2-For-1 Free Agency Fix On The Offensive Line

February 14th, 2018

Ira Kaufman is the most revered sports personality and writer in town. He has hung his hat at JoeBucsFan.com world headquarters since July 2016. Tampa Bay’s only Pro Football Hall of Fame voter, Ira busts out columns here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and his award winning podcasts fire Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can also hear Ira on SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio Wednesdays during football season, and see him now on Mondays and Fridays at 10:30 p.m. on Spectrum Sports 360. Ira also is part of the FOX-13 Tailgate Sunday and enjoys beet salads, Riesling, Chiefs victories and needling Joe.


The Bucs don’t waste a lot of time acknowledging their mistakes.

And yes, there’s been a few.

Once it became clear that Anthony Collins, Michael Johnson and Bruce Carter weren’t the answer, they were dispatched. When Roberto Aguayo gave Buc fans agita with each errant FG try, he was dumped.

Now we come to the strange case of Ali Marpet, who isn’t going anywhere — except perhaps back to where he once belonged.

Marpet’s shift from right guard to center was a prominent story line last summer, especially because he had zero experience playing the position.

All Tampa Bay fans heard about was how Dirk Koetter wanted his five best offensive linemen on the field and how J.R. Sweezy was healthy and ready to provide a nasty element at guard. Jason Licht told everyone who would listen that the Bucs always thought Marpet’s best NFL position would be center, right from the moment they drafted him in the second round out of tiny Hobart in 2015.

Plans change, and it wouldn’t shock me if Marpet returns to right guard, where he was approaching a Pro Bowl level in his two seasons there.

The key is whether the Bucs can land a solid center in free agency or the draft. That’s where Ryan Jensen enters the picture with his hand out, expecting to cash in.

OK Won’t Cut It

Jensen is only 26 and he anchored Baltimore’s front in 2017 with a physical style the Bucs crave. The Ravens don’t want to lose Jensen, but they don’t have much cap space and there will be multiple suitors for Jensen’s services.

Ali Marpet

Tampa Bay should be one of them.

The Jets also figure to be interested in Jensen, a 6-foot-4, 320-pound slab, but the Bucs need to take their best shot because he would help them at two positions. His presence would allow Marpet to move back to guard and add some juice to a dormant ground game.

With Jensen leading the way, Baltimore featured the NFL’s 11th-ranked running attack. Alex Collins, who began the year on the practice squad, rushed for 973 yards, averaging a robust 4.6 yards per carry.

Yes, Alex Collins.

Would it be such a bad thing if Sweezy competed for the starting job at left guard? He played OK last season between Marpet and Demar Dotson, but OK won’t cut it this fall — not with jobs on the line.

Tune The Ukulele

As for Marpet, you’ll never hear him bitch about the shift to center.

It wasn’t his idea, but he’s a team player and he gave it his best shot until a knee injury shelved him for December.

Marpet struggled, as expected, on the consistency of his shotgun snaps. He made strides as the signal caller up front, but he didn’t push the pile often enough in the middle.

“Toward the end of the year, I thought I was playing good football,” he told me on the day after the season finale. “I know I’ve got to make decisions faster, and I’ll be working on that. I think I’ll play center again and I think it’s the right move.”

Koetter says Marpet’s play met expectations last fall and he predicts Marpet will develop into a Pro Bowl center. I’m not convinced.

All I know is he was one of the better young guards in the league before he was asked to change positions. If the Bucs can sign Jensen next month, he can strengthen the line at two spots while adding another veteran presence.

Remember the Hard Knocks episode that showed Marpet strumming a ukulele on Picnic Island? It might be time to change that tune.

42 Responses to “2-For-1 Free Agency Fix On The Offensive Line”

  1. LakeLand Says:

    There’s 5 free agents, who I have been pushing hard for.

    1. OC Ryan Jensen | 26 years old
    2. OT. Ja’Wuan James | 25 years old
    3. DT Dontari Poe |27 years old
    4. CB Bashaud Breeland |26 years old
    5. RB Isisah Crowell | 25 years old

    They all have a lot of starter experience

  2. Lord Cornelius Says:

    Yeah Jensen & Norwell are the premier O-line targets. No reason we shouldn’t try go after both and move on from Sweezy.

    If we land both our O-line is set at 4 positions for years with everyone 26 and under and could become a strength rather than mediocrity. Wtf is the point of having ME/Djax/Howard/etc if the line isn’t up to par as well?

  3. Wausa Says:

    Out of the guys most likely offensive linemen available in free agency….Norwell is the guy I want the Bucs to sign the most. However, if the Bucs sign Jensen it would be a major upgrade to the Offensive line.

  4. gambelero Says:

    Nice post, Ira, but on Joe Bucs Fan we spell it “loose” instead of “lose” as in “the Ravens don’t want to loose him” instead of “the Ravens don’t want to lose him.” Kind of a tradition not just with the Joes, but the commenters as well.

  5. LakeLand Says:

    Andrew Norwell would probably cost the team that sign him $12 -14 million per season.

  6. Kansas95Buc Says:

    At least Marpet was willing to play a different position to help the team win

  7. DBS Says:

    And let’s not forget there were many many fans here on JBF wanting to move him to center. Sure many more wanted it too. So it was not just some idea Koetter came up with.

  8. MadMax Says:

    Great post Ira! And im all for it. Let Baltimore lose him to us (see that, not loose). Now if they cut him loose, then theres that.

  9. LakeLand Says:

    A RT is a huge need for the Bucs, probably more so than a guard. Dot will be 33 this year and he’s missed 18 games during the past 3 seasons.

  10. Lord Cornelius Says:

    Highest OG salary is $12 mill right now so yeah that sounds right. C is cheaper at like $10 mill

    Sweezy ($6mill) / Baker ($5mill) / Martin ($7mill) / Ayers ($6mill)


    Ryan Jensen ($10mill) / Andrew Norwell ($12mill)

    Seems like a no-brainer 4 for 2 swap. Would still have $65 million in cap space lol.

    Don’t f*ck this up Licht. Do not settle.

  11. DanBucsFan Says:

    @ Lord Cornelius…..HELL YES BROTHER

  12. DanBucsFan Says:

    @Lakeland…I think Dot was having a solid season, however with his injuries and the fack he is getting lil long in the tooth, Rt will need to be addressed sooner than later. But IMO we can get at least 1 more above average season out of him, so again just my opinion but picking up a above average guard \ center at this time may prove to be a ” bigger ” need. REGARDLESS whomever they add ( center, guard, tackle ) they need to make moves to upgrade line while we have cap space.

  13. DanBucsFan Says:

    Would be lovely if there were as many options at DL in free agency as there are on OLINE. I still am dreaming a DE like Quinn from the Rams becomes a cap casualty, or the Licht is fishing for prover ends who may be available for a trade, I dont think many fans would be upset if we traded a early pick ( 2nd – 4th ) for a upgrade at DE.

    “Don’t f*ck this up Licht. Do not settle”

  14. BucEmUp Says:

    This would actually be a move I’d love to see. Which is why the Bucs won’t do it.

  15. NFLNut Says:

    If we sign Ryan Jensen AND draft Quenton Nelson (or even a guy like Will Hernandez, Billy Price, etc) our line is one of the best in the entire NFL immediately … and if we draft a developmental RT like Desmond Harrison in the later rounds, we could also be set for the next 5+ years!

    As for Norwell … he’d be great but I doubt we offer enough … I think he signs with the Giants personally.

  16. JimmyJack Says:

    Doubt the Ravens are dumb enough to let Jensen go.

    I’m also not in favor of moving Marpet again.

    Why did Phampile look so bad this year. Didn’t he move positions too(not 100%sure)? I don’t know the intricacies of Oline play but I’ve heard enough of them talk about continuity to know it’s not BS.

    Dirk is hurting these guys by moving them around IMO. Keep Marpet and Phampile where they are and they will improve. I’d love to see us draft Nelson and let Sweezy compete with Phampile. Keep E.Smith and Hawley and we will have a nice line that’s gelling with nice depth.

  17. Rod Munch Says:

    Agree completely on moving Marpet back to guard, except I think he was already playing at a pro-bowl level and could be an all-pro pretty quickly. He’s really really good and it was a really really bad idea to move him, just dumb. He played OK at center, actually he played great for a guy who had never played the position before, but that qualifier is a big one. Get a real NFL center, move Marpet back to G, then if Dotson is back and healthy, wow does that offensive line suddenly look better. If say everyone the Bucs want is gone come draft down if they took the guard out of ND, which would not be my choice – not that high, but if they did take him, then double wow, you have the making of a really impressive offensive line. Another idea I’ve heard floated around, that I don’t think will happen but I’ve heard, is if say the Bucs got the top LT on the board, then moved D Smith to G, where some people say he’s a better fit due to some slow footwork. That would be extremely interesting and D Smith at his size and strength inside, angry about being moved and playing mean, that would be something. To be clear I don’t think there’s any chance of that happening, but it’s an interesting idea.

    Anywho get this guy if he’s actually available, move Marpet back to G and that’s a massive upgrade. For Sweeny, I see different cap numbers for cutting him, but most likely I’d keep him around for one more year and see if he build on last year. I don’t think he played as poorly as many think, but I’m open to being wrong as he didn’t stand out to me in any way, good or bad, which means I didn’t pay much attention to him.

  18. USFBUC Says:

    I think this decision about Marpet is going to depend on Winston. If he is comfortable with Marpet then Marpet will be our Center for the next 10 years. This will then influence who we sign in FA, if anyone because our coaching staff and GM have talked about how great our line in.

  19. martinii Says:

    Realizing that there just aren’t as many opportunities on the D-Line as there are on the OL makes it all the more important to go all in on OL FA’s. Every minute our defense is on the bench it gets better and as stupid as that sounds when your options are limited that unfortunately is all you have to work with. Fans complain about Quentin Nelson but the stronger our OL gets the longer we keep drives alive, and ultimately the more points we score. Maybe we all have to take what falls our way, I high scoring productive offense and a mediocre defense. Better than eating our resources on more untested and mature projects.

  20. USFBUC Says:

    The idea to move Marpet to Center wasn’t a horrible one. It certainly should have been something that was worked on some more before it became a full time move this season.

  21. LakeLand Says:

    The thing about signing a guy like OT Ju’Wan James. He can play both tackle positions. The Bucs need depth at the tackle position, if Donovan Smith or Dot goes down. It will be a lost cause. They have guys who can step in at guard and center.

  22. pabucsfan Says:

    I like the move of marpet back to guard. It would also be cheaper to sign a free agent center than guard. Weston Richburg is probably the best one available or John Sullivan would be a nice veteran to have in the middle of the line. If we draft Nelson for LG and bring in a quality center in free agency our line becomes a strength instead of just being average

  23. LakeLand Says:

    We also have to bear in mind that next season. Mike Evans, Kwon Alexander, Donovan Smith, Ali Marpet will be UFAs. And in 2020 Jameis Winston will be an UFA. You can only tag one player at a time. This isn’t the time for Jason Licht to go on a free agent frenzy with expensive long term contracts.

  24. Bobby M. Says:

    We’ll go for the best value, Licht has had too many free agent duds. Sweezy and Collins left a stain.

    There’s another silly idea floating around about potentially trying to get Le’Veon Bell. Licht blew his load on pill popping D. Martin….he won’t risk getting burned twice by substance users and Bell is one positive test away from suspension

  25. bojim Says:

    Sweezy came off an injury that cost him a year and at least he stayed on the field. Think maybe a good off season and a lot more rehab and therapy might get him back to where he needs to be. Hopefully get Jenson, Sweezy at left guard and Marpet moves back.

  26. LakeLand Says:

    The Bucs has about $61 million in cap space. It might take $ 65 million or more to re-sign those 5 players. Those 5 players will probably make around $22 million this season combine. But that will skyrocket next season.

  27. JimmyJack Says:


    You will probably see the Bucs part ways with one of their higher priced vets to make some wiggle room for capspace. Talking about either LVD or GMC. Pretty sure we all know which one the majority of fans would rather part with. I would have to agree.

  28. LakeLand Says:


    I’m thinking this is GMC last season in Tampa, I could be wrong. But the Bucs can’t afford to continue taking his cap hit.

  29. LakeLand Says:

    But in the meantime Jason Licht can’t afford to lock in free agents with expensive long term contract. That’s the reality of the business.

  30. JimmyJack Says:

    Yeah true point Lakeland. Makes a guy like Bennett more appealing since he won’t demand a long term contract. Same with Grimes.

    One thing I’m worried about this offseason is Jason may neglect the future interest considering his job is on the line.

  31. LakeLand Says:


    I was thinking the same thing.

  32. teacherman777 Says:

    Evan Smith is expensive and usless.

    Sweezy is expensive and useless.

    Pamphile is okay but only worth a vet-minimum/backup contract.

    Sweezy plus Evan Smith equals a combine salary that is enough to land an elite OG or C.

    Then, we should draft another guard in the 2nd round. the second round is perfect to find one of the best guards or centers in the draft because teams rarely draft a guard or center in the first round.

  33. tnew Says:

    I keep hearing how Marpet was on the “verge” of being an All Pro (I know in this report, Ira uses Pro Bowl but I have heard All Pro just as much) guard when in fact he never had a single vote.

    The truth is he was consistently our top rated lineman as a center and was voted in the top 10 in 2017. In 2015, as a rookie, he was rated the 23rd right guard and in 2016, he was ranked 16th over all for all Guards, which translates to roughly 8th overall versus centers (since there are half as many). Was he a better second year guard than a first year center, slightly, but he was not as bad as this has been reported. The two guards next to him were flat out awful.

    If someone wants to argue, moving him to center due to what happened with guard play, and the Bucs should have acquired a center last off season, I will listen to that. But it is nonsense to not realize just how good he was playing at center and how this projects going forward.

  34. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    No team lets a good center get away. They will find a way to keep him, or the GM should be fired.

    If they do let him go, I would be behind bringing him in…even though I do not feel we need anything but Right Tackle.

    Unlike others around here, I believe the line just needs time to gel.

  35. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    tnew nailed it.

  36. 813bucboi Says:


    I like that….bring em both to tampa…..

    I don’t think the marpet move was as bad as people make it out to be….I thought he played decent….

    #NOEXCUSESIN2018!!!!….GO BUCS!!!!

  37. JJBucFan Says:

    The 2 for 1 should be to overpay Solder and move D Smith to LG or RT where he belongs. I don’t trust him protecting Jameis’ blindside and I definitely would not pay him NFL starting LT money. I would also move Marpet back to Guard and get a center in the draft that can back up Hawley. Also Ja’juan James at RT for the Dolphins is only 26 years old. That is where we should spend our Sweezy/evan Smith/ Martin/ Simms money, IMO on the Offensive side of the ball. On defense- cut Fatty Baker and Will Gholston (good guy-but he really sucks) Use money for Defense End- Ealy, Jordan/Okafor, DT-Irving (Dallas) or Poe- Re-sign Mc D, CB-Butler/Gaines/Fuller and re-sign Grimes.

    Draft either Chubb or Fitzpatrick if available or trade back and still might end up with Derwin James or – still need a RB- Sony Michel is my guy in round 2- dude has speed which we haven’t had since Dunn, can catch and is a tough inside and outside runner. Draft a Center!! Draft a LT for the future.

    Just my thoughts- if only it was this easy, LOL

  38. Lord Cornelius Says:


    Yeah I actually am totally fine with him staying at C. He was still our best lineman but the way JBF made a story of it you’d think he sucked or something. He also is on a trajectory to basically be lifetime teammates with Winston potentially so that’s a good bond to keep going.

    So basically maybe we don’t need a Ryan Jensen. We really need to upgrade at OG though. Norwell + Nelson would still set the interior and keep Marpet at C. Hell Norwell + an OG in rounds 2-5 sounds fine too if we were to go defense R1. Cheaper contract than a Sweezy.

  39. StPeteBucsFan Says:


    Exactly!!! Again…Kevin Mawae was close to being a pro bowl guard for two years then got moved to Center where he not only became a Pro Bowler he ended up All Pro. He’s now borderline HOF and may yet make it. He was one of the 15 finalists this year and it’s not easy getting in from the Center spot.

    I’ll trust the Buc’s braintrust to come up with the proper use of Ali…Center or Guard. This wasn’t some knee jerk reaction simply to get Sweezy back on the field. That may have been a consideration but Licht and others have been talking about Marpet being a Center since he was drafted.

  40. LakeLand Says:

    2017 was Ryan Jensen first year playing center (Same as Marpet). Jeremy Zuttah was the starting center until he was released in 2017.

  41. JJBucFan Says:

    Cool with Marpet staying at Center, but only if we have better guards. Sweezy is still a mystery to me. Most say it is the second year that a player returns to form after ACL, I have to imagine back surgery has to be the same. Remember we “rehabbed” D. Revis and then let him go, maybe we should bring Sweezy back in and see what he looks like in mini-camp, I wouldn’t be so quick to get rid of him even though last year wasn’t very good for him.

  42. Chris@Apple Roof Cleaning Tampa Says:

    Many of us out here in Brandon agree Jimmy Jack.
    Some of us are scared chitless that Jason Licht will try something desperate , to try and save his job.