While the Bucs are focused on keeping their Super Bowl LV champion team together by re-signing their own free agents, Tampa Bay will be looking to upgrade a number of positions. PewterReport.com takes a look at each unit over the next week, showcasing which players Tampa Bay could lose, and which players might replace them – including our Bucs’ Best Bets.
Table of Contents
2021 Bucs Free Agent O-Linemen
OT Joe Haeg
C A.Q. Shipley
OT Josh Wells
OG Aaron Stinnie
With the addition of of right tackle Tristan Wirfs via the 14th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft last season, the Bucs solidified a significantly improved offensive line despite adding just a single new starter to the mix. Center Ryan Jensen and left guard Ali Marpet showcased predictably dependable play this season while right guard Alex Cappa and left tackle Donovan Smith took major steps forward. As a rookie, Wirfs played started every game for Tampa Bay en route to a Super Bowl victory and quickly proved to be one of the most formidable tackles in the NFL in year one.
The Bucs’ offensive line jumped from Pro Football Focus’ seventh-best unit following the 2019 season to fifth by the end of the 2020, and luckily for the Bucs, none of their starting five linemen are due to hit free agency in 2021. While Tampa Bay is set to bring back all of their starters, several key depth pieces will need to be re-signed if they want to be a part of the Bucs’ run at a second straight Super Bowl this year.
Due to Ali Marpet missing three starts due to a concussion and Alex Cappa being forced out of the NFC Wild Card game – and subsequently the remainder of the Bucs’ playoff run – with a fractured ankle, Joe Haeg, A.Q. Shipley and Aaron Stinnie all made starts along the interior offensive line this season. And as Smith missed the Bucs’ Week 15 win over the Falcons, Wells got a single start at tackle in 2020 after making two starts for Tampa Bay in 2019.
Top NFL Free Agent Offensive Linemen Available
1. OT Trent Williams – 49ers 2. OT Taylor Moton – Panthers 3. OG Brandon Scherff – Washington 4. OG Joe Thuney – Patriots 5. C Corey Linsley – Packers
Others: OT Russell Okung (Panthers), OT Daryl Williams (Bills), C David Andrews (Patriots), C Austin Reiter (Chiefs), OT Alejandro Villanueva (Steelers), OT Kelvin Beachum (Cardinals), C Alex Mack (Falcons), OT Rick Wagner (Packers)
Bucs’ OL Outlook
As all of the Bucs’ impending free agents along the offensive line come in the form of crucial depth pieces, with all of them also having trust and key playing time under head coach Bruce Arians, I would expect at least Wells and Stinnie to all return to Tampa Bay next season.
The remaining three have all earned praise from Arians while Wells and Stinnie also bring the comfortability of multiple years in his offense to the table. Wells has been the Bucs’ spot starter at tackle for the past two seasons with six seasons of NFL experience. Stinnie, the lone restricted free agent of the bunch, has more than earned an opportunity to return after stepping in for Cappa and playing solid football as a fill-in starter against the Saints, Packers and Chiefs on the tail end of Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl run. And while Haeg struggled in his lone start against the Saints at left guard in place of Marpet, forcing the Bucs to slide Jensen to left guard and insert Shipley at center the following week, he remained a key rotational piece in Tampa Bay’s offensive line as he played 72 snaps in the regular season as an eligible lineman from the tight end position in jumbo sets.
Bucs’ Best Bet: David Andrews
When it comes to the Bucs’ best bet addition to the offensive line, it will likely come in the form of an affordable veteran center. The Bucs made it a priority to bring in Shipley last year as Tampa Bay felt comfortable with the players that they had in reserve to step in at the guard and tackle positions and likely would not want to slide Marpet back to center following a potential injury to Jensen unless it was their last resort.
Originally an undrafted free agent out of Georgia in 2015, Andrews immediately stepped in and took the starting spot for New England. Andrews has been reliable for New England, playing in at least 14 games in each of his six seasons and has been a full-time starter since his rookie year – starting 11 out of his 14 games played in 2015. A two-time Super Bowl Champion snapping the ball to Brady with the Patriots, Andrews could be an ideal spot-starters for the Bucs if he doesn’t land a big payday and wants to reunite with his former quarterback for another Super Bowl run. The six-year veteran is coming off of a solid 67.7 offensive grade from PFF and peaked with an 84.7 over 14 starts in 2017.