LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 12: Running back Curtis McNeal #22 of the USC Trojans is sandwiched between tackle Matt Kalil #75 and tight end Randall Telfer #82 as they celebrate McNeal's 79 yard touchdown run in the third quarter against the Washington Huskies at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on November 12, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. USC won 40-17. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
One selection I haven't really taken as a serious possibility for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers is that of of offensive tackle Matt Kalil out of USC. Not because Matt Kalil wouldn't be worth the fifth overall pick, he's absolutely an elite left tackle prospect, but because I didn't think he'd ever be available. But there have been increasingly frequent rumblings that the Minnesota Vikings could pass on the elite left tackle prospect. The latest version of that rumor comes via Adam Schefter(Insider only), who thinks the Vikings will pass on Kalil. If the Vikes pass on Kalil, they could take LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne, or trade down - in which case the new team could still select Kalil, of course. Still, selecting Claiborne over Kalil makes some sense for the Vikings: left tackles aren't as important as they used to be, at least not if you have a good QB (which they don't, I should note), while they also have a humongous hole at cornerback.
If the Minnesota Vikings take Claiborne, Kalil is almost certain to be available for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Cleveland Browns can't realistically take him, given the presence of All-Pro and highly paid left tackle Joe Thomas on the roster. With Kalil available the Bucs could do two things: select him, or trade down. Hit the jump to find out which route I think they should take.
Option 1: Take Matt Kalil and get an elite tackle for the next 10 years
Yes, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers already have Donald Penn - a good, but not elite, left tackle. If they take Matt Kalil, they would move Donald Penn to the right side - or they'd trade him. Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times noted that if drafted by the Bucs, Kalil would play left tackle - necessitating a move for Donald Penn. The Bucs would immediately upgrade their line by moving Penn to the right: they'd get rid of the terrible pass blocker that is Jeremy Trueblood. Alternatively, they could try to find a trading partner for Penn. This shouldn't be overly hard: good left tackles are hard to find, and Penn's contract is fairly light for his quality of play at around $6 million per year.
Whether they keep Penn or not: this is a win for the Bucs. They upgrade their offensive line either way, and they either get more draft picks for Penn, or they get a very good right tackle in Penn himself. But that's not what I think they should do. They should trade down, if the option presents itself - and it should.
Option 2:. Trade down, gather more picks to fill actual needs
The Bucs should trade down if they have a shot at Matt Kalil. Why? Because they already have a good left tackle, and they have a plethora of needs to fill and not enough draft picks to do so. The Bucs must find a quality linebacker, a quality safety, and a quality running back this offseason, and adding a cornerback should be considered a priority as well. Taking Kalil in the first round fills about none of those needs. Instead, trading down would get the Bucs more picks to use on players who would actually fill those needs.
But is trading down realistic? How many teams still value the left tackle position that highly, and don't already have the position solidified - either through superior QB play, or through quality left tackle play? And how much would teams willing to trade up give up for the right to select Matt Kalil?
If the Bucs do get the chance to select Kalil, they can't really go wrong and much will depend on the potential trade offers they would get.