Prior to the 2010 season Davin Joseph was clearly the best player on the offensive. A 2006 first-round pick for the Buccaneers, he's been a very good part of the line for years and was one of the better guards in the NFL. He was certainly someone you could build an offensive line around. Joseph's strength is run-blocking, pummeling defensive lineman into submission. Which, in retrospect, makes the move to a zone-blocking scheme that never materialized a bit weird. But that's beside the point: the Bucs now run a predominantly power-blocking scheme and with Donald Penn in place at left tackle, Davin Joseph should be a priority free agent for the Bucs. There's a lot of average to slightly-below average talent on the offensive line, and Joseph and Penn can lift the line to the next level. Or at least, Donald Penn can, because unexpectedly, Davin Joseph was not his usual dominant self in 2010. In fact, he had perhaps the worst season of any of the Bucs' offensive linemen.
The past months we've all been talking about the remarkable performance of the offensive line after Jeff Faine and Davin Joseph were lost for the season. Usually that's been phrased in terms of the great performance the Bucs got from some backup players, and to an extent that's true. But perhaps we should've been talking about the remarkably poor job that the starters did. Because when backups can come in and the line doesn't decline, but it in fact plays better in some respects, something went wrong with the starting lineup. And when you watch Joseph's play intently during the season you can certainly see that he wasn't all he was cracked up to be. While commentators kept talking about the dominant blocker called Davin Joseph, what you actually saw was an average blocker who got beat far too regularly.
So, does this all mean that Joseph shouldn't be resigned? Perhaps, but there are some tangible reasons why Joseph's play declined: injuries. First of all, he had knee surgery during the offseason. This was said to be some minor knee cleanup, but it could certainly have been more extensive than that. Second, the fact that Joseph was listed on the injury report with a knee injury a number of times during the season points to the fact that Joseph wasn't fully healthy. So if we buy that explanation, the question becomes: are these injury issues going to be a problem going forward? Joseph certainly hasn't been the most durable guy on the roster, missing 13 games in his 5 seasons in the NFL, so this is definitely a concern. In the end though, I think the Bucs do need to re-sign Joseph as a key piece of the team, but not to a premium contract. His 2010 performance and the injury problems simply don't warrant that investment. Moreover, if the Bucs do want to invest premium money in a free agent guard, Patriots OG Logan Mankins would be a better choice - and he's only a year older than Davin Joseph. Of course, because Mankins has been tagged, that may not be possible. Unless the franchise tag disappears in the new CBA.