The Tampa Bay Buccaneers deactivated Anthony Collins today, despite his practicing fully this week. So it came as no surprise when Lovie Smith said that that was a "coach's decision" -- in other words, one of the Bucs' prize free agents was benched in his first season. And not just benched: he wasn't even active.
We can't say Collins' benching wasn't deserved: Collins has been a massive disaster this season, as has the entire offensive line. The Bucs tried to rebuild their offensive line this season, getting rid of Jeremy Zuttah, Davin Joseph and Donald Penn, in part because of their large contracts. Penn and Joseph have been okay starters with their new employers, while Zuttah seems to have turned into one of the best centers in the NFL in Baltimore.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay has the worst offensive line in the NFL, despite paying a significant amount of money to Anthony Collins, Evan Dietrich-Smith and Logan Mankins. The latter two might still be on the team's roster next year, although Mankins' hefty $7 million salary might give them pause. But Collins' time with the Bucs is almost certainly over after today's benching.
Collins' disastrous play was always a risk. The Bucs signed him based on half a season of quality play at left tackle with the Bengals, and signing players based on small sample sizes can backfire -- as can any free agent, to be honest. But this does mean the Bucs will have to go back to the drawing board on their offensive line next year.
The Bucs moved right tackle Demar Dotson to the left side and started Oniel Cousins opposite him, although Cousins really isn't any better than Collins and struggled mightily against Charles Johnson today. But Dotson playing left tackle could be the solution going forward, while the Bucs look for a decent right tackle and probably a new right guard: those are generally easier to find than their counterparts on the left side.
The Bucs are paying Collins a total of $6 million this year for being one of the worst offensive tackles in the NFL, and they'll owe him another $3 million next season. But if they cut him before the third day of the 2015 league year, they'll save $3 million on the salary cap -- and finding a better tackle than Collins for that $3 million shouldn't be too difficult.
Which means the Bucs are almost certainly going to cut Anthony Collins this offseason, just one year after giving him a five-year, $30 million contract -- which really turned out to be a one-year, $9 million contract.