As is often the case, a story lurks in the shadows just past the foreground view.
Joe doesn’t think the Bucs will target a guard in the draft. Yes, the Bucs lost both starting guards when Alex Cappa left for the money in Cincinnati and Ali Marpet retired. However, Bucs-loving AC/DC general manager Jason Licht traded right guard Shaq Mason and signed backup free agent guard Aaron Stinnie.
Stinnie, when Cappa lost in Game 1 two years ago to Washington, took over and started the rest of the games, including the Super Bowl. You never noticed Stinnie was a backup.
Still, do the Bucs trust Stinnie enough not to sign a guard? ESPN’s Jenna Laine is not so sure.
With Mason at right guard, the Bucs don’t have a clear starter on the left to replace Ali Marpet, who retired in February. The Bucs re-signed Aaron Stinnie this offseason, and he has a chance to compete for that role, along with backup center Robert Hainsey and Nick Leverett, though Leverett’s ability to line up in every spot along the offensive line makes him most valuable as a game-day backup.
This is one area where the draft (they pick 27th in the first round) could make a lot of sense. Some guarding draft options include Boston College’s Zion Johnson, Texas A&M’s Kenyon Green, LSU’s Chasen Hines, Memphis’ Dylan Parham, Georgia’s Jamaree Salyer — and Chattanooga’s Cole Strange, a pick that would be very on-brand for the general manager Jason Licht, given his propensity to find offensive linemen in small schools.
So this is where the story lurks in the background. Stinnie was only signed for a year. If Licht (and by proxy, Bucs coaches) were so confident in Stinnie, wouldn’t the team have signed him for over a year?
Now, to be fair, maybe Stinnie’s agent is sharp and knew that if Stinnie just played half decent, he could hit mega-coins on the open market next spring.
Joe doesn’t believe Licht will sign a guard, at least not the first two days of the draft. Why? Well, there’s also a guy named Robert Hainsey lurking. Initially, Hainsey, who was drafted last year, was slated to take over for center Ryan Jensen because it seemed like the Bucs were confident Jensen was going to leave in free agency.
Everything changed when Tom Brady did not retire.
One of the reasons the Bucs drafted Hainsey is because he can play multiple positions on the line. So Joe won’t rule out that the Bucs could give Hainsey a test drive at guard in training camp. You know, just in case.