Every year it seems like the Bucs are in need of some type of addition/upgrade on the offensive line. So far, it appears that 2020 will be no different.
It’s the right tackle position that currently poses the biggest question mark. Longtime starter Demar Dotson is set to become a free agent. There is no guarantee he will be back due to injury concerns. The situation gets a bit trickier when you add in the fact that he will turn 35 in October.
Josh Wells, Tampa Bay’s swing tackle in 2019, is also set to become a free agent. As you can see, the Bucs have some decisions to make at this spot.
Well, it just so happens that there may be a premier right tackle on the free agent market who could be just the guy they’re looking for.
JACK CONKLIN’S CAREER THUS FAR
Conklin hit the ground running as soon as he entered the NFL. The Tennessee Titans chose him with the eighth overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft and he immediately turned in a First-Team All-Pro season that year.
The sky was the limit for the kid. Even though he didn’t earn another All-Pro nod, he was still very, very good in 2017. The arrow continued to point up, but he hit a spot of bad luck when he tore his ACL against the New England Patriots in the divisional round of the playoffs.
The recovery sidelined him for the first four games of the 2018 season. Conklin eventually returned the starting lineup, but he was a shell of his former self. He suffered another knee injury in Week 14 and had to shut it down. All of a sudden, his future was in doubt.
That future became even murkier when the Titans decided to decline Conklin’s fifth-year option. It made sense at the time. The man’s health - and his overall play - was regressing and his long-term future was a serious question mark.
Conklin would’ve cost the Titans almost $13 million if they approved the fifth-year option. When you combine that with the fact that the team had an affordable, reliable veteran in backup Dennis Kelly, it became pretty easy to see why the Titans decided to jump ship.
But the NFL is all about comebacks, and that’s exactly what Conklin did in 2019. According to Pro Football Focus, his 78.3 overall grade placed him 12th among the position and he was also graded as the fifth-best run blocker in the NFL (81.0). He also finished as the sixth-best tackle on zone runs and 14th on gap runs.
Conklin’s pass-blocking was heavily improved in 2019 although his fourth season featured a career-high 16 blown blocks in pass protection. For context’s sake, that’s one less blown block than Bucs left tackle Donovan Smith had in 2019 (17). As a whole, the Titans offensive line gave up the third-most sacks (56) and owned the highest sack rate in the NFL (11.2%) in 2019.
The Titans have a ton of free agent decisions when it comes to their own roster, so it wouldn’t be much of a surprise if he were to play elsewhere in 2020, but at the same time, one could easily see the Titans wanting to keep their offensive line intact. I mean, Derrick Henry will be the guy (possibly) behind center, after all.
WHY IT WORKS....
Simply out of need. The Bucs will need a right tackle in 2020. That could be new blood like Conklin or a draft pick, but there is also a chance that Dotson returns.
As I’ve stated, this guy is an absolute mauler in the run game. We all know how much the Bucs like to run the ball, so if they were sign Conklin, then it would be a tremendous boost for one of the NFL’s worst offensive lines in terms of opening up running lanes.
He is very strong and plays with sound technique. He keeps his frame low and his base wide, yet he still has enough athleticism to handle some of the better edge rushers in the league.
Reaching the second level is no issue for Conklin. He can cover all aspects of blocking for the run game anywhere on the field.
Even though it’s improved over the years, his pass blocking isn’t as consistent as what he can do in the run game.
He struggles against your super-athletic pass rushers. Which really isn’t THAT bad of a trait, but it’s certainly something to consider if you’re going to pay a guy the amount that Conklin is due. You want him to consistently win the 1-on-1 matchups that he see on a routine basis. He showed he could do that in 2019, but will it last over the long-term?
WHAT’S THE COST?
As much as he could help the Bucs, that price tag is likely way too high.
But as I mentioned earlier, Conklin technically shouldn’t be a free agent this year. It’s popular belief that the Titans jumped the gun why they decided to decline his fifth-year option, but at the same time, you can see the logic in the move when it was made.
Jack Conklin won't be cheap in Free Agency... Bounce back 2019. Healthy & new technique improved his play. Turns 26 in August...— Chad Forbes (@NFLDraftBites) February 20, 2020
4 Yrs $68M & $42M Guaranteed. 2nd highest paid tackle (right or left) in NFL & 3rd most guaranteed money.
Either way, Conklin is gonna get paid by someone.
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW
Could Conklin elevate his pass blocking to the point where he can be an all-around tackle? What about his injury history? Is there a chance it could crop again or will it affect him later in his career?
Outside of those two questions, it’s pretty clear what you’re getting in the fifth-year pro.
MAKE THE DECISION
Re-signing players like Jameis Winston, Shaquil Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul, and others should be a priority placed ahead of signing a guy like Conklin. A lot of that has to do with what he will likely command on the market. The Bucs simply don’t have the room to pay him $15 million/year if they want to keep most of the guys from last year.
But what do you think? Should the Bucs go after Conklin?
When it comes to Jack Conklin, the Buccaneers should...
This poll is closed
Sign Him, No Matter What
Make An Offer, But Keep It Reasonable
Invite Him For A Cup Of Coffee And See Where It Goes From There
Call Him Up If We Have A Need After The Draft
Don’t Need Him