The offensive line has been a perceived concern for the Buccaneers all offseason (and since the beginning of last season, if we’re being honest). Despite that, the only move Tampa Bay made to address the position group in the last few months was sign Earl Watford, a veteran who can play multiple positions along the line.
The front office and coaching staff have remained confident in the group they have in place. It’s long been said that the Bucs are going to rely heavily on 2018 third-rounder Alex Cappa. That’s been the belief all offseason, at least until this report from ESPN NFL Nation’s Jenna Laine on Friday:
It would not shock me if the Bucs make more moves to their interior offensive line. I've been told that Alex Cappa still isn't where they'd like him to be yet. Evan Smith is also still recovering from torn labrums in both hips. https://t.co/1b0eltwxsV— JennaLaineESPN (@JennaLaineESPN) June 28, 2019
Big yikes. If Cappa isn’t coming along like he was expected to, that opens up a few problems. For one, right guard duties will have to fall to Watford with little room for error. Maybe Watford steps up and plays well, but there is pretty much no backup plan if he’s ineffective or if he gets injured. Because then, the Bucs are turning to Cappa, who they apparently don’t trust right now, or Evan Smith, whose availability and capabilities are an unknown due to the hip injuries.
So, there’s the first problem. The Bucs could look to sign someone to address that problem, but the second problem is the fact that it’s nearly July. Training camp is not far off, which means reliable guards are going to be hard to come by. Any signing at this stage of the offseason is probably going to be a roll of the dice. But that kind of risk will be on the table if the Bucs are feeling desperate enough. Then again, cap casualties at the end of training camp could open up an opportunity. But that’s a wait-and-see game that doesn’t always pay off.
The third problem is more of a long-term one, and we don’t know if it’s an actual problem just yet. But the potential issue is with Cappa himself. He didn’t get a lot of opportunities to play as a rookie in 2018, but if his development is still slow right now in his second offseason, are the Bucs ever going to be able to count on him as a big part of their offensive line? He was a third-rounder, but there were questions about him being selected that high considering he came out of Humboldt State. No, he’s not a bust yet, but if he struggles to get up to an NFL-caliber level throughout 2019, then what? How much longer will Tampa Bay wait on him? Again, it’s not a problem yet, but it’s worth wondering about.
It’s a tough spot for the Bucs to be in. The cap issues earlier this offseason made it difficult for the front office to address the offensive line in a major way, and now that looks to be coming back to bite. Should the Bucs have moved some money around to address the line back in March? Maybe, but hindsight doesn’t work now. Tampa Bay will just have to hope Cappa or Watford can step it up or rely on a cap casualty in a couple of months.