The Tampa Bay Buccaneers let go of a beloved member of the locker room on Saturday when they released guard Davin Joseph. And while Joseph certainly struggled during what would be his final season in Tampa, his departure doesn’t mean the Buccaneers got any better along the offensive line.
It only means they have more work to do to get better.
In continuing our look ahead at the offseason, let’s turn now to the offensive line, as free agency approaches and the checkbooks at One Buc Place open up to sign new players. To see the previous entries in this series, click here for quarterback, here for running back, and here for wideouts and tight ends.
2013 in Review
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers finished with a horrible offensive output in 2013, and a large part of that came down to the play of the offensive line. The inability to create consistent room in the running game combined with poor pass blocking set the table for a wildly inconsistent and frustrating offense.
Davin Joseph was among the biggest offenders, as he didn’t seem to have his usual skill at the right guard position after spending a year away due to injury. But Donald Penn and the rotating cast of characters at left guard (apart from Carl Nicks) also provided disappointing seasons, and the Buccaneers suffered on offense because of it.
Demar Dotson, on the other hand, stood out as a surprising member of the offensive line, earning himself a respectable spot on Bleacher Report’s ranking of NFL right tackles. Dotson is big, strong, and still learning the ropes of the NFL game after switching from basketball during college.
Jeremy Zuttah is the only other returning Buccaneer in the trenches, as the versatile interior lineman looks set to remain at center after a solid year at the position.
The Buccaneers have plenty of options to upgrade along the offensive line, but they’ll either be competing in a wide open free agent market or using valuable draft assets to get the players they need to fill out the depth chart.
As of right now, only four NFL-caliber players remain on the roster along the line, with one of them (Carl Nicks) a question mark due to long-term injury issues. This means the Buccaneers will need to add at least five offensive linemen before the upcoming 2014 season begins.
At least one of these additions will be a right guard, as Davin Joseph’s departure leaves a hole at that spot. Among the leading candidates at the position are Kansas City’s Jon Asamoah, Denver’s Zane Beadles, and San Diego’s Chad Rinehart. None of these players are exceptional talents, but for the right price, they should provide sufficient production at the right guard position.
Another addition will likely be a swing tackle (in other words, a backup tackle who can play on either side), as the Buccaneers need to at least provide depth behind Demar Dotson and Donald Penn or whoever winds up starting at left tackle in 2014.
Penn’s status is certainly still in doubt, with the Buccaneers already being linked to free agents Eugene Monroe and Branden Albert along with draft prospects Billy Turner and Greg Robinson. Turner could also be a guard prospect in the middle rounds of the NFL Draft, depending on which position the Buccaneers think he’s best suited for.
So with the possible additions of a new starting left tackle and right guard, along with a swing tackle and additional depth, don’t be surprised to see five or six new faces on the depth chart at the start of the 2014 season.
However, don’t expect Alex Mack to be one of them. Despite his ties to new offensive coordinator Jeff Tedford, Mack has been tagged by the Cleveland Browns to a one-year tender worth around 10 million dollars, which also allows the Browns to match any offer the Buccaneers make to the talented center. The Browns seem very dedicated to keeping Mack, and the Buccaneers have a solid option at center already in Zuttah.
At this stage of the offseason, it’s nearly impossible to know what the Buccaneers’ offensive line will look like in 2014. The unit was not good enough in 2013, and the new general manager and head coach have no ties to the players currently on the roster, so don’t be surprised to see huge turnover.
That said, the Buccaneers have the money and the draft picks to cobble together a good line, but that’s going to require making the right picks at the right cost a handful of times this summer. This is a massive task for a brand new GM, and considering the gamble that NFL free agency and the NFL Draft have become, it’s not a certainty that the Buccaneers will be vastly improved next year in the trenches.