Needing To Step UpMarch 7th, 2014
Yes, these are not just anxious times for fans, when they wait for the free agent dinner bell to ring, but also for NFL veterans. Especially well-paid veterans. Especially veterans over the age of 30. Especially veterans who played for crummy teams the previous season. Especially veterans who were not chosen by the man who sits in the general manager’s seat and the new head coach.
Sadly for Bucs offensive guard Davin Joseph, he fits every one of those categories.
Returning from knee surgery, Joseph did not have a great year. Even he would admit that. Given how all signs are pointing the wrong direction for the former first-round pick, if Joseph survives the aforementioned obstacles, he will have to improve his play or he may be looking for a new team in 2015.
In fact, Lorenzo Reyes of USA Today believes no offensive lineman in the NFL needs to turn around his play more so than Joseph.
When healthy, Joseph has been a mainstay on the Buccaneers offense, starting in all 16 games in 2013 and 2011. But that may not be a good thing. The first-round pick carries expectations of Pro-Bowl caliber play at guard, and he’s failed to meet them. Joseph struggles in pass protection, but he is worse at opening rushing lanes along the interior of the offensive line.
Joseph is set to earn $27.5 million over the final four years of his contract. He’s 30 years old and his play is in steady decline. There were rumors that the Buccaneers were shopping Joseph as trade bait, so he may not even be in Tampa Bay before the start of next season. No matter where he is in 2014, however, he’ll need to do better. If he is in Tampa Bay, he’ll be playing for his future.
Joe is pretty sure Joseph will be asked to rework his contract and if he doesn’t, well, he’s on thin ice. Joseph turns 31 this season and was frustrated with his play this past season but seemed to improve in December. It could be that big guys recover from knee surgery slower than other players. Bucs coach Lovie Smith did not totally disagree with Joe about this when Joe had a chance to talk to Lovie.
That, to Joe, is the key. If Joseph’s contract is not renegotiated, then Joseph is walking a nasty tightrope hoping he has fully recovered from knee surgery. Otherwise, Joseph’s days as a Buccaneer may be numbered.