The Bucs’ 2022 offseason has been a far cry from the one they had in 2021.

Last spring, Tampa Bay brought back almost its entire Super Bowl-winning roster in an effort to repeat. This spring, the Bucs saw Tom Brady retire and unretire. They had Bruce Arians retire and name defensive coordinator Todd Bowles as his successor. Their free agency period was a crazy one. It felt like there was a new twist every week throughout February and March.

Now, as the team enters the summer, its roster is largely set, particularly with its starters. But one significant camp battle on the horizon is at the left guard position. And after the NFL Draft, it got a lot more interesting with the selection of Central Michigan lineman Luke Goedeke.

“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch in camp,” offensive line coach Joe Gilbert said Tuesday. “What’s better than competition? That’s probably gonna be one of the really fun positions to watch through camp, the development and the competition.”

Busy Offseason For Bucs’ Offensive Line

Stability along the offensive line was key for the Bucs in 2021 as they won 13 games and the NFC South title before losing in the NFC Divisional Round. But this offseason threatened to disrupt some of that consistency and in a couple of positions, it did exactly that.

Bucs LG Ali Marpet

Bucs LG Ali Marpet – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

First, it was Ali Marpet announcing his retirement in late February. Then, Alex Cappa left in free agency to sign a four-year, $40-million contract with the Bengals. The one question mark the Bucs did eliminate was with Ryan Jensen, who they brought back on a three-year deal.

Gilbert told the media on Tuesday how important it is for the Bucs to have that continuity at center, especially with Brady returning for another season.

“Ryan knows our system,” Gilbert said. “That’s a whole different thing, where if Ryan ended up leaving in free agency, you’re bringing in a new center that’s gonna make all the calls, working with Tom,”  “There’s a lot less [of] that transition with Ryan coming back.”

With Jensen back and the Bucs replacing Cappa at right guard by trading with New England for veteran Shaq Mason, the only remaining uncertainty lies is at left guard. Who will line up next to left tackle Donovan Smith? Tampa Bay isn’t short on options.

Intriguing Battle Brewing At Left Guard

Only two weeks ago, the Bucs had what looked like a three-man battle for the left guard opening. Aaron Stinnie, who re-signed on a one-year deal in March, appeared to be the favorite. Of course, he has experience in his favor after stepping in for Cappa during the Bucs’ Super Bowl run two seasons ago.

Also in the mix are two utility linemen, 2021 third-round pick Robert Hainsey and three-year pro Nick Leverett. Sadarius Hutcherson, who tore his ACL in the Bucs’ preseason opener in 2021, will also get his chance to compete when he fully recovers, Gilbert said Tuesday.

“That’s the one thing we’ve preached in our room,” he said. “It’s open. That spot there, every guy’s got a shot.”

As interesting of a battle as it was going to be between Stinnie, Hainsey, Leverett and Hutcherson, the Bucs added another contender in the draft. With their second of two second-round picks, they selected Goedeke out of Central Michigan.

Central Michigan G Luke Goedeke Bucs

Central Michigan G Luke Goedeke – Photo courtesy of CMU

With the draft capital the team spent on Goedeke, he might now be the favorite to win the job. A self-described “glass eater,” he will get a chance to make an impression on his new coaches when the team holds its rookie mini camp this weekend. In fact, he already impressed Gilbert in Zoom meetings this week.

“I’ve had a chance to work with him the last couple of days on Zoom calls and his retention and mental part of it is really good,” Gilbert said. “That, to me, is the hardest thing for a college guy coming out anymore, is how fast can they pick up the system.  Because the volume is so much different here at this level than it is in the college level. So far, just from his retention on the Zoom calls, it seems like he’s been pretty good.”

In an open competition, every little detail will be important. But Gilbert made it clear on Tuesday that communication with Smith and Jensen will be one of the key aspects in determining a winner.

“A big part is gonna be who communicates with Donny and Ryan at that left guard spot. That’s going to be a part of our evaluation process,” Gilbert said. “You can’t be a church mouse out there. They’ve got to talk, they’ve got to relay their calls from there and they’ve got their own line of communication. At some point, that’s going to be a big factor as we move forward.”

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About the Author: Bailey Adams

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1 month ago

Looks like good depth at the Guard position. That can only be a positive thing.

1 month ago

Idk Still seems like they should have gone another direction and had plenty of guard depth. Tackle depth is another story. If Wirfs or even inconsistent Smith does they are toast imo. Biggest reason we lost to Rams was Wirfs being out. Will see how it shakes out.

Reply to  fredster
1 month ago

You should consider changing your name to “dreadster” since you tend to focus so much on what could go wrong. Got to agree with you about our tackle depth with Wells not being so deep. LOL!

Alldaway 2.0
Alldaway 2.0
Reply to  fredster
1 month ago

I think they end up signing another veteran OT to compete as a backup to Wirfs IMO.