasn’t going to get very many return yards or big plays.

    Good luck young man.

  24. Scurvy Dogs Says:

    Maybe Jensen is coming back 🤞🏼

  25. Anonymous Says:


  26. JimmyfromNY Says:

    At least it looks like they’re watching the games with us. He’s been a complete disaster not making good enough decisions back there . Whether a fair catch or not. He either runs right out of bounds or go’s straight down.

  27. Tony Says:

    I thought he had the talent coming out but yeah he did seem on & off. I could see them maybe putting Bernard back there because they’re not even using him. They should. He can do a bit of everything. Sad thing about the Darden pick is Licht traded up for him & we lost more draft picks. If anything you trade down get more picks & help build the team overall. Especially if you’re not gonna do much in FA & at the trade deadline. Can’t rebuild your team with just some random dude off the street. Although that’s where Leftwich should probably be. Maybe they should hang onto Bowles but just let him run the D.

  28. Anonymous Says:

    D rok doesn’t even know there’s a trade deadline?…..C’mon man! Go BUCS!!

  29. SOEbuc Says:

    Check your tone on Ryan Smith ST. He was a terrific gunner. And Smith was not good at CB, but who can be worse thanMcCullom? Looks like he weighs 150 lbs, cannot cover and sure as hell can’t make an open field tackle. At least Smith has size.

  30. Tony Says:

    Darden would probably have to go to a team like New England with Belichick & he’d have to work with him if he wants to become better.

  31. PSL Bob Says:

    He almost always ran toward the sideline. Never tried looking for a seam up the middle of the field. He wanted to be able to step out of bounds rather than pick up an extra couple of yards His only positive attribute was that he was sure handed. But he fair caught way too many returnable punts.

  32. Coburn Says:

    Yup Smith was a heck of a Gunner

  33. Tony Says:

    Just wondering when they’re gonna figure out it’s time to dump Donovan Smith. Dude is just killing the team with penalties & sacks. I’ve said it for the last couple of years they should’ve gotten rid of him & got a replacement. Fred the sled could do better.

  34. Gofortheface30 Says:

    Oh ya for sure Tony because Belichick sure has a keen eye for talent at the receiver position….*eyeroll*

  35. Frank Pillow Says:

    Darden’s bad decisions and cowardice are equal to that of the HC’s.

  36. Casual Observer Says:

    Darden never fumbled. But that was about it.

  37. VATom Says:

    Smith isnt bad. He just isnt good when he doesnt have an excellent guy next to him. Alli’s retirement makes him do more work alone. Plus his blown out arm from earlier this yr. Your not going to find a much better dude on the practice squad. But it does look like his career is winding down quick if it isnt a temporary injury. Hate to see it. He hasnt been a bad player. Just not a pro bowler.

  38. Marine Buc Says:

    Who are the Bucs making room for?


    TB12’s old buddy Gronk? Or Eddleman?

    Usually when you release someone this late in the year you are making room for a free agent…

    I guess we will find out soon enough.

  39. Tony Says:


    Oh yeah that’s true somewhat.🙄 But yeah he’d probably have to go to a team where they could coach him more & help him.

  40. Tony Says:

    @Marine Buc

    No they’re making room for Antonio.😀

  41. BucU Says:

    It’s time to cut bait here. This is a good start. Donavan Smith won’t be here next season. He’s been terrible this year when we needed him to play his best.
    Now this Todd Bowles and Leftwich disaster.
    3 points on tbe board till 3 min left in the game. We won in SPITE of Leftwich. Bowles doesn’t even huddle up w TB12 and Leftwich on timeouts. This whole affirmative action experiment has been proven to be awful. 3 points on the board until 3 min left in the game! Brady again took matters into his own hands.
    This win masked a nightmare offense from Gen Byron.

  42. BA’s Red Pen Says:

    Adios Dardung

  43. Joe in Michigan Says:

    At least Stumbles didn’t fumble…I think he went to college at SAFS (Slip And Fall School).

  44. Stanglassman Says:

    If anyone needed to get cut from their performance last night it would be Zion McCollum.

  45. The Beer Whisperer Says:

    Haha, the Patriots have a returner. He had a game winning TD punt return, 2 weeks ago. His 1st and only snap on offense, was Patriots only TD against Buffalo this past week. lol

    Rookie, Marcus Jones

  46. Marine Buc Says:

    @ Tony


    AB is playing for the Orient Road Jail Birds at the moment.

    I don’t think we will be able to work out a trade anytime soon…

  47. Tony Says:

    I’m guessing Darden won’t be the Bucs next GM or a scout for them at some point?😀

  48. Smashsquatch Says:

    I wonder if he’ll run laterally out the side door of One Buc 🤔

  49. AmauryGuzman Says:

    Can they cut this coaching staff? They haven’t been able to improve this team through 12 games. I just don’t see how they make noise with this coaching staff.

  50. unbelievable Says:

    Only took 12 games for someone to realize just how crappy the special teams have been?

  51. Dre bucs fan Says:

    Can we cut Todd Bowles yet? I meant Todd bowels lol

  52. Scott Says:

    Deven thompkins time

  53. Uncle Urk Says:

    Amen! That Guy McCollum was so bad that I was calling for DeeDee Delaney. So you know his was terrible. McCollum and Goedeke are not ready for the NFL and should see the feild in the regular season until year 3. Both are developmental players.

  54. Uncle Urk Says:

    How about sneak take on both duties? Or why is he holding a spot? Seems we could use another developmental LT.

  55. Manny Says:

    I actually was starting to forget he was on the team. Licht needs to grow some
    Balls now and get rid of leftwich and bowles

  56. Mike Johnson Says:

    The phantom Randolph should be next.

  57. SOEbuc Says:


    Sorely mistaken about Smith. I have hated this guy and his top tier LT contracts for years. He is always in the hunt for most penalties. Always gets run around edge or it’s him collapsing in the pocket. I don’t know why fans haven’t noticed how blatantly obvious it has been. And yes, this conversation amongst fans would have started a long time ago without Ali. Could’ve saved some money. OT in the first round isn’t a crazy thought.

  58. The Beer Whisperer Says:

    I’ll have to watch golf, when Brady retires.

  59. Bobby M. Says:

    Arians really hyped him the last couple yrs….kind of sheds light on Arians hype of Leftwich and Gabbert.

  60. Sumosam Says:

    Darden had great hands. Secured the ball before running. He did the job well but I think he was afraid of getting hit and could not find openings.

  61. NEfan Says:

    Finally, he is afraid to get hit. It only took 3 years. On the other hand he was sure handed so his replacement better not fumble.

  62. shak Says:

    “Darden never fumbled.” Well, it’d be a sight to see after never being touched with all the fair catches and running out of bounds. The less you get touched the less likely you are to fumble. I get it, he didn’t muff or anything and that’s good but he also cost us yards by being too safe (scared). I’m not reveling in his misfortune, but it was past due. I had such high hopes when he was drafted.

  63. Whoolio? Says:

    He really did do a great job of making sure he got out of bounds and stopped the clock on every return. His career is likely done, maybe a practice squad somewhere else but he’s not an NFL level player.

  64. BucHead588 Says:

    Oh maybe we see Devin Tompkins Brought up from our P.S to Return punts he isn’t afraid of Contact I was really hoping to see Darden get a chance on offense to bad I really didn’t mind Darden honestly was best punt return man we have had in years

  65. Rod Munch Says:

    He’s actually been one of the better returners in football – which says a lot more about the sorry state of punt returning than anything else. But what a strange move to make at this point.

  66. kgh4life Says:

    Interesting move. Darden came along way, it seems he was having a solid season returning kicks.

  67. Jonny Says:

    The other buccaneer that needs to be fired is the special teams coach Keith Armstrong. Our coverage unit has been allowing a big kick return every game lately. It is a travesty.

  68. Bird Says:

    I agree. Who are they making room for ?

    Weird . This late in season

  69. Buc4evr Says:

    Well he never fumbled a catch, so there’s that. Otherwise I was enjoying him running sideways and running out of bounds on every punt return. Wonder who is next on deck? Now fire the special teams coach.

  70. Roc Says:

    Bowles on waivers

  71. Jmarkbuc Says:

    His return in the 3rd quarter, where he jogged to the sideline was the last straw.

  72. rrsrq Says:

    Whoever they bring in probably will not contribute to ST unless they plan on using Scotty Miller more

  73. Curse of Gruden Says:

    Did the Bucs get their names mixed up? I expected to hear Leftwich had been cut.

  74. Kentucky Buc Says:

    Mickens is sharing a room with AB down at the county.

  75. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    TBBF smells something here

  76. JimmyfromNY Says:

    How many Times do we have to see Donovan Smith with a game changing penalty to realize he’s a complete disaster. If you think it’s over, it’s not the bucs will be in the playoffs and he will a have a game changing penalty to cost them yards or even worse points. If there’s a chance, Brady comes back next year, you cannot bring him back.

  77. LakelandSteve Says:

    Finally admitting they made a mistake.

  78. Allen Lofton Says:

    What took so Loooooong

  79. Dom>Licht Says:

    DONT blame the player!!! Blame the Coaches that put him on the field every week!!!!!!!!!

  80. westernbuc Says:

    Ryan Smith was the best pick in that 2016 class lol

  81. Jmarkbuc Says:

    Buccaneers.com reports Ryan Smith was released. ??

  82. Steven007 Says:

    Interestingly we may be waving a returner that could very well end the season as the top hunt returner in the NFL yards wise. Don’t get me wrong, he didn’t do anything else on this team and that’s why he was cut. Still somewhat ironic given our deficiencies at that position.

  83. Browsing from DC Says:

    Darden did a good job from my perspective. I’d rather see him pick up 10-15 yards on a punt return and scoot his tiny body out of bounds with the ball firmly in his hands than see him “not play scared of contact”. He ain’t Mike Alstott. He’s 5’8″, 174 lbs and so many fans want him to take head-on hits from guys with 50+ pounds on him?

    How many times do you see a returner take his eyes off the ball and muff it because he’s looking for his seam to make a big return? Big punt returns rarely change games unless they’re 40 or 50 yards and those are rare. But a muffed punt deep on your end of the field? Big trouble. A short field and an extra possession for the other team. I’ll take sure hands with a modest return any day of the week and let my offense go to work.

    What hurt Darden is that he never fit on offense. It’s a shame but that’s the breaks.

    Darden haters got their wish. Let’s hope the next returner doesn’t put the ball on the ground or you might want a mulligan on that wish. Bucs have to play mistake-free ball to have any chance and they just cut the one guy who did his job cleanly every time.

  84. Beej Says:

    Darden was apparently a BA obsession. Outside of any huge things like Gronk or Jensen returning, I’d like to see Cyril Grayson come back. You have to respect how hard that guy worked, and he seemed to be getting better

  85. Buc king Says:

    You either have it or you don’t…I would love to.see the bucs talk obj to playing in the playoffs with us..it’ll give us depth in a room who tends to be banged up.
    He’s worth kicking tires on and spending the rest of the glazer loot..at this point we are facing the cowboys in the playoffs I don’t really see no other option unless we collapse and lose out.

    So yes we can beat the cowboys but yes they have got better since we played them.
    Our run def is suspect and run game had got better when we run to the left and not on every first down for 1yd or a loss.

    We need to move Neal to MLB with David
    Move white to def end/ olb let him get after the qb 95% of the time like parsons.

    Brady needs a te that will find the empty spots in the middle..they gotta know what he wants before he wants it.

    Run game by committee will get us moving..
    Godwin gotta be Mr 3rd down..gage needs to also help with that..

    We need to up tempo the offense pick n choose when to let off the gas or when personal changes happen.

    Will be playing at home in the 1st playoff game so that advantage has to be on the fans to be the 12th man on defense…we need to be deafening to other offenses where they can’t hear play calls..we should be dead silent when Brady is on the field…
    Don’t sell your tickets only let bucs fans fill the stands not a bunch cowboys fans coming on vacation to out roar us like we’re some weak chumps.

    Back to the offense..personally people may disagree with this but I would put Mike evans at tight end him matched up on any linebacker would be absolutely unstoppable..yes he would catch a few hard hits but this will fix Brady intermediate pass that he needs from a te like gronk..can Mike be gronk in the passing game yes..can he chip block yes..could he block a de idk I’m say yes till proven wrong.

    Godwin in the slot beside him…Jones in the #1 spot to stretch the field and gage running crisp routes on the right side…

    Rotate fournette n white till one catches fire..
    Maybe touch of Bernard n shady depending on how they look in practice.

    Scotty will rotate in for gage n godwin.Godwin..

    Pick up obj have Brady bring him in n run some route trees if he has it pay him 6 to 8 mil n run for this super bowl…

    Probably be cowboys. Eagles or vikings…afc will be bills bangels or cheifs

  86. Jmarkbuc Says:

    Dallas.. who has been frothing at the mouth for OBJ have stated that he may be of no benefit until 2023. His injury is not healed.

    OBJ talk is silly.

  87. Eckwood Says:

    @ smash squatch ,,,,, good one

  88. Tony1775 Says:

    Fair catch a taxi. See ya!!

  89. Crickett Baker Says:

    YaaaHOOO! He’s gone! Anyone else would be better. From his first return to his last, he was always scared. YAY!

  90. David Says:

    He’s been decent when he returns them but let’s way to many hit.
    The biggest issue is he never had any value on offense

  91. Beeej Says:

    Scooter seems like a natural kickoff returner, I expect a half dozen or so could do punts

  92. Beeej Says:

    Cyril is languishing on the Brown’s practice squad, I’m sad

  93. captivajim Says:

    if they can’t bring Grayson back ? is Tyler Johnson still with Texans?

  94. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    Ooooo they waived a punt returner…who will likely be placed on the practice squad if he clears.

  95. firethecannons Says:

    too many episodes getting tripped up on the turf, amazing he didn’t fumble back there every time he hit the turf. disaster waiting to happen.

  96. ATLBuc Says:

    Smith was a heck of a gunner on special teams

  97. adam from ny Says:

    making room for gronk ???????????

  98. Goatfarmer Says:

    Maniac Buc assured us all that Scotty Miller was a curse and keeping Darung from his rightful place as Bucs best atlete and other bullspit.

    This is stupid, this inept mofo just for whatever reason lasted this long…………………….finally.

    Maniac Buc — what does your inside source tell you about your boy today?

  99. PewterStiffArm Says:

    Typical small school athlete not being able to transfer his speed to the next level. It is a combination of speed, yes, but also illusiveness. Our special teams coach isn’t that good so add that to the equation. Devin Thompkins comes to mind although this coaching staff doesn’t give rookies a shot very often.

  100. adam from ny Says:

    in the end, the kid had zero juke moves…

    and more recently he’s been developing really bad habits of backing away from the football totally, and letting the other team dictate the field position as it bounced around on the turf

  101. Rand Says:

    He had a nose for the sidelines to much. He’d run laterally 20 yards to gain 5 yards.

  102. Mord Says:

    What Browsing from DC said

    Seems like they wanted to bring up Smith for DB depth. Injuries and an ineffective McCollum prompted the need

  103. DmanTX Says:

    Gronk? 🙂

  104. Allbuccedup Says:

    Long overdue the bucs need to draft a third receiver/punt returner. Kick returner not needed since 95% of kicks go to the endzone.

  105. geno711 Says:

    Everything I read is that Ryan Smith was waived from the practice squad not promoted from the practice squad.

  106. Mike Johnson Says:

    So when they gonna cut that Randolph guy? He don’t even have 10 catches for the whole season I don’t think.

  107. Joe D. Says:

    Check your facts, Ryan Smith was released not promoted

  108. ninety9buc Says:

    Thank you@!!@@

    He reminded me of the bad Dexter Jackson!!!!!!!!

    Bring back Adam Humphreys!!!!!

  109. JD Says:

    Yea well they should have cut lead foot Brate right along with him.

  110. GoatWatcher Says:

    “Ho hum” returner? If that means he can signal fair catch and not fumble I agree. That was the extent of his skill set. Too late for Edleman? Shifty, tough as nails returner.

  111. EEK Says:

    he was fine

    he didn’t muff punts

    too bad for him — he seemed to work hard and he was fast

    NFL is a tough league

  112. SC Bucs Fan Says:

    The guys ran away from contact

  113. Bucamania Says:

    Darden always made me nervous back there. Afraid of contact and lets too many punts hit the ground.

  114. IE Buc Says:

    For those calling for Dovan Smith’s cut, I couldn’t agree more. He will always be a penalty machine.

    Why not try Goedeke? Make him into a LT. He was a tackle and college, yet we keep trying to make him a guard and he had a tough year learning the LG position. He just be a better tackle.

  115. Joe in Michigan Says:

    EEK Says:
    December 7th, 2022 at 10:52 am
    he was fine

    he didn’t muff punts

    too bad for him — he seemed to work hard and he was fast

    NFL is a tough league
    They should’ve made a show for Darden, called “Dressed And Afraid”.

  116. doolnutts Says:

    To the “wasted draft pick” OR “Licht cant draft in the late rounds crowd”

    Please stop saying this kind of thing and actually look across the NFL. No GM is drafting better the JL PERIOD. Late rounders rarely make it in the NFL. Darden was just a 4th round pick there is no real loss here. We got some use out of him now he’s gone big deal…

  117. Tap-Out Says:

    Was it really all his fault, I know we didn’t expect him to run thru tacklers, our special teams play is not “SPECIAL”…..AT ALL!!

  118. Ed McSherry Says:

    “Sidelines” Darden can’t say he wasn’t given a fair chance.

    Holy crap, was he bad; never fumbled, but I seriously can’t remember the last time he took a hit either.

    Monday night he left the team on or around the 11th at least twice, with his specialty (when not bolting for a sideline): “the inappropriate fair catch.”