With the recent release of offensive lineman Davin Joseph, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers now must set their sails toward landing a replacement. Easier said than done, but for new head coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht, there’s options out there. With the official cover32 top 10 free agent offensive lineman list, one can see the possibilities.
Free agency officially kicks off tomorrow. Who and were the Bucs decide to make their target is still up for speculation. Two positions that appear to be the biggest needs are an outside pass rusher and an interior offensive lineman. Fellow cover32 Buccaneers writer Todd Coshow reported the likelihood of Bengals end Michael Johnson. My humble opinion would be for the Bucs to target a pass rusher with their first overall selection and nab a quality guard in free agency.
Pass rushers are extremely important and a team can never have enough. Last year the free agency period was used to upgrade the defensive backfield (an obvious need) as the Bucs secondary had more holes than a slice of swiss cheese after a shootout. What does that mean? They weren’t very good. Enter Dashon Goldson at safety and Darrelle Revis at cornerback.
Johnthan Banks was taken in the second round to play opposite Revis in the 2013 draft. There was little doubt Tampa Bay needed to work on their pass defense. All of the aforementioned moves helped make the Bucs average against the pass. That’s it. Average. Good for the 17th best in the NFL.
Championships are still won in the trenches. Until the Bucs shore up their pass rush, their ability to protect the quarterback, and block for the running back, high profile names in the secondary will be nothing more than bling. Time to work on the meat and potatoes of the team.
Drafting a big-name quarterback in the first round will likely yield a project. Mike Glennon is already a project under center (and a one with a great arm at that). The seventh selection should provide a top level pass rusher as opposed to the third best quarterback out of college. Most likely the top two or even three quarterbacks will be selected before the Bucs are on the clock.
As for free agency, a proven offensive lineman would be a huge pickup after saying goodbye to Joseph. A few names that should be strongly considered include Geoff Schwartz of the Kansas City Chiefs. His biggest attribute aside from talent is his age. At 28, Schwartz has versatility and his best years ahead of him.
Zane Beadles is another name that could be a big help in Tampa. Beadles has been a stalwart for the Broncos and excelled at run blocking for Tim Tebow and pass protecting Payton Manning. Jared Veldheer of the Oakland Raiders, 26, should be on the radar of One Buc Place as well. Primarily a tackle, Veldheer, could probably fill in at guard if needed, but give the Bucs a big assist at tackle without the hefty price tag of other big name lineman.
Developing offensive lineman, especially guards, can take a few years. Signing a proven commodity is the best bet for a team in need of immediate help coming off a four win campaign. One thing is for sure, the free agency period is about to begin and the mystery will soon end. Happy hunting.
James Gomez is the managing editor for the Buccaneers on cover32 as well as a sports radio broadcaster. Follow James on Twitter @JGoTheFan