Another day, another national analyst tries to talk about every team in the NFL. This time it’s Brad Gagnon of Bleacher Report, who decided to look at every team’s worst offseason move (so far).
Turns out that the brain infection that makes people think the Bucs’ offensive line is a disaster has claimed another victim.
PFF ranked that unit 19th in the league in terms of pass-blocking efficiency last season. Left tackle Donovan Smith often resembled a turnstile, and left guard Kevin Pamphile and center Joe Hawley weren't much better in pass protection. Despite that, the Bucs didn't sign or draft a single offensive lineman.
They could benefit from the return of veteran guard J.R. Sweezy, but he's been dealing with a lingering back issue and hasn't always been effective when healthy. Smith could put it together in his third season, but it won't be easy to recover from a year in which PFF ranked him 69th among 76 qualified offensive tackles. Hawley has solid intangibles and is the kind of veteran you want in the dressing room, but he's still a mediocre center, and the Bucs strangely gave him a new two-year contract worth $5.5 million. They might test Ali Marpet at center, but wouldn't that just open up a hole at right guard?
Fun fact: Gagnon doesn’t know what the offensive line looks like, even though he could’ve just googled it. Marpet has moved to center, which has not opened up a hole at right guard because that’s where Sweezy will play, with Kevin Pamphile (who was actually pretty solid last year) at left guard. It’s not rocket science.
Realistically, it would’ve been hard for the Bucs to clearly upgrade their offensive line. Not many good offensive linemen were available in free agency, and the draft was particularly weak at those positions. In addition, those players who are generally seen as weaknesses on the line right now are too inexperienced and too likely to continue to grow to be written off—plus, I think most of those views are too harsh on them anyway.
We’ve talked about Donovan Smith before and some concern over his play is warranted, but it’s far too soon to write him off. Which really leaves only right tackle to upgrade—and yet no one ever seems to complain about Demar Dotson, even though I actually thought he started a decline last year.
Is it possible that the Bucs’ offensive line is going to be a problem this year? Sure. But calling the failure to add more players to the line the team’s worst offseason move is incredibly premature, and speaks of an unrealistic view of how teams construct their rosters.