The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are excited to add offensive lineman Gabe Carimi, who was Chicago’s first-round pick in 2011, to the competition at right tackle with current starter Demar Dotson. To make room for Carimi the team waived offensive tackle Nick Speller after the trade for Carimi became official when he passed Tampa Bay's physical.
Bucs general manager Mark Dominik traded a sixth-round pick in 2014 to the Bears in exchange for Carimi, who had not participated in Chicago’s offseason program since April, but did plan to take part in next week’s mandatory mini-camp. It was Carimi’s absence from the Bears’ offseason program under first-year head coach Marc Trestman that prompted Dominik to contact the Bears to see if he was available via a trade.
“We first started talking to him when I noticed he wasn’t at the offseason program,” Dominik said. “We were briefly checking in to see what was going on. Anytime you have bells and whistles [going off] that something is going sideways you try to figure it out and see what is going on there.
“When I called him last night to let him know that we traded for him he was in Chicago, so he was already prepared to be there for camp. Obviously it was a mandatory veteran mini-camp. I don’t know how the exchange went.”
The acquisition of Carimi reunites him with Bucs offensive line coach Bob Bostad, who was his position coach at the University of Wisconsin.
“I’m definitely excited about it,” Bostad said. “To have a guy that you have a relationship with and you have a history with and you’ve worked with and trained, I’m really excited about it.
“We’re just looking for Gabe to come in here and compete. To come in here and do what he did for me for four years at Wisconsin – be physical, be tough and be a smart football player.”
Dominik echoed Bostad’s assessment of the situation, and said that bolstering the team’s depth along the offensive line is critical after losing both Pro Bowl guards Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks to season-ending injuries in 2012.
“It provides competition, which is our favorite word,” Dominik said. “It provides competition at right tackle. It also adds a lot of depth to our team. It provides a guy that can play inside guard, which he did last year, as you know. He can play right guard and right tackle.
“If you look back at the [offensive linemen] that made the roster last year and where he would fit in if those same guys were to come back, you have Davin and Carl, Jamon Meredith played guard, [Ted] Larsen played guard, [Cody] Wallace played guard, [Jeremy] Zuttah could play guard, now Carimi could play guard. So you have seven guys that can play guard on the roster. You have Meredith that can play tackle, Carimi that can play tackle, then you have Dotson and [Donald] Penn, so you have four tackles. You have three centers with Larsen, Wallace and Zuttah. So if you just throw him into the group of guys from last year it just gives you incredible depth on the offensive line. It provides the depth and the competition at tackle, which is critical.”
Carimi’s pro career was sidetracked due to knee injury he suffered in his rookie season in Chicago. After starting two games at right tackle in 2011, Carimi suffered a knee injury that has required multiple surgeries to fix.
“He’s here and he’s going through the process right now,” Dominik said of taking a physical with the Bucs organization. “You’ve got to look back at the patella tendon and sit there and make sure it is comfortable from a health perspective. We’ll do our due diligence.
“He had some knee issues [in college], but he never missed a game. He never missed starts at Wisconsin. We were aware that he had some issues with his knees at the time, but we didn’t have a grade that reflected a concern from a medical standpoint. I think he had a freak injury at Chicago and tore his patellar tendon.”
Carimi, who was the 29th overall selection in 2011, returned to action in 2012, starting the first 10 games at right guard before being benched in favor of Jonathan Scott.
“You almost have to look at last year as his rookie year,” Dominik said. “He missed a lot of chance to develop and grow from a strength and football speed [perspective]. So I looked at last year as more of his rookie year. You can see that he was not at 100 percent and that caused them to sit him, and then they put him back in at guard at the end of the season. You could tell that it was affecting him. I thought he played very well in the game against the Houston Texans. I didn’t think he played as well against Tennessee or San Francisco. There are games where you see what you want to see from him, but there are games where you see him and say, ‘Oh, boy.
“I felt like he was rushing things and you could see him get himself out of position. I think being rusty for not playing for a season … your technique gets beat up a little bit. You better be ready at this level technique-wise. I think he looked more rusty than he did as a guy that had limited skills.”
The Bears thought Carimi’s NFL future was at guard rather than tackle, and added several guards this offseason, including Oregon’s Kyle Long with the team’s first-round pick. That made Carimi, who believes he can still play right tackle in the pros, expendable.
“It’s nice to have the competition at the right tackle spot, and Carimi has a lot more experience playing [than Dotson],” Dominik said. “But Dotson has four years of NFL ball that he has been around, and I think that’s been helpful. Again, he took great strides and that’s why we did the extension and kept him around.
“We’re excited to have Dotson here, and he’s versatile, too, because he can flip to the left side. If something happened you can move Dotson and plug Gabe in [at right tackle]. Just the flexibility for a sixth-round pick made too much sense for us.”
Carimi, who won the Outland Trophy as a first-team All-American at Wisconsin in 2010, has two years left on his contract, and is scheduled to make a guaranteed base salary of $1,016,458 in 2013. Bostad can’t wait to work with his former pupil again and help him live up to the high expectations he created as he entered the league as a first-round pick three years ago.
“I have not hardly kept track of his career at all,” Bostad said. “It’s too early to say, but the word that comes to my mind is ‘compete.’ Compete and make us put you on the field. That will solve a lot of problems anywhere across the board. Guys will look and hopefully everybody rises to the occasion. I know everybody is excited and wants to get out on the field, and just having one more element will help us out. Our [offensive line] group has taken some hits, and I think for all of our guys this is a welcome sight. I’m excited to have somebody that I know.”
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