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Buccaneers post-free agency needs: offensive tackle

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a slew of needs, even after free agency. After quarterback and right guard, need number three is offensive tackle. The Bucs tried to fill that need last year by signing Anthony Collins and cutting Donald Penn. Collins turned out to be a massive bust, and he's since been cut too, while Penn is a serviceable starter in Oakland. Oops.

As a result, the Bucs now have one reliable starting offensive tackle in Demar Dotson. Who, it should be said, probably had his worst season in 2014. Dotson is a reliable starter at right tackle, and has the potential to convert to left tackle -- but that would be a significant risk. When asked to play left tackle, either in preseason or at the end of last year, he did not look good. He does have the athletic traits to succeed there, but there's likely to be a significant period of transition.

And beyond Dotson, the Bucs have nothing. Only last year's fifth-round pick Kevin Pamphile and second-year undrafted free agent Matt Patchan. Pamphile got some playing time at tackle last year, and he did show some potential, but that's all: potential. Not reliability. Not someone to certainly build on. Just a player who could maybe turn into a valuable piece at some point. Maybe.

So the Bucs have to find some way to get a starting tackle on their roster. Preferably someone capable of starting at left tackle, so Dotson can stick at the position we know he can perform at. But there's no real way for the Bucs to do this: there are no capable starting tackles left on the free agent market, trading for one seems unlikely given that everyone's looking for tackles, which leaves the uncertainty of the draft.

The draft does appear to be the route they're going. The Bucs have worked out and visited with several offensive line prospects, and one report suggested they'd be willing to trade up for Miami offensive tackle Ereck Flowers.

Lovie Smith should be familiar with this problem: he faced it every year in Chicago. And despite investing multiple first-round picks in offensive tackles, the Bears never managed to solve that problem. Which highlights another issue with the whole draft-a-starting-tackle strategy: there's a good chance the player the Bucs draft won't actually be good enough to start, at least as a rookie.

None of this would be a massive problem if the Bucs were secure at other offensive line positions. Compensating for one weak spot isn't ideal, but it's certainly doable. But the team's lack of activity at right guard means they're stuck without a reliable starter at at least two spots -- and that's before the inevitable injuries strike. In all, the Bucs have a lot of work left at the offensive line, and it's not at all clear what they're going to do about it.