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Keep an eye on Tampa Bay’s offensive line this season. If this unit plays well together, the Buccaneers will be in great shape for several seasons to come.
It’s still early, but Pewter Report projects Tampa Bay’s starting offensive line to look like this: LT Luke Petitgout, LG Arron Sears, C Dan Buenning, RG Davin Joseph and RT Jeremy Trueblood.
If this is indeed Tampa Bay’s starting five along the offensive line, and this unit finally lives up to its potential under offensive line coach/offensive coordinator Bill Muir, the Bucs will be in good shape from a contract standpoint.
That’s because all five of those players are under contract with the Bucs for at least the next three seasons, meaning these players, all of which are playing in their rookie contracts except for Petitgout, will be affordable and will have the time to jell.
But if this offensive line fails to come together under Muir, more changes likely will be coming in 2008.
The good news for the Bucs is there are several talented offensive linemen that are scheduled to become unrestricted free agents in 2008.
The bad news is the Bucs will have blown at least one draft pick if they are forced to go out in free agency and sign a free agent offensive lineman next year. It also means the Bucs, who are scheduled to be approximately $30 million under the salary cap next year, will have to allocate a significant portion of that available cap room in yet another attempt to solidify the offensive line.
Listed below are some of the top free agents-to-be at the center, guard and tackle positions:
Centers Nick Leckey (Arizona) The 6-foot-3, 291-pound Leckey is 25 years old and has started 20 of the 44 career games he’s played in since entering the NFL out of Kansas State in 2004.
Casey Wiegmann (Kansas City) Wiegmann (6-2, 285) has started 120 games during his career. However, he turns 34 in July and could be headed for retirement after the 2007 season.
Rex Hadnot (Miami) Hadnot (6-3, 325) is 25 and has started 39 of the 47 career games he’s played in since entering the league out of Houston in 2004.
Jeff Faine (New Orleans) Faine (6-4, 291) has started all 52 games he’s played in since entering the NFL out of Notre Dame in 2003. He is 26 years old.
Jeremy Newberry (Oakland) Newberry (6-5, 304) has started all 90 games he’s played in since entering the league out of California in 1998. However, the 31-year old Newberry has missed 37 games over the past three seasons due to injury.
Andy McCollum (St. Louis) McCollum (6-4, 300) has 145 career starts at center. But he played in just one game last season due to injury and recently turned 37 years old.
John Wade (Tampa Bay) Wade (6-5, 299) has started 90 career games at center, including 56 with the Buccaneers. The 32-year old Wade might not even see the final year of his contract if Dan Buenning unseats him as the starter this season since Matt Lehr is a cheaper and more versatile backup than Wade.
Guards LG Ryan Lilja (Indianapolis) Lilja (6-2, 290) has started 27 of the 34 games he’s played in during his three-year career with the Colts. He turns 26 in October.
RG Jake Scott (Indianapolis) Scott (6-5, 295) has played in 44 games with 41 starts. The 26-year old Scott originally entered the NFL out of Idaho in 2004.
LG Jamar Nesbit (New Orleans) Nesbit (6-4, 328) has started 71 career games in the NFL since entering the league out of South Carolina in 1999. He turns 31 in December.
LG Alan Faneca (Pittsburgh) Faneca (6-5, 307) has 137 career starts under his belt. He’s spent his entire nine-year career in Pittsburgh. But the 30-year old Faneca is unlikely to return to Pittsburgh after this season since he’s unhappy with his contract status with the Steelers.
RG Kendall Simmons (Pittsburgh) Simmons (6-3, 319) has started all 60 games he’s played in since 2002. The 28-year old Simmons originally entered the NFL out of Auburn.
G Larry Allen (San Francisco) Allen (6-5, 325) is a seasoned vet. He’s started 181 of the 187 career games he’s played in since 1994. While Allen’s credentials are impressive, he turns 36 in November and likely will retire after the 2007 season.
RG Justin Smiley (San Francisco) Smiley (6-3, 301) has played in 48 career games and has 41 career starts under his belt. The 25-year old Smiley entered the NFL out of Alabama in 2004.
Jeb Terry (Tampa Bay) Terry (6-5, 311) has only started one the 30 career games he’s played in since entering the NFL in 2004. The 26-year old Terry has versatility – he can play center, guard or tackle. But if he can’t prove to be effective at those positions the Bucs might be willing to let him walk in free agency in ’08.
Tackles LT Flozell Adams (Dallas) Adams (6-7, 340) has started 134 career games since 1998. Adams, who has helped the Cowboys establish one of the league’s better ground attacks over the past several seasons, recently turned 32 years old.
RT George Foster (Detroit) Foster (6-5, 338) has played 49 career games. He has 45 starts under his belt since entering the NFL in 2003. Foster is 27 years old.
LT Tarik Glenn (Indianapolis) Glenn (6-5, 332) is 31 years old. He has started all 154 of the games he’s played in since 1997. Glenn has also missed just six regular season games due to injury during his 10-year career.
RT Max Starks (Pitt) Starks (6-7, 337) originally entered the NFL out of Florida in 2004. Starks, 25, has started 30 of the 40 career games he’s played in during his three-year career.
RT Sean Locklear (Seattle) Locklear (6-3, 301) has started 26 of the 43 games he’s played in since 2004. Locklear is 26 years old and has received all 26 of his starts over the past two seasons.
RT Kwame Harris (San Fran) Harris (6-7, 310) has played in 60 games. He has 44 career starts, including 16 in each of the past two seasons. Harris, 25, originally entered the NFL out of Stanford in 2003.
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