TAMPA — Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith admitted over the weekend that, prior to the start of the 2014 NFL Draft, even his young grandson had expressed some concern about the state of the Bucs offensive line.
It’s doubtful Smith’s young grandson or anyone else feels much better about the line now that the draft is over.
Though the Bucs spent one fifth-round pick on Tennessee State guard Kadeem Edwards and a second that they traded up to get on Purdue tackle Kevin Pamphile, the immediate makeup of the line hasn’t changed.
The 6-foot-4, 313-pound Edwards and the 6-5, 315-pound Pamphile are both considered developmental players, so neither is expected to join the starting lineup anytime soon.
That leaves the line in the same flux it was in before the draft, which means the Bucs are still crossing their fingers that Carl Nicks can make a comeback at left guard while they wait for a legitimate right guard to emerge.
The situation doesn’t seem to concern the Bucs, though. With their first meaningful game still four months away, general manager Jason Licht says there is still plenty of time to address the Bucs offensive line issues.
“We feel better (about the line) today than we did,’’ he said. “We’ve added some pieces to the puzzle and there are still several avenues to follow to (find) upgrades or get better.’’
Free agency is one of those, and while the options in that marketplace are rather slim, there is at least one two-time Pro Bowl guard on the shelf whose work and skill set the Bucs are very familiar with.
That would be Davin Joseph, the ninth-year veteran who started 99 of the 100 games he played for Tampa. The Bucs cut him just before free agency started but their situation at guard may demand another look.
The trade route is also a possibility, and as a result of the work they did during the draft, the Bucs now have some players they could throw into a deal that might not have been available beforehand.
The addition of tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins in the second round and running back Charles Sims in the third has given the Bucs an abundance of players at their respective positions.
It’s possible then that a tight end such as Tom Crabtree or Luke Stocker or a running back such as Mike James or Bobby Rainey could be moved as part of a trade for a guard the Bucs deem a potential starter.
It’s unlikely, though, that such a move will be made prior to the start of training camp. At the running back position at least the Bucs want to hold on to what they have for a while.
“Our plan right now is to take them all to camp,’’ Licht said of the corps of running backs, which includes projected starter Doug Martin and reserves Jeff Demps and Michael Smith in addition to James, Rainey and Sims.
“Looking at the history here, there’s bound to be an injury, and we also are trying to see who’s the best fit for us. We don’t want to just part ways with somebody that could be a valuable part of our team.’’
There is also a chance the need for help at guard will simply diminish as the offseason moves on. The Bucs have a young prospect in former Michigan standout Patrick Omameh that they’re intrigued by.
The Bucs also have a couple of veteran options at the position, including seventh-year pro Oneil Cousins, a part-time starter previously with the Browns, and sixth-year pro Jamon Meredith who has filled in well as a starting guard for the Bucs each of the past two years.
Still, the need for help along the offensive front, and especially at the guard spot, is one that will continue to be addressed as the offseason and perhaps even the regular season drags on.
“We still have a lot of work to do,’’ Smith said.