As much attention as the Buccaneers’ quarterback situation is (rightfully) getting, it’s important not to forget about the fact that the right tackle position needs addressing this offseason. Demar Dotson has been a mainstay at the position for the last decade, but he is a free agent and is going to turn 35 during the 2020 season, so Tampa Bay appears set to move on. Could his replacement be a fellow veteran?
BRYAN BULAGA’S CAREER THUS FAR
After growing up in Illinois and playing his collegiate football at the University of Iowa—where he was the Big Ten Conference’s Offensive Lineman of the Year as a junior in 2009—Bryan Bulaga was selected by the Green Bay Packers with the 23rd overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. He was a backup for all of four weeks as a rookie before stepping in and starting the rest of the season, eventually becoming the youngest player to start a Super Bowl (at 21 years, 322 days old). The Packers won it, making Bulaga a Super Bowl champion as a rookie.
The 6-foot-5, 314-pounder struggled with injuries during the next few years, playing just 12 games in 2011 and nine in 2012 before missing the 2013 season with a torn ACL. He came back with a strong 2014 (playing and starting 15 games), then missed another four games in 2015. After starting 16 games in 2016, he tore his ACL again in 2017, limiting him to just five games. However, in the last two seasons, he has played and started 30 games.
Despite the injury struggles that have plagued him at times, Bulaga is one of the league’s better tackles. He has done an excellent job protecting Aaron Rodgers over the years and has played a big role on a Green Bay offensive line that was one of the league’s best run-blocking units last year.
WHY IT WORKS
The biggest reason it works? The Bucs need a right tackle. They could choose to draft one for some more long-term stability or they could even bring Dotson back, but if they choose to go to free agency to address the position, Bulaga is one of the top options on the market. When CBS Sports ranked the top unrestricted free agents in the league, he came in at No. 28. The Athletic’s rankings had him as No. 30. In both lists, he was the second right tackle (behind Jack Conklin, who Evan Winter spotlighted on this very site last week).
Bulaga’s skills in pass pro would surely be much-appreciated by whoever plays quarterback for Tampa Bay in 2020, while his run-blocking ability could help the team in a big way as it looks to get its run game going a bit more to support the air attack. His winning experience can’t hurt either, especially when you consider the fact that not many guys on the Bucs’ roster have seen much of that in their careers.
The main concern has to be Bulaga’s injury history combined with his age. He turns 31 in March, which on its own, wouldn’t be enough to give a front office any qualms about signing him for the next few years. But he has torn his ACL twice and has played in all 16 games just three times in his 10 NFL seasons. The Bucs might be hesitant to give a multi-year deal to a guy on the wrong side of 30 who also has a history of missing time. He did start all 16 of the Packers’ games in 2019, though, so maybe those issues are firmly behind him. It would be up to the Tampa Bay front office to do its due diligence and decide whether or not that’s the case.
WHAT’S THE COST?
Spotrac is currently estimating a three-year deal for Bulaga worth around $30.5 million, which averages out to about $10.1 million per year. Dallas’ La’el Collins makes $10 million per year, ranking him fourth at the right tackle position as of now, so this estimated contract for Bulaga would mean jumping to that spot. He could be bumped down to fifth depending on what Conklin gets this offseason, but either way, getting Bulaga on board would mean paying him top-five money for the position.
WHAT WE DON’T KNOW
There are questions on both sides of a potential deal between the Bucs and Bulaga. Tampa Bay’s offensive line was the third-highest paid in the whole league last year and the unit didn’t necessarily perform like it. The team is still on the hook for the pretty sizable contracts of Ryan Jensen, Ali Marpet and Donovan Smith in 2020, so it may not want to take on another big contract like the one Bulaga will probably get. A cheaper rookie deal may be more enticing.
But if the Bucs do want to pay Bulaga, the question remains: would he even want to come to Tampa? Does he even get out of Green Bay at all? He has been a Packer for the duration of his career and he seems to be happy with that. It doesn’t seem like there’s been any indication that he wants out, plus the team appears to have the cap space to bring him back as well. It’s very possible Bulaga sticks around and finishes his career having played for only one team.
MAKE THE DECISION
So, Bucs Nation, if Bulaga does test free agency, what should the Buccaneers do? Do you want to see him in pewter and red this coming season?
Vote in the poll and discuss in the comments down below!
When it comes to Bryan Bulaga, the Buccaneers need to...
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