The Tampa Bay Buccaneers played their second preseason game of the year Saturday night and it was not pretty. Although the scoreboard was just a 13-3 loss to the Tennessee Titans, there was really very little to be happy about for the Bucs. This was particularly true on offense.
For weeks there has been speculation on who will win the starting left guard job. Between Aaron Stinnie, Luke Goedeke and Nick Leverett the competition has been up for grabs. Turns out the correct answer might be D) None of the above.
The big news from the game was that Stinnie was carted off the field with injury. We now know that he tore his ACL and MCL in the game (ESPN’s Jenna Laine first to report). Sadly, his season is now over before it begins.
Two Man Race
That leaves just Goedeke and Leverett in the running. One being a rookie and the other being a career depth player. Not great options to protect a 45 year old quarterback.
In a perfect world Goedeke would rise up and win this job. The Bucs drafted him in the second round and he has the ability to be a quality player in the NFL. However, the quick adjustment for him to make is a lot to ask.
Goedeke is transitioning from a right tackle in college to left guard in the NFL. And while Central Michigan sends more pros to the NFL than half the Big Ten or SEC schools, that’s still a big jump in competition. I’d be lying if I said he looked ready to be the opening night starter.
Leverett, on the other hand, does have a little experience at this level. He played in two games last season after he signed with the Bucs as an I drafted free agent in 2020. Those games didn’t go well, as he looked like a guy who wasn’t worthy of drafting.
It’s worth noting that he has done nothing but improve over his career going back to his college days. He’s a hard nosed player who works very hard and brings the intangibles you’d want. With that said, it’s unclear if he has the natural talent to be a starter in this league.
More and more I am led to wonder if the best option for the Buccaneers is someone who isn’t on the roster. If nothing else, the team should strongly consider bringing in a veteran to replace Stinnie who was the most experienced of the backups on this roster.
There are a few names worth looking at on the market. These include guys like Quinton Spain, Trey Hopkins and Billy Price. Kyle Long and Richie Incognito are two guys who look to be at the end of their career, but might be able to provide depth and experience.
Flowers For The Win?
The name that most stands out to me is Ereck Flowers. The 2015 first round pick (9th overall) signed a three year $30 million deal in 2020. Since then he has been traded and cut due to cap problems by the Miami Dolphins and Washington Commanders.
Flowers was originally drafted out of the University of Miami as an offensive tackle. He struggled in this role and never saw the end of his rookie contract with the New York Giants. In 2019 he signed with Washington where they moved him to guard.
Since then he has started 46 games at primarily left guard. At 6’6 and 330 lbs, he can really utilize his size and has shown some ability to be a mauling run blocker. Needless to say that moving to guard has turned his career around.
The Buccaneers could benefit from Flowers’ experience and ability. Not only has he been in the league for seven seasons, but he’s proven to be a quality player as a guard. Those are things that their current options can’t claim.
Even if Flowers was only in Tampa Bay for the short term he’d still be a valuable asset in a season where it’s championship or bust. This would leave Goedeke and Leverett as depth players. This would allow them more time to keep developing and give the Buccaneers the depth they are currently lacking on their offensive line.
At this point it’s fair to assume that general manager Jason Licht is considering all options. Time will tell which direction he decides to go. All I can tell you is what makes sense from my perspective. That would be signing someone, specifically Ereck Flowers, as soon as possible.
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