With the impending release of Donovan Smith rumors have begun to swirl. The latest, Tristian Wirfs could move to left tackle. If he does what’s the way forward for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as they begin a new era?
Conventional wisdom suggests the left tackle position is of more importance than that of the right tackle. This is due in part to the fact that it’s the quarterbacks blind so. With that being the number one contributor to the position, defenses typically line up their best edge rusher there in order to further bolster their pas rush attack. So it makes sense to have the best tackle on your roster move to that position.
Left Tackle: Tristian Wirfs
For the last three seasons Wirfs has showed Pro-Bowl talent and Hall Of Fame skills. He possess an amazing football mind and the physical tools he brings allows him to to be the book end of any football team. Amongst his 2,124 pass blocking snaps he’s only allowed five sacks and 41 total pressures. Solid numbers. So how does the rest of the offensive line shape out?
Left Guard: Nick Leverett
Leverett, once give the starting role in last years offense showed great poise and promise. 2022 proved to be a huge step for him. Going from 32 pass blocking snaps in 2021 to 513 in 2022. During that run he allowed ZERO sacks and only 12 total pressures. Very impressive. He should be a lock at left guard. Leverett is an exclusive rights free agent this offseason. This means the Buccaneers can extend him at the league minimum and he’s then unable to negotiate with any other team. This will happen before free agency opens I’m sure.
Center: Ryan Jensen or Robert Hainsey
Ryan Jensen miraculously returned to play in the playoffs last season. However in his lone game he did struggle. On 70 pass blocking snaps he allowed a sack and five other pressures. Hardly his best performance. His ability to bounce back from a nasty injury is still a question mark.
Waiting in the wings is Robert Hainsey. If you recall I wrote an article that brought up the idea of trading Jensen and allowing Hainsey to take the starting position in 2023. The more I think about it and the more some of these cuts are made, especially after the Buccaneers decided to take Tom Brady’s full cap hit this year it could be a real possibility. According to PFF Hainsey was the 13th best center last season. He allowed only 20 pressures (ZERO sacks) on 800 passing snaps. I feel he’s a viable starter and trading Jensen gives more cap relief and draft capital. Two things a cash strapped team needs.
Now I doubt this happens, but it’s had to be talked about in the front office at some point.
Right Guard: Shaq Mason
Mason played well last season logging in 813 passing snaps with only 25 pressures. Of which one was a sack. He does have a large cap hit at over $9 million dollars but having too much turn over on the offensive line can erode the cohesiveness of a unit. He’ll remain with the team and may see an extension to further press continuity.
Right Tackle: This is the biggest question in this Wirfs to left tackle scenario.
Lost in his horrible season Luke Goedeke is the fact that he didn’t play guard, or on the left side of the formation in college. Additionally he didn’t even start out as a lineman. The converted tight end played right tackle, earning first team All-Mac selection his senior year. Now this isn’t a stretch by any means. In his lone performance filling in at right tackle last season Goedeke saw 55 snaps, 34 true pass downs, and allowed ZERO pressures. ZERO. Not a single hurry, hit, or sack. NONE!
Back in his natural position he may very well shine. Recently Jason Licht said he expects big steps forward from Goedeke this season. It could come due to the move to right tackle.
At the end of this it’s still a need to draft some potential talent, resign some dept players who were on the team last season, and possible explore the free agent market. I expect Licht will use a mid round draft pick on the offensive line. I personally would consider using he first round pick, or even moving up in the first round further to get an o-lineman. I like to build out from the trenches.
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