Buccaneers offensive line is aging, will need draft to replenish

US PRESSWIRE

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will need to turn to the draft down the line to replenish an aging offensive line.

The new leader of Bleeding Green Nation embarked on an epic "let's evaluate every offensive line in the league" project, which I thought no one was crazy enough to do. But hey, he did. And he came up with age rankings, too. The Buccaneers with their injury-prone but high-quality starting line come in 13th with an average age of 28 years and one day, for a total of 10,228 days on earth.

Impressive?

As currently constructed, the Bucs' OL is good. Donald Penn is a stud, and with Carl Nicks next to him, Tampa has one of the more impressive LT-LG combos in the league. However, Penn, Jeremy Zuttah, and Davin Joseph were all players that Dominik inherited.

Dominik is building his OL through waiver wire pickups, UDFA signings, trades, and overpriced free agents. Meanwhile, Penn, Nicks, and Joseph will all be 30 years old by the end of the season. It may take a few years, but if the Bucs' strategy is to completely ignore offensive line talent in the draft, it's only a matter of time before the Bucs' OL is terrible.

Oh. Well. When you put it like that, it does sound pretty bad, doesn't it? I mean, the Bucs haven't spent draft picks on any offensive lineman since 2009 (and that one never saw the field), and finding good offensive linemen in free agency is hard. Very hard. Which is why you see every team in the league complain about depth.

And yet, on its face, the Bucs' offensive line is one of the best lines in the league -- and they have more depth than most other teams, too. Ted Larsen is a fine starter at center and barely adequate at guard, while Jamon Meredith is startable (though you don't want to start him). Gabe Carimi would be a solid starter at guard and could be a good starter at right tackle, even.

Most teams panic when an offensive lineman go down. They panic for extended periods of time, usually called "the rest of the season". The Bucs don't need to do that. They just need a slight, momentary panicky reaction to the sound of one of their star linemen snapping a tendon before realizing that they won't be great, but at least they can trot out some serviceable replacements.

But that's just this year. What's going to happen down the line? Are the Bucs going to just replace their aging players with free agents once they start declining? Waiver wire pickups? That's not a very good long-term strategy, especially when it comes to finding left tackles (they're almost never available).

And yet, Mark Dominik has commented before on steering away from offensive linemen in the draft. He won't do that completely, of course, but he won't if he can find different replacements. The Bucs' offensive line depth has been an issue through the years, although it held up decently last year. But that won't continue indefinitely if the Bucs don't invest in future replacements for an expensive and aging line. The draft should be part of the answer here, if only for monetary reasons. Mark Dominik probably realizes that, though. I hope.

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