Copyright 2008

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Could Petitgout Return To Tampa Bay?
Tampa Bay has parted ways with left tackle Luke Petitgout, but that doesn't mean he's gone forever.

Sources have suggested to Pewter Report that the Bucs have not ruled out the possibility to bringing back Petitgout at some point during the 2008 season.

Petitgout, 32, was signed a three-year, $15 million contract that included a $3 million signing bonus during the 2007 offseason. He started just four regular season games for the Bucs before going on injured reserve with a partially torn ACL he sustained in Week 4 of the '07 regular season.

The former first-round draft pick of the New York Giants was hoping to be ready to participate in organized team activities, but his rehab took longer than anticipated and he spent the entire training camp on the PUP list before failing a physical and being released by Tampa Bay on Aug. 16.

Pewter Report detailed the cap ramifications of releasing Petitgout in the last installment of Flynn's Focus, but we've since learned that those numbers were not correct.

We've since learned that Tampa Bay restructured Petitgout's contract in February. Although he was paid $1 million in signing bonus proration as scheduled in March, Petitgout did not receive the $1.75 million roster bonus that he was scheduled to receive per the terms of his contract.

Tampa Bay still created approximately $2.5 million in salary cap room by releasing Petitgout, giving the Buccaneers nearly $30 million in cap room.

One day after he was released by Tampa Bay, Petitgout was informed that he'd be suspended for the first four games of the 2008 regular season for an alleged violation of the league's substance abuse policy as it pertains to steroid use.

Petitgout, who suffered the knee injury in October but did not undergo surgery until December, still is attempting to make a full recovery from his knee ailment. The Bucs did not see him getting back to 100 percent health anytime soon, which was one of the reasons for his release.

In the meantime, the Bucs have turned to Donald Penn as their full-time starter at left tackle. He started 13 games in place of Petitgout last year and performed admirably.

Petitgout's departure likely means Anthony Davis will make Tampa Bay's 53-man roster as a backup to Penn. Davis, who like Penn, entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent, has started 32 games at left tackle for the Bucs. The versatile lineman can also play both guard and tackle.

But if Petitgout can return to full health and serves his four-game suspension, Tampa Bay could seriously consider bringing him back as some in the organization felt there was a significant drop off in play from Petitgout to Penn last year.

Another One Bites The Dust
When Tampa Bay released him, Luke Petitgout joined a long list of failed offensive linemen under Bucs head coach Jon Gruden and offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Bill Muir.

In defense of Tampa Bay's front office, Gruden and Muir, Petitgout played well at left tackle before he was injured, but the track record for injuries was there when the Bucs inked him to his multi-million contract.

Petitgout's departure unfortunately brings back memories of Todd Steussie and Derrick Deese, neither of who panned out after being signed to $15 and $20 million contracts, respectively.

Other failed free agent experiments include Matt Lehr, Matt Stinchcomb, Jason Whittle, Torrin Tucker and Cornell Green (trade with Miami), although the impact each of their contracts had on Tampa Bay's salary cap were minimal.

To make matters worse, the Bucs have also wasted draft picks on several offensive linemen that never panned out.

That list includes:
C Zach Quaccia (2002 – seventh-round pick)
C Austin King (2003 fourth-round pick)
T Lance Nimmo (2003 fourth-round pick)
G Sean Mahan (2003 fifth-round pick)
G Jeb Terry (2004 fifth-round pick)
T Chris Colmer (2005 third-round draft pick)

The list of failed free agent signings and draft picks is long, but that's not to say the Buccaneers haven't done some things right along the offensive line.

Armed with draft picks and salary cap room, the Bucs have compiled a group of talented players that could make up the best starting offensive line Tampa Bay has ever had.

The Bucs invested first- and second-round draft picks in guard Davin Joseph and right tackle Jeremy Trueblood, respectively, in 2006. One year later, Tampa Bay selected guard Arron Sears with its second-round pick.

Tampa Bay made Jeff Faine the highest-paid center in the league by signing him to a six-year, $37.5 million deal this offseason. The Bucs also added depth to their offensive line by investing a third-round pick in Jeremy Zuttah.

The Bucs have also helped to make up for their misfortune in free agency and the draft by landing undrafted free agents Donald Penn and Anthony Davis.

The jury still is out on several members of Tampa Bay's current offensive line, including Chris Denman (2007 seventh-round pick) and Dan Buenning (2005 fourth-round selection).

The Bucs won the Super Bowl in Gruden's first year in Tampa Bay. The team had signed two new offensive linemen in Roman Oben and Kerry Jenkins, and the right tackle position was made up of Kenyatta Walker and Green.

It was a credit to Gruden and Muir that they were able to win a Super Bowl with this list of players along the offensive line. It was also a credit to the previous regime that center Jeff Christy and guard Randall McDaniel had been signed during the Tony Dungy/Rich McKay era. Christy helped anchor that Super Bowl team's offensive line.

Although he wasn't a Pro Bowler, John Wade turned out to be a serviceable player at center for the Bucs from 2003-07.

Tampa Bay has had some legitimate excuses in terms of offensive linemen not panning out, whether it has been injuries, salary cap or draft pick status.

But the Bucs have also had their fair share of gaffes. There are no more excuses. This is the offensive line Tampa Bay has spent the last few years building. Plenty of players from past teams have not panned out, but this group needs to.

Tampa Bay's Projected 53-Man Roster Prediction
We posted a 53-man roster prediction before the start of the preseason to give Bucs fan an idea of how Tampa Bay's players had performed in training camp.

With only two preseason games remaining on Tampa Bay's schedule and two sets of roster cuts coming on Aug. 26 and Aug. 30, here's an updated 53-man roster prediction.

Jeff Garcia
Brian Griese
Luke McCown
Josh Johnson
Notes: Despite missing most of training camp and the preseason with a calf injury, Garcia remains the starter. Griese likely will be his backup, and Johnson probably is headed for the practice squad, but perhaps not until after tight end Jerramy Stevens serves his two-game suspension.

Earnest Graham
Michael Bennett
Warrick Dunn
*Cadillac Williams
Notes: Graham will lead this committee approach, but Bennett has earned more playing time. Dunn will make his biggest impact in the passing game. Williams still is making great progress from his knee injury, but the Bucs will buy him another six weeks by keeping him on the PUP list.

B.J. Askew
Byron Storer
Notes: The Bucs need Askew to stay healthy because he's a solid overall fullback. However, Storer has been a pleasant surprise. He's a solid blocker and his hands have improved. He's also a valuable contributor on special teams. Askew, who is recovering from ankle surgery, should be ready for the start of the regular season. Storer will make the team regardless.

Joey Galloway
Antonio Bryant
Ike Hilliard
Michael Clayton
Maurice Stovall
Dexter Jackson
Notes: The Bucs will have some tough decisions to make here. Galloway is close to returning from a groin injury that has kept him sidelined. Micheal Spurlock, who still is eligible for the practice squad, had an impressive camp, but he's cooled off. In the meantime, Bryant has really come on and should make the team. It will be interesting to see if the Bucs elect to possibly keep seven receivers since Jackson is considered raw at the position and will serve as the team's primary return specialist.

*Jerramy Stevens
John Gilmore
Alex Smith
Ben Troupe
Notes: Stevens and Gilmore have been solid and could be the primary players in Tampa Bay's two-tight end sets. Troupe likely will make the team despite missing significant playing time with a foot injury. Smith needs to step up and make more plays. The Bucs should keep all of their tight ends, at least initially, given Stevens' upcoming two-game suspension.

Donald Penn
Arron Sears
Jeff Faine
Davin Joseph
Jeremy Trueblood
Jeremy Zuttah
Dan Buenning
Anthony Davis
Notes: Projecting Tampa Bay's offensive line actually got easier once Luke Petitgout's fate was decided and Joseph injured his foot. It was unclear whether the Bucs would keep both Buenning and Zuttah, but given Joseph's injury that likely will be the case. Davis might not have made the team had Petitgout returned to full strength and health.

Gaines Adams
Chris Hovan
Jovan Haye
Kevin Carter
Greg White
Ryan Sims
Jimmy Wilkerson
Dre Moore
Notes: The Bucs seem to be encouraged by Marques Douglas, but we just don't see it. This unit needs pass rushers, and Douglas is better against the run. Wilkerson has been a solid addition. If the Bucs elect to keep an extra defensive lineman, Greg Peterson probably will be that guy.

Derrick Brooks
Barrett Ruud
Cato June
Quincy Black
Adam Hayward
Matt McCoy
Geno Hayes
Notes: Tampa Bay could easily choose to keep just six linebackers since Hayes still is practice squad eligible, but he's been impressive. Hayes has good instincts and impressive speed, and in some ways has been outperforming Black. It will be interesting to see how Antoine Cash performs over the final two preseason games. The Bucs have moved him back to middle linebacker, and if he fares well he could replace McCoy.

Ronde Barber
Phillip Buchanon
Aqib Talib
Eugene Wilson
Elbert Mack
Notes: Now that Sammy Davis is healthy again, he still has a shot at making the 53-man roster. But the Bucs are in need of a youth movement at cornerback given Barber's age and the contract situations for Buchanon, Davis and Wilson. Mack has been a steady playmaker and performer. He's still practice squad eligible, but Mack has earned a 53-man roster spot over Davis, in our estimation.

Jermaine Phillips
Tanard Jackson
Sabby Piscitelli
Donte Nicholson
Notes: No surprises here, really. Nicholson has outperformed Will Allen and is a solid special teams contributor. If the Bucs want to keep five safeties, Allen would be that guy, but we don't see that happening.

Matt Bryant
Notes: Solid through training camp. Had a rough start vs. Miami, going 1-of-3, but Bryant has since rebounded and should be fine.

Josh Bidwell
Notes: Bidwell appears to be poised to make a serious push at the Pro Bowl. He's got a strong and accurate leg. He's still reliable as a holder on Bryant's field goals as well.

Andrew Economos
Notes: The Bucs did not bother having any competition in camp for Economos because they're completely comfortable with him. He's been solid through camp and preseason.

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