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Offensive line as a "need" for the Buccaneers

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Evan Silva published his yearly breakdown of every NFL team's top needs and free agents today. Most of the analysis is obvious: the Bucs need defensive backs and defensive ends, and could use some extra playmakers at wide receiver if at all possible. But the fourth need Silva names is a lot less obvious: offensive line.

Offensive Line: LT Donovan Smith had a brutal rookie season on Jameis Winston's blind side and would probably be better suited for right tackle or guard. Washed-up RT Gosder Cherilus was similarly ineffective across from him. LG Logan Mankins, who turns 34 in March, is owed $7 million in the last year of his deal. C Evan Dietrich-Smith got benched in favor of Joe Hawley, who was signed off the street in Week 2. Impressive small-school rookie Ali Marpet is the Bucs' only offensive lineman who should be assured of returning at his starting post.

That's a bit of a glass-half-empty look at the offensive line, and also not one the Bucs themselves will share. They see Donovan Smith as their left tackle of the future as long as he keeps developing. They're not going to look for a replacement this early in his career, no matter who's available. Joe Hawley and Evan Smith aren't great, with Hawley slightly better, but they're serviceable NFL starters. And Logan Mankins actually played very well for most of the season -- the main question there is whether he'll retire. If he does, Kevin Pamphile looked very good at left guard when he was asked to start last year.

The biggest issue may be right tackle. Demar Dotson is a very good player, but he's getting old and is in the last year of his contract. Gosder Cherilus is just serviceable as a starter, and very good as a backup -- but he's not a long-term plan either. Still, the Bucs should be good there for at least this season so calling this a "need" is a bit much. More like a "wouldn't mind if we had" kind of thing.

Which is to say: if the Bucs don't address offensive line in one way or another, it could certainly turn into a need in one or two years. Adding a little depth or someone who could develop into a starter with some experience would be great. But ignoring real needs for that would be a bit much.