With the arrival of Bruce Arians, it’s safe to say that outside of a few positions - every roster spot is up for grab in 2019.
This is especially true for the offensive line. Outside of left guard Ali Marpet, the other four offensive line positions were either terrible or inconsistent enough to warrant the position group as one of the league’s worst.
Three of those four positions appear to be up for grabs. The only reason Ryan Jensen’s spot is guaranteed is because he would cost the Bucs $10 million in dead cap if he were cut before the season begins. Jensen was a disappointment last season and did not live up to his salary.
The biggest decision in this regard comes down to what to do with Donovan Smith. Do you franchise him, extend him, or let him walk? Right now, it’s not clear as to what Smith will want when it comes to a long-term extension, but if the Bucs decide to franchise him, it will cost around $14.4 million.
The other two players, right guard Caleb Benenoch and right tackle Demar Dotson are not the long-term answer. Benenoch was one of the worst guards in the league last season and Dotson’s play has declined every year as he continues to climb the ladder age-wise.
It will be a shock if Benenoch is still a starter on this roster and frankly, it wouldn’t be a surprise if both Smith and Dotson don’t return, either. Cutting Dotson would save the Bucs around $4.75 million in cap room and getting rid of Benenoch would save $720k.
With this in mind, I surveyed the potential free-agent landscape and I was able to find three players that would be able to help Tampa Bay out when it comes to the offensive trenches. These guys don’t have to be starters, but they could serve as capable backups or potential starters for a decent price.
Please consider the fact that this is purely a numbers/cap-fit/position evaluation. I haven’t watched any tape on these players nor have I cross-referenced systems, schemes, etc.
I’ll also use Pro Football Focus’ grading system to help put these players’ 2018 season into context. While PFF can be flawed at times, it is still one of the best barometers when it comes to player evaluations.
And for context purposes, we’ll look at the top-graded left tackle, right guard, and right tackle in the league. I’ll also post Smith’s, Benenoch’s, and Doston’s grades for comparison.
David Bakhtiari finished out the 2018 season as the league’s highest graded left tackle. He finished with an 88.4 overall grade that included a 93.6 pass blocking grade and a 68.9 run blocking grade on 1,032 total snaps. Smith finished out graded at 66.4 overall, which included a 69.2 pass blocking grade and a 52.7 run blocking grade on 1,117 total snaps.
Now that we have our foundation, let’s take a look at some potential players to bring in for the 2019 season.
- Left Tackle, Trent Brown, New England Patriots
PFF Grades: 70.6 Overall/70.9 Pass/64.6 Run/1,269 Total Snaps
You have to love what Brown has done in 2018. You never want to see a player get hurt, but when Isaiah Wynn, the Patriots’ first-round pick went down for the season with an injury - Brown took full advantage of his opportunity.
The soon-to-be 26-year old tackle has been an overachiever for most of his career, Brown was taken in the seventh round out of Florida and has finished with a higher grade than Smith over the past two seasons. He made $1.9 million with the Patriots in 2018, so he should be affordable.
Patriots LT Trent Brown putting in work on the front side of the game winning TD. Gronk and Develin also making it easy for the back. pic.twitter.com/dvOkDEYOO3— Geoff Schwartz (@geoffschwartz) January 21, 2019
There’s no reason to think that the Patriots won’t want Wynn in the starting lineup for 2019, so that makes Brown expendable. The question - as with all of these guys - is how much will they want? If Brown wins a Super Bowl, then his price tag will will increase a lot.
The Patriots only have $21 million in cap room for 2019. That number can obviously change, but Brown will likely be too expensive to retain.
Another thought to consider is the fact that the Bucs could draft a player such as Jonah Williams in the NFL Draft, but there is no guarantee that he will be there.
Combine that with thought of passing on both Smith and a player in free agency, it’s a possibility that Tampa Bay could have an even bigger issue at left tackle than they currently have.
Honorable Mentions: Donovan Smith, Ty Sambrailo
2. Right Guard, Mark Glowinski, Indianapolis Colts
PFF Grades: 68.9 Overall/64.8 Pass/67.4 Run/726 Total Snaps
So, really, any option other than Benenoch is a better option. But let’s go ahead and talk about Glowinski.
Not only was he part of one of the better offensive lines in the NFL, Glowinski had the best year of career in 2018. He finished as the 17th best guard according to PFF. The Patriots’ Shaq Mason was the best, grading out at 82.7 overall. Benenoch finished with a 43.6 overall grade.
Glowinski started 11 games for the Colts, but there is one red flag to consider. His play declined as the season went on, even though the Colts continued to win. It will be interesting to see whether or not he would fit into what Arians and offensive line coach Harold Goodwin want to do with this unit.
Tampa Bay also has to deal with the fact that the Colts have over $120 milllion in cap space and if they want to pay Glowinski top dollar, then there is no doubt they could outbid the Bucs with ease.
Rodger Saffold would be an excellent option here as well, but he is 31-years old compared to Glowinski’s ripe age of 26. He will be in 27 in May.
But like I said earlier, any option other than Benenoch is a better option at this point and Glowinski seems to be the best player to fill this void.
Don’t forget in-house candidate Alex Cappa, either. He was a third-round pick in 2018 and is eventually expected to pull some weight.
Update: The Colts re-signed Glowinski on January 29th to a three-year/$18-million deal, officially taking him off the future market. Saffold would now be the top target.
Mark Glowinski doesn't deserve all the credit but there's no doubt the Colts' line was better with him. Colts' lock him up for $18 million over 3 years. https://t.co/r9ldCvzTIy pic.twitter.com/gEqODq1E84— Nat Newell (@NatJNewell) January 29, 2019
Honorable Mentions: Mike Iupati, Ramon Foster, Rodger Saffold
3. Right Tackle, Matt Feiler, Pittsburgh Steelers
PFF Grades: 71.0 Overall/69.8 Pass/64.4 Run/675 Total Snaps
While Feiler is listed as a right guard, he wound up starting 10 games at right tackle for the Steelers in 2018. The former undrafted free agent had the opportunity to play under Mike Munchak, one of the best offensive line coaches in the league.
He finished as the 35th-best right tackle, but when compared to Dotson’s 67.3 overall grade and 44th-best placement, Feiler looks to be a better replacement at the position.
The brilliance of position coaches are represented in the players, perhaps none more than #Steelers OL coach Mike Munchak. Another example was from RT Matt Feiler in week 8. DII, UDFA, cut 4 times, 3rd career start. OL didn't miss a beat. Check out his technique: pic.twitter.com/SOGoybNenC— Brandon Thorn (@BrandonThornNFL) October 31, 2018
The Bucs could probably get him for a bit less than Dotson’s cap hit, as well. Feiler only made $555k in 2018, however he is an exclusive rights free agent. That means Pittsburgh gets first dibs and they only have to offer/sign him to a one-year deal to keep him around. But if they decline to go that route, then Feiler becomes an unrestricted free agent.
He could also head to Denver to reunite with Munchack, who left to become the offensive line coach of the Denver Broncos. Regardless of the situation, Feiler should be a player that Arians and his staff takes a look at.
Honorable Mentions: Daryl Williams, Ja’Wuan James
What should Tampa Bay do with Donovan Smith?
This poll is closed
Sign him to a premium long-term deal
Sign him to an average long-term deal
Let him walk