Tampa Bay’s offensive line was the biggest complaint for many. It was the main issue for some when it came to finding blame for a bad running game. It was also blamed for Jameis Winston often scrambling for his life.
As a unit, they gave up 40 sacks which ranked them 20th in the league for sacks given up. Although a few of the sacks came courtesy of the quarterback holding on to the football, that overall number has to improve.
In this edition of Bucs 2018 Free Agency Prep, we take a look at potential targets for the offensive line that can provide an impact up front.
Let’s face it, right tackle Demar Dotson isn’t going to be around forever and at 32 years old, injuries are popping up. After starting 47 games consecutively from 2012 to 2014, he has missed 18 games the past three seasons.
The staff seems to like Caleb Benenoch. When pressed into action for Dotson, he had ups and downs but was serviceable. Benenoch is still young (23) as he enters his third season. He still has lots to learn so at the moment the team can be scrambling for help if Dotson goes down again.
At left tackle, the team prides themselves on Donovan Smith. His play is not as bad as many feel (*ducks down to dodge objects thrown*). The other good thing about Smith is that he hasn’t missed a game since being drafted. No matter how you want to ignore that fact, that is very key.
But there are inconsistencies at both tackle positions. A few names to consider that can push for a starting role or be decent additions to the depth cart are Pittsburgh’s Chris Hubbard, New England’s LaAdrian Waddle, and Detroit’s Greg Robinson.
The interior of the of the offensive line was most disappointing. The constant rotation between between Evan Smith and Kevin Pamphile at left guard provided no continuity and inconsistent play from both. Neither seemed to play to anyone’s expectations and both seem to be hitting free agency.
There was hope for veteran guard J.R. Sweezy but that was also a disappointing name. Known for his run blocking, Sweezy struggled in the run game as well as in pass protection. Last season was the first season he was on the field for Tampa Bay since being acquired in 2016.
If the Bucs can pick up a top guard like Carolina’s Andrew Norwell, that would be ideal. But with other teams bidding for his services, it’s hard to envision that transpiring. Plus, there are reports he may already be leaning the Giants’ way.
Other names to consider would be Tennessee’s Josh Kline, New York Giants’ Justin Pugh, and Chicago’s Josh Sitton.
Ali Marpet is the only sure thing across the offensive line. Marpet had to learn a new position after switching over from guard and did a decent job, grading as one of the top linemen. His season was cut short in 2017 after suffering a knee injury during Week 12 forcing the team to place him on injured reserve.
Veteran center Joe Hawley filled in and rotated with Evan Smith. However, Hawley was advised by the team his option would not be picked up and is currently hitting the road to retirement it seems.
So if Marpet goes down again, who would fill in? The depth chart is bare. The Buccaneers would have to address this accordingly in free agency. Names to look out for are Los Angeles’ John Sullivan, Washington’s Tony Bergstrom, or consider bringing back Evan Smith.