One of the top rules in football is to always protect the quarterback. Now, just imagine how important that rule is if you’re quarterback is Tom Brady.
A primary concern with Brady’s arrival in Tampa Bay is the questionable pass protection that is provided by the Bucs’ offensive line. According to Football Outsiders, the average number of sacks given up league-wide in 2019 was 40 and the sack rate was 7.0%. The Bucs gave up the fourth-most sacks last season (47) on an adjusted sack rate of 7.6%, which ranked 22nd in the NFL.
Per ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate metric, the Bucs tied for 17th in the league with a 58% win rate. The other four teams were the Eagles, Chargers, Redskins, and - that’s right - the Patriots.
Based off the numbers the Bucs are a below-average unit when it comes to protecting the quarterback, but the left side of the line is in solid shape with Ali Marpet playing guard and Donovan Smith at tackle. Ryan Jensen moved on from a bad 2018 season and was one of the best centers in the NFL in 2019. The right side of the line is where the questions lie.
Will Alex Cappa take the next step in his development? He was pretty good in 2019, but he still needs to get better. However, the real question is at the right tackle position, which may be vacant.
Demar Dotson was the team’s right tackle for the last decade, but he may not return in 2020. Even if he does, the Bucs need to go ahead and find a suitable replacement. Dotson is getting up there in age and his play is beginning to decline. He likely has a couple more starts left in him, but he’s probably best relegated to a reserve role at this point.
With the Bucs’ cap space shrinking, it makes sense for them to look to the draft to solve this issue. Especially when you consider how talented the top offensive tackles are in this class.
The big four of Jedrick Wills, Mekhi Becton, Andrew Thomas, and Tristan Wirfs have been talked about ad nauseam since the combine and with good reason. There are plenty of other promising prospects after them, but when it comes to the “elite” players at the position, those guys are the cream of the crop.
So the Bucs are in good shape at picking 14th overall, right? The odds of four of the first 13 teams needing an offensive tackle are slim, right?
That’s not the case this year, unfortunately. You could easily make a case that the Lions, Giants, Chargers, Jets, and Browns are all looking for help along the offensive line. And in case you’re not good at math like I am, that would leave the Bucs sixth in line for a quantity of four items.
So this begs the question: Should the Bucs try and move up into the top-10 to ensure that they get one of the top tackles in the draft?
Obviously, the price here is what matters. You never want to use a single draft-day trade as anecdotal evidence, but let’s use the Bucs/Bills trade from back in 2018 as a reference in regard to hypothesizing how much it would cost to move up with, let’s say the Jaguars.
The Bucs originally picked seventh overall back in 2018, but the Bills traded away their 12th overall pick and two second-round picks in 2018 to move up five spots and draft Josh Allen.
I don’t think it would be too crazy to think the Bucs could pull off the same type of move this year. I realize they don’t have two second-round picks, but there are ways to make that up. The Bucs could include a 2021 second-rounder, but if that doesn’t work, maybe they could add this year’s extra fourth-rounder and a player like O.J. Howard to this year’s second-rounder (this scenario wouldn’t include the 2021 second-rounder).
Regardless, I don’t think Tampa Bay would have to sell the farm in order to move up a few spots in the draft. I do believe it’s crucial that they do get in front of the Jets and Browns, though. Both teams are desperate for help on the offensive line and were linked to several big names in free agency. There’s little reason to think they won’t continue to look for good, young, and cheap protection for their franchise quarterbacks.
What do you think? Should the Bucs consider this strategy? Let us know below?
Should the Bucs move into the top-10 of the NFL Draft in order to draft an offensive tackle?
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