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Buccaneers boost OL depth by signing Joe Hawley

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are coming off one of their worst performances in a while, which means it's time to add some depth to the roster. That's what they're doing today by signing center Joe Hawley, first reported by Adam Caplan and since confirmed by Rick Stroud and others and now confirmed by the Bucs.

Hawley was cut by the Atlanta Falcons after losing his starting job this preseason. He's a sixth-year veteran who played under Dirk Koetter for three years, which explains the team's interest in him.

Despite everyone's over-the-top hatred for Evan Smith, Hawley won't replace him. He'll simply shore up the team's depth on the interior offensive line, likely displacing backup centers Jeremiah Warren or Eric Kush. Smith isn't the greatest center around, but he's not as bad as some fans seem to think he is -- like Jeremy Zuttah before him, he's a serviceable center who simply does his job. The Bucs just aren't looking to replace him at this point -- though they may change their mind during the offseason, when his contract runs out.

Hawley's signing won't fix the offensive line, which is again looking to be a concern -- at least in pass protection. Their run blocking was pretty decent against the Tennessee Titans, but the coordination of the offensive line and the individual performance of some linemen was definitely a concern. But at this point, you're not going to get a significant upgrade to the starting lineup anyway.

Update: To make room for Hawley, the team released Eric Kush.