When the Buccaneers benched left tackle Anthony Collins during the last month of the 2014 season and turned to right tackle Demar Dotson, it was essentially a three-game tryout to see if Dotson could switch to the left side. Fortunately for the Bucs and Dotson, the former basketball player turned underrated NFL tackle passed with flying colors.

Dotson’s play didn’t make anyone confuse him with former Bucs great and Ring of Honor member Paul Gruber, but it did ease the sting of the Collins free agent signing that saw the Buccaneers give the former Bengal a five-year, $30-million deal last March. Collins, who found his way in the coaching staff’s doghouse and was a healthy scratch for Tampa Bay’s final three games, will most likely be released this offseason if a trade partner can’t be found. But with a $6 million base salary and $3 million guaranteed, a trade seems unlikely.

Once again, the Buccaneers need to revamp their offensive line after a season in which Tampa Bay ranked 30th in total offense (292.2 yards per game), 25th in passing (206.1) and 29th in rushing offense (85.9). Maybe even more disturbing was the fact that Buccaneers quarterbacks were sacked 52 times in 2014, tied for third worse in the NFL. With Tampa Bay likely to look quarterback with their first pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, finding a way to protect the passer will be crucial for the Bucs’ success going forward. A young NFL quarterback has enough to think about, and adding the possibility of being sacked or under constant pressure nearly every play from his blind side only clutters a young signal caller’s mind.

The good news for the Buccaneers is, with the play of Dotson at left tackle late in 2014, it eliminates one major need heading into free agency and the draft. Dotson showed enough talent and attitude to give the Bucs front office and coaching staff confidence that they can succeed at that position with the Mississippi native lining up to protect whatever quarterback’s backside is in the lineup in 2015.

Head coach Lovie Smith talked about Dotson following the season.

“Everything is to be determined, but I thought he did a pretty good job there to, in midstream, finish the game, the next day you show up, ‘Hey Demar, guess what? From right you’re going to left.’ ‘Ok coach.’ And that’s pretty much how that happened,” Smith said. “‘You think I can do it?’ ‘Yes, I think you can do it.’ ‘Do you think you can do it Demar?’ ‘Yes, I know I can do it.’ That was a step that we needed to take to see him and again, his better days are ahead of him if we decide to keep him at the left tackle position and as I talk to you right now, I don’t see why not. Nothing has said he can’t do it.”

Dotson himself also believes there is no reason he can be the Bucs left tackle going forward, especially with an entire offseason to practice in a left tackle stance.

“You always hear speculation, outside the building, inside the building that they are going to put you at left tackle, they are going to move you to left tackle – I have been hearing it for years, even since I was playing over there when Penn was out,” Dotson said. “But it never happened, so I was just thought it was hearsay, just talk, but it is just funny how things work. It came back around and here is my opportunity so I just have to make the most of it.”

While it appears the Bucs could go into 2015 with Dotson as the team’s starting left tackle, the question is now at what price? Dotson was a great value at $2 million in 2014 compared to some other right tackles like the 49ers’ Anthony Davis ($7.5 million), the Cowboys’ Doug Free ($6.52 million) and the Jaguars’ Lane Johnson ($4.4 million). And Dotson would be an absolute steal at the left tackle position where he is scheduled to make just $1.5 million in 2015 and $1.75 million in 2016. The franchise tag for left tackles, an average of the top players at that position, is just over $9 million per season.

If the Buccaneers do in fact release Collins, Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht should use the $3 million in cap savings to reward Dotson for his play and work ethic. While Dotson is far from being perfect – as evidenced by his team-leading 14 penalties last season – the undrafted Southern Miss product proved in three games that he is an upgrade over Collins, and most likely better than anyone that will hit the free agent market.

At age 29, Dotson is in his prime and has only been a starter for 46 games and has little wear and tear on his body. And if the Buccaneers do address the quarterback position in the first round, having an experienced veteran like Dotson will make the transition easier for Tampa Bay’s hopeful future star under center.

 

Mark Cook currently is the director of editorial content and Bucs beat writer and has written for PewterReport.com since 2011. Cook has followed the Buccaneers since 1977 when he first began watching football with his Dad and is fond of the 1979 Bucs team that came within 10 points of going to a Super Bowl. His favorite Bucs game is still the 1979 divisional playoff win 24-17 over the Eagles. In his spare time Cook enjoys playing guitar, fishing, surfing and family time at the beach. In addition, Cook can be found in front of a television or in Doak Campbell any time the FSU Seminoles are playing. Cook is a native of Pinecrest in Eastern Hillsborough County and has written for numerous publications including the Tampa Tribune, In the Field and Ya'll Magazine. Cook can be reached at mark@pewterreport.com
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pinkstob

I rarely if ever complain about the structure of a PR article (the content inside is the fun part) but I find the title misleading. Based on the title I thought the Bucs had named Dotson the starter at LT for next season and given him a new contract. It scared the hell out of me because it’s way to early for any further commitment to any member of this O-line. Even besides the penalties, this was the worst run blocking Bucs O-line I have ever seen, from LT to RT. I don’t care what Dotson is making, we may… Read more »

jongruden

Pinkstob over the years I have followed you, you were always a glasses half full guy seeing things in a positive light never seeing things in a negative light, I even stopped reading your posts becaue of it, now you have become more open minded seeing trouble areas on this team and discussing it, glad to see your transformation. JG

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jongruden

i agree with Pink the title was misleading as I too assumed we made him thne starter and gave him a new contract, Yes, why would we throw more money at a guy who is under contract already and we don;t even know if he is our new LT next yr? We will draft about 3-4 guys on th eline in this yrs draft and sign a few more free agents, i don’t want to ever see the likes of Gilkey, Cousins and Collins and Omammeh again on this team Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No votes yet. Please… Read more »

Horse

I don’t see Dotson at OLT; I would put him back at ROT and leave him there knowing in a pinch he could slide over to the left side. I would pick up another free agent OLT and also draft one. I am assuming we are drafting a QB in the 1st round. So we still need a OT, DE, Center, LB, RB, WR, OG, CB, Safety; yikes! That’s a lot of needs yet.

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Sambond

You’re just giving money away to players already under contract for two more years, Mark?

And by what measure did Dotson “pass with flying colors” in the final 3 games at LT?

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scubog

Title is a little misleading and inferred that the move had already been made when in fact this is just a regurgitation of old news. I have always believed Dotson would make a better LT than a RT but he’s by no means a lock for success at either spot. Once we get our “QB of the now and future” we should gather as many quality offensive linemen we can. I don’t think the coaching staff will know, with any degree of certainty, if Dotson can be one of them between now and the Draft. Gee JonnyG, I didn’t realize… Read more »

jongruden

We are the worst team in the NFL, the glas doesn’t even have a drop in it that thing is empty baby. As for the Cards they have Carson Palmer who is rehabbing nicely so No, they don’t want our #8 unless they trade a happy meal for him

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pinkstob

Thanks guys. It’s cool to hear feedback on my posts from both of you guys since you’ve both been long time posters. I have respect for all the posters that post to this site now (i.e. no Bucfan47) because everyone has made a good observation at some point or another. I won’t name names because I’m sure I’ll leave someone out.

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jrwilson85

I have heard it said that Anthony Collins may project better at LG. If so, couldn’t the Bucs restructure his contract rather than kick him to the curb. The guy should have been backing up for his paycheck last season, but maybe he has value as a guard at a lower salary. Perhaps he would agree to the grand experiment at 3 mil a year, which he will count against the cap if the Bucs jettison him anyway. Based on his play last year, I doubt anyone would offer 3 mil for his services in 2015. I would still draft… Read more »

deeznuts

I agree that Dotson has outperformed his contract..however I would not give him a raise at this point- he will be moving to a new position. He’s a MAMMOTH (6’9″), great attitude, team first guy with low mileage- I can see him starting for 3-5 more years. Dotson’s run blocking on the left really gave our running game a boost- evidenced by doug martin’s last few games (DOUG IS A BEAST- DO NOT GET RID OF HIM). He as also rated in the top15 O-tackles this season. Dotson should be the only returning starter on our O-line.. Draft Mariota! Rate… Read more »

tjhuth

This team has so many needs but the offensive line is the most “offensive”. We need to upgrade the entire line as a priority to protect our new QB.
Free agency and the draft need to net us 4-5 new linemen. Only then can we afford to look at the defense as they were the least “offensive”.
Looking forward to PR reviewing Free agent and college offensive linemen.

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EastEndBoy

I’ll be the first to say that Oneil Cousins and Garret Gilkey performed worse than lining up two of our cheerleaders on the OL…but I guess (okay. let’s have it JG) I am willing to accept that Dotson, EDS and Mankins were as much victims of having to protect for the worst QB in the league, as being guys with nothing left in the tank. I’m not suggesting they are probowlers, or even that we cannot find an upgrade for one or two, but given what we need to fix (i.e., QB with the #1), I would look to the… Read more »