Tampa Bay should pass on paying San Francisco guard Mike Iupati anything close to $8 million per year. The Bucs should not think about dishing out $7 million per year for the likes of Denver offensive lineman Orlando Franklin or Green Bay right tackle Bryan Bulaga.

By most accounts, those are the top-rated offensive linemen available in free agency this year, and they will command the most money on the open market. Some desperate team will come along and overpay those decent linemen huge sums of money that they truly aren’t worth.

Just like Tampa Bay did last year with free agent offensive tackle Anthony Collins, who wasn’t worth the five-year, $30-million contract he signed that was set to pay him an average of $6 million per season.

Keep in mind that if Iupati, Franklin and Bulaga do indeed hit free agency it’s because their own teams do not believe they are worth what they are about to be paid.

Bucs general manager Jason Licht learned his lesson last year with the expensive signings of overhyped players like Collins, defensive end Michael Johnson (five years, $43.75 million) and quarterback Josh McCown (two years, $10 million), and will likely sit out the first wave of free agency while the mediocre offensive line talent available is set to cash in on ridiculous contracts.

Some Tampa Bay fans will surely howl at Licht for immediately not addressing the team’s biggest need – the offensive line – by (over)paying for the top available talent (even though it’s not very good).

These would be the same fans that got excited and applauded Licht and the Bucs last year for actually signing Collins. And they would be the same fans that now want the underwhelming left tackle cut.NFL: OCT 26 Vikings at Buccaneers

Tampa Bay fans see holes on the offensive line and a plethora of salary cap room – about $34 million right now – and want action. But the Bucs have to be careful with their cap money going forward as they have to extend the contract of linebacker Lavonte David and will need to think long-term about other extensions that will be coming down the pipe for players like wide receiver Mike Evans and cornerback Johnthan Banks in the coming years.

Missing in the draft on offensive linemen is one thing, but missing on a guard or tackle and overpaying them in free agency is quite another given the millions of dollars that are dished out compared to the relatively cheap rookie deals incoming linemen receive after being drafted out of college. PewterReport.com takes a look at some of the money spent on the so-called best offensive linemen switching teams in free agency over the past two years, how much many was spent and the type of impact that they made.

Free Agent O-Linemen That Switched Teams In 2014
OT Brandon Albert – 5 years, $46 million – from Kansas City to Miami
OT Jared Veldheer – 5 years, $35 million – from Oakland to Arizona
OT Anthony Collins – 5 years, $30 million – from Cincinnati to Tampa Bay
G Zane Beadles – 5 years, $30 million – from Denver to Jacksonville
OT Austin Howard – 5 years, $30 million – from NY Jets to Oakland
OT Michael Oher – 4 years, $20 million – from Baltimore to Tennessee
OT Donald Penn – 2 years, $9.6 million – from Tampa Bay to Oakland
G Jon Asamoah – 5 years, $22.5 million – from Kansas City to Atlanta
OT Breno Giacomini – 4 years, $18 million – from Seattle to NY Jets
G Shawn Lauvao – 4 years, $17 million – from Cleveland to Washington

Collins and Oher were busts. Oher was released after one year with the Titans, and the Bucs are poised to release Collins. Tampa Bay was concerned about Albert’s back and knee injuries in free agency a year ago, and Albert proceeded to injure his knee in Miami, missing the final seven games of the year. Veldheer, Penn and Beadles were slightly above average in terms of their play, while Howard, Asamoah, Giacomini, and Lauvao were just average despite getting between $4-6 million per season.

The bottom line from the 2014 free agent class is that none of these players made the Pro Bowl or were named to the All-Pro squad with their new teams despite the millions they were paid. Only Albert (2013), Beadles (2012) and Penn (2010) had even made the Pro Bowl before. Was their return worth the investment the teams made in these expensive free agent linemen?

Four of the higher-regarded free agent offensive linemen were re-signed by their own teams last offseason, including Baltimore tackle Eugene Monroe (5 years, $37.5 million), Cleveland center Alex Mack (5 years, $42 million), St. Louis guard Rodger Saffold (5 years, $31.7 million) and New Orleans tackle Zach Strief (5 years, $20.5 million).

Free Agent O-Linemen That Switched Teams In 2013
OT Jake Long – 4 years, $34 million – from Miami to St. Louis
G Andy Levitre – 6 years, $46.8 million – from Buffalo to Tennessee
OT Jermon Bushrod – 5 years, $35.965 million – from New Orleans to Chicago
OT Gosder Cherilus – 5 years, $34.5 million – from Detroit to Indianapolis
G Louis Vasquez – 4 years, $23.5 million – from San Diego to Denver
G Geoff Schwartz – 4 years, $16.8 million – from Kansas City to NY Giants
G Donald Thomas – 4 years, $14 million – from New England to Indianapolis

The only Pro Bowlers from this group from their prior teams were Long (2011 in Miami) and Bushrod (2011, 2012 in New Orleans), but neither earned that distinction with their new teams in either 2013 or ‘14. However, Vasquez did make the Pro Bowl with Denver in 2013 after leaving San Diego.

Despite getting paid an average of nearly $8 million, Levitre has never made the Pro Bowl in his entire career – either in Buffalo or Tennessee. Thomas tore his quadriceps in the second game of the Colts’ 2013 season and re-tore it prior to the 2014 campaign, missing all of last year.

The 2013 offseason saw Denver re-sign Pro Bowl tackle Ryan Clady (5 years, $52.5 million), the New York Giants re-sign tackle Will Beatty (5 years, $37.5 million), Atlanta retain tackle Sam Baker (6 years, $41.1 million), Cincinnati re-sign tackle Andre Smith (3 years, $18 million), Minnesota re-up tackle Phil Loadholt (4 years, $25 million) and New England re-sign tackle Sebastian Vollmer (4 years, $17 million).

For teams like the Buccaneers that need offensive line help the best and most proven way to get them is to draft them and develop them. Of course, Tampa Bay has struggled with that in the past with the likes of the following linemen drafted by the team over the past decade:

Tampa Bay’s O-Linemen Acquired Via The Draft
OT Chris Colmer – third round, 2005
G Dan Buenning – fourth round, 2005
G Davin Joseph – first round, 2006
OT Jeremy Trueblood – second round, 2006
G Arron Sears – second round, 2007
OT Chris Denman – seventh round, 2007
G Jeremy Zuttah – third round, 2008
OT Xavier Fulton – fourth round, 2009
G Kadeem Edwards – fifth round, 2014
OT Kevin Pamphile – fifth round, 2014

Only Joseph made the Pro Bowl (2008, 2011) out of the 10 offensive linemen Tampa Bay has drafted over the last 10 years. The most notable item is the fact that the Bucs drafted just one offensive lineman – Fulton – during former general manager Mark Dominik’s tenure. Prior to Licht drafting Edwards and Pamphile in the fifth round last year, the Bucs had drafted just one offensive lineman in the previous five years.

That’s a pretty strong reason why the cupboard is relatively bare in Tampa Bay along the offensive line. There has been no draft and development with the Buccaneers at that position outside of offensive tackle Demar Dotson, an undrafted free agent Dominik discovered in 2009.

Signing notable offensive linemen in free agency is often expensive and doesn’t typically produce the desired results for the new team. The Bucs have whiffed on several high-priced offensive linemen in free agency in years past, including tackle Derrick Deese and guard Todd Steussie in 2004, tackle Luke Petitgout in 2007, guard Carl Nicks in 2012 and Collins last year, while finding modest success with centers John Wade and Jeff Faine in 2003 and 2008, respectively.

The Bucs have to go back to the early 2000s to find any real success in free agency along the offensive line, as they did with center Jeff Christy and guard Randall McDaniel in 2000, and tackle Roman Oben and guard Kerry Jenkins in 2002.

Drafting and development – not free agency – is the proven method for building a successful offensive line. Look no further than Dallas, which had the best offensive line in the NFL last year. Left tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick and right guard Zack Martin were all Cowboys’ first-round picks and all made the Pro Bowl last year, while right tackle Doug Free, who was recently re-signed to a three-year deal, was a previous fourth-round pick by Dallas.

The ultimate proof that the top offensive line talent doesn’t come from free agency is the fact that 15 out of the 16 offensive linemen that made the Pro Bowl this past year were drafted by their respective teams. The only one who wasn’t, Philadelphia tackle Jason Peters, was acquired via a trade from Buffalo, rather than free agency.

Adding a value-priced free agent like Dallas reserve tackle Jeremy Parnell, a fifth-year pro, to a modest contract would likely help the Buccaneers this year. But after selecting a quarterback in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft – likely Florida State’s Jameis Winston – the team would be wise to pick a couple of offensive linemen to man the right guard and right tackle positions in Tampa Bay. Drafting and developing offensive linemen is the proven way to go in the NFL.

Share On Socials

About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 25th year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: sr@pewterreport.com
Subscribe
Notify of
25 Comments
Oldest
Newest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
KINDERRT
KINDERRT
6 years ago

Easy to say Scott, but what about this year. Are we going to trot out Cousins, Gilkey again ? This team has had no direction from the GM or HC in the last decade. To draft and develop players is fine but you need a base to start with. Licht and Lovie came in and blew up the O-Line and that was an obvious mistake. They had somewhat of a base but blew it up. To start over again will take a couple of drafts and FA pickups to have a chance at a good O-Line. This is going to… Read more »

kino
kino
Reply to  KINDERRT
6 years ago

Well the Bucs may be picking two o lineman with the first three pics if bucs accept trade offer for first pick………. Believe Eagles are offering Foles, Alonso, two firsts a second this year and a third in 2017.

martinii
martinii
6 years ago

The only reason I am still up is this darn time change. You make some good points, but draft pics take time to develope. We are going to need to protect a rookie QB. Finally does Lovie have enough time to wait for such a development project. Another terrible record and the next regime will benefit. I see the high dollar FA’s lining up for other teams and it sort of undermines the high expectations that many of us anticipated after after the 2-14 season. We have been led to believe that fixing the OL was top priority. We can’t… Read more »

ayron54
ayron54
6 years ago

We need to do the same at the wr position! I think dorial green beckham would be a perfect candidate to move into our number two spot once kackson is done and evans moves into the number one spot.

GoldsonAges
GoldsonAges
6 years ago

We have drafted 2 OL in the last 5 years. Both 5th rounders last year. Our abysmal record at drafting Ol is indicative of our lack of success on offense.

pinkstob
pinkstob
6 years ago

Outstanding article SR! I agree 100%. For those that say rookies take a while to develop and put the rookie QB at risk you’re absolutely right. That doesn’t change the fact that FA O-linemen would likely be just as bad and more expensive. I want to say this again, I think our 2015 O-line is going to stink no matter what we do. Our LT, LG and center suck too, not just the RG and RT. Even if we didn’t go draft or FA and traded for 5 new O-linemen they would need too much time to gel and that’s… Read more »

macabee
macabee
6 years ago

Well, Jermey Parnell is going to the Jags. We may want value picks. But value picks may not want us! Embarassing!

jongruden
jongruden
6 years ago

Scott Reynolds- You are sorely wrong in your assesment of Veldheer I live in Az and watch all the Cards Games and he played outstanding for them last yr, the media said he is the best OT since Louis Sharpe, maybe you don;t watch a lot of Az Games in Tampa so I understand but don;t just say things to back up an article

jongruden
jongruden
Reply to  jongruden
6 years ago

Scott- I don’t mean any disrespect to you so I apologize if I came off this way, I just wanted to say Veldheer is a stud and they love him here in Az

Mark Cook
Reply to  jongruden
6 years ago

No offense JG! Thanks for the feedback man!

Buctebow
Buctebow
6 years ago

oh no! we suck again! The only option is to draft 2 olinemen in the 2nd and 3rd rounds and throw them into the fire right away. A couple of rookies won’t be much worse than what we have as an alternative. Maybe by game 10 they will have a clue.

ehinote
ehinote
6 years ago

Desperate team you say? Ah, that’s us. When you haven’t drafted worth a da*n then you have to fill spots. Dotson is our best tackle by default, there is no one else worth a darn. If we are drafting our franchise qb then he will need a capable oline. We have the money. And even with bad FA pickups recently we still aren’t near the top half in spending. These 28 year old linemen can be off the books by the time we give Winston his 2nd contract. The draft is more of Crap shoot than Free agency. Yes, draft… Read more »

ehinote
ehinote
6 years ago

The problem is not over spending, it’s who we have been spending it on. A 2-14 team in the last 6 in spending needs to spend money. Yes, our future is in the draft, but FAs will help fill that learning curve gap.

ehinote
ehinote
Reply to  ehinote
6 years ago

Please stop saying they don’t need to spend.

EastEndBoy
EastEndBoy
6 years ago

Here’s the comfort I take in all of this…the same conversation is happening is happening on virtually every other team’s sites…and the few that think their OLines are good-great sound a lot like PR did in the offseasons the last few years (2014: “boy we made some great FA pickups and we’re set; 2013: “we don’t need any help as our Oline is one of the best around once Nicks gets back”)…I think the margin between being good and terrible is slight really, and I’ll just come back to my philosophy that if you have a HOFer as your QB,… Read more »

georgehicks
georgehicks
6 years ago

I’d think that this time comes around.Tampa will try to pursue good FA whose has established good ethise and work habbits.GO Bucs. Look at vet OL from NE. He is winner, Lets get other veterans who can still play a yr or two.GO BUCS

Bucmeister
Bucmeister
6 years ago

Draft OL in rounds 2-3-4. As a minimum we need RT, RG and C. We also need LG as this probably Mankins last year. With Erving slated to go in first round look at D. Smith (T/G), Pautalski (T/G), and BJ Finney (C/G). MLB can be addressed with either Hager, Heeney, T Jones, or Vigil in rounds 5 thru 7. Look at John Miller (G) or Greg Mancz (C/G/ RT) as late round pick behind Mankins. Ties up a lot of picks but it all starts up front.

fredster
fredster
6 years ago

Agree with Kinderrt and have been on record numerous times saying blowing up that O line was a huge mistake. Bigger than bringing McCown in and anointing him starter with no competing. Bigger than every other mistake Lovie has made. The O line needed some revamping yes. I own restaurants and firing someone when I don’t have a “for sure”better option to replace is stupid. That being said it will take a free agent or two, the draft, and some players stepping up before this line is even average again. Just building in draft takes years. We also should be… Read more »

ehinote
ehinote
6 years ago

There are still too many holes to fill with just the draft. If we go oline in the draft where do we go for MLB, pass rusher, nickelback? We could go get a Sean Witherspoon from Atlanta for a good price, Raheem Moore from the broncos, Trent cole from the eagles, guys that won’t break the bank. And if one or two are a bust it doesn’t hurt us in the long run. We need players. I still ran iupati.

Horse
Horse
6 years ago

Even New England drafts high when it comes to the OL.

inspecto
inspecto
6 years ago

I never want to hear Gilkey’s name again, except to say he’s been CUT !!

76Buc
76Buc
6 years ago

I think we should pick up FA OL or we will get our young QB killed and dystroy his confidence.Without an Ol even Steve Young was a flop here. We talk about how our QBs of the past found measures of success elsewhere-it was because we never had an OL.Get a couple in here to play now to proctect the rookie AND draft a couplr early. You mention needing to pay Evans and Banks, but that is years away.

buclover1988
buclover1988
6 years ago

unfortunately, we will be picking In the top ten, meaning we had more loses than wins, however.. I think we will find our mlb and other ol pieces in next yrs draft. I’m with Scott Reynolds on this one. Overpaing these dudes is insane. Suh is getting paid like a quarterback And honestly that’s retarded. 114 million with 60 guaranteed. ..just wow, Scott was also right, mccoys contract is a bargain. Developing our line through the draft is key. Last yr, they wanted to get the targets. I know I’m not mad about drafting Mike Evans so let’s just give… Read more »

scubog
scubog
6 years ago

Excellent article Scott. I knew drafting offensive linemen was an afterthought for Mark Dominik but I didn’t realize how far in the back of his mind it was. As I recall, his philosophy was that offensive linemen could be drafted late or signed post-draft and developed. Problem was we never hit on the right guys. I’ve always believed in drafting the highest rated player and not simply selecting the top player at a given position but we just might need to lean that way this year. Perhaps trading down in the 2nd and 3rd rounds to get more opportunities.

macabee
macabee
6 years ago

My first reaction over the last couple of days was to grow impatient because my Bucs were not in the scrum fighting for the top O-Linemen in FA. I have since taken hold of my emotions and agree wholeheartedly with Scott. We cannot buy our way to success in this league. We must draft the right players and develop them for the long term, being to a player here or there in FA that can make a difference. Last year is lesson enough to see the error in that strategy. I will however say that we need better talent evaluation… Read more »