Yardbarker Horiz

Friday, June 1, 2012

Buccaneers put their money up front

General Manager Mark Dominik has made one thing clear since taking the reins of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2009: if you can protect the quarterback, you'll get a top flight salary.

The 2012 offseason has only solidified how much value Dominik puts on the offensive line. Even with the free agent contracts for WR Vincent Jackson and CB Eric Wright landing in the Top 5 of the current team payroll, the entire starting offensive still occupies half of the Top 10 slots:

#2 G Davin Joseph $9,500,000
#6 G Carl Nicks $6,500,000
#8 T Donald Penn $5,100,000
#9 T Jeremy Trueblood $5,000,000
#10 C Jeremy Zuttah $3,375,000

This is not something new this offseason. Center Jeff Faine, who was recently released, spent his entire Buccaneers career in the Top 5 of the team payroll, and Davin Joeseph has been a fixture there as well. How much Dominik valued Faine also shows in his buyout: $2.4 million for this year.

There are young players up and coming in the persons of Ted Larson and Derek Hardman (as was Zuttah until this offseason). Thus far, Dominik has been fortunate to not need to spend a significnat amount of draft capital on the offensive line. Except for recently signed Carl Nicks the starting squad is made of players remaining from the old regime.

At some point the defense-heavy drafting by Dominik will have to give way; one would think OL will be where picks will need to be spent. But there is another angle which is in play: If Tampa Bay becomes known for spending big bucks in the trenches, the best young linemen may beat a path to the door of One Buccaneer Place (like Carl Nicks). With the salary structure of the team already built to pay big along the line, Tampa Bay is well positioned to take advantage of anyone who comes knocking.

This could allow the drafting of young talent into the defensive unit to continue for a couple more seasons, resulting in a very talented young defense which can grow together for years to come. In essence, spending along the offensive front may allow for more opportunities on both sides of the ball in the near future.

And that is exactly where this team needs to be.

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