Over the next few weeks, I’ll take a position-by-position look at the Buccaneers roster with an eye on the upcoming season and beyond. Today we examine the situation at the offensive line.
Signed for 2014: Donald Penn, Carl Nicks, Jeremy Zuttah, Davin Joseph, Adam Snyder, Demar Dotson, Emmett Cleary, Jason Foster, Patrick Omameh, Jace Daniels
Pending free agents: Jamon Meredith, Ted Larsen
Outlook: The Buccaneers head into 2014 with its entire starting offensive line from last season returning. That is both good news and bad news. Let’s start with the good news. Starting right tackle Demar Dotson was one of the bright spots along the offensive line. The five year veteran finished with the 13th highest grade from ProFootballFocus of all tackles. Dotson was particularly strong in pass protection, finishing with a +15.7 grade.
In addition to Dotson, the Buccaneers received good performances from starting center Jeremy Zuttah, and left tackle Donald Penn. Zuttah finished the season graded as the 22nd best center, while Penn graded out as the 30th best tackle.
Now for the bad news. Starting right guard Davin Joseph struggled mightily throughout 2013, finishing the season graded by PFF as the 80th best guard in the league out of the 81 who played at least 25 percent of the offensive snaps. Joseph was particularly poor in the run game, finishing the season with a run blocking grade of -27.1
The biggest question mark along the offensive line going into 2014 is the health of left guard Carl Nicks. Nicks was one of the top guards in the NFL when he signed with the Buccaneers as a free agent prior to the 2012 season. When Nicks has been on the field he has played well, unfortunately for Buccaneers fans he has thus far spent far more time in the trainers room. Nicks missed all but two games in 2013 due to a MRSA infection and subsequent surgery.
Youth Watch: There isn’t much depth behind the starters. Cleary, Foster, Omameh, and Daniels all came to the Buccaneers as undrafted players. Omameh, signed to the active roster off the 49ers practice squad in October really struggled during the 2013 preseason and like the others is unlikely to be viewed as a realistic option to move up to the starting lineup.
Money watch: The starting offensive line will count $29,940,000 against the Buccaneers 2014 salary cap, led by Nicks at $9,357,000. Tampa Bay will not be able to move Nicks this season if he is not able to recover due to him having over seven million in dead money should he be released.
Based on his performance in recent years, Davin Joseph may be the guy most likely to be released. The Buccaneers would save six million against the cap by cutting ties as there is no dead money as a result.
Bottom line: The Buccaneers must look to upgrade the right guard position, along with building strong depth across the offensive line this offseason. Look for them to to add a free agent or two along with using the draft to achieve this goal.
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