The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have released offensive lineman Davin Joseph, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. There have been rumors about Joseph being on the trade block recently, but his recent contributions to the team and the size of his contract made the guard's release inevitable.
Joseph was slated to make $6 million in 2014, and had over $27 million remaining on his contract, which ran through 2017. He originally signed a seven-year, $52.5 million contract prior to the 2011 season. The Buccaneers will save all $6 million thanks to the fact that they has already paid him $19 million guaranteed in base salaries over the first two seasons.
Few would argue that the Buccaneers overpaid for those first two years, but Joseph slowed down considerably last season after coming off knee surgery. But at six million a year, the writing was on the wall for Joseph, and it's no surprise to see the Buccaneers make this move. There's far too much money invested in him going forward to keep him at that number, and teams interested in acquiring the 30-year-old will be able to take their chance on the open market, where Joseph should have plenty of value.
Sure, he had a very disappointing 2013 campaign, but if he can prove to perspective NFL teams that his knee is healthy, he'll definitely find a home. If he manages that, then he has the potential to bounce back and play at the high level he attained in 2011 and 2012.
This year is a strong one for free agent offensive linemen, but guard is the weakest position by far. There are multiple starting-caliber offensive tackles on expiring contracts, and a couple top-flight centers figure to be available as well.
The biggest competition for Joseph comes from guys like Geoff Schwartz of the Kansas City Chiefs, Zane Beadles of the Denver Broncos, Paul McQuistan of the Seattle Seahawks and maybe even Rodger Saffold of the St. Louis Rams, depending on where he wants to line up.
The Buccaneers entered 2013 with what looked to be one of the strongest offensive lines in football, but just about everything went wrong. Donald Penn struggled mightily, Joseph regressed and Carl Nicks dealt with a particularly bad MRSA infection. That crippled the line and Tampa Bay struggled as a whole.
New head coach Lovie Smith has already said that fixing the issues along the offensive line is a priority. It's unclear where things are going with Nicks, but if he can play, then he and Penn should keep the line together if the latter can bounce back. Jeremy Zuttah and Demar Dotson are the only sure starters at this point, at center and right tackle respectively.
It's possible that the Buccaneers may be looking to target multiple starting-caliber offensive linemen in free agency. Joseph returning at a cheaper rate may even be a possibility, though this hasn't even been rumored at this point.