Bucs pay the price for a top four tackle

by Gary Shelton on April 24, 2020

in general

Wirfs should help keep the heat off Brady. (Max Allen/hawkeyesports.com)

Friday, 4 a.m.

It's premature to suggest that the Bucs have filled the biggest hole on their offense.

It is fair, however, to notice that they have thrown 322 pounds at it.

The Bucs added Iowa big, agile offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs to their off-season bounty Thursday night, moving up one slot to pick him with the 13th selection. Wirfs was considered one of the big four offensive tackles in the draft -- and the order was hotly debated -- and should slot in at right tackle in the place of departing Demar Dotson.

The Bucs gave up a fourth-round draft pick to San Francisco to move up one spot in the draft. The 49ers were unlikely to draft Wirfs --- they went for South Carolina tackle Javon Kinlaw. But the danger was that San Francisco might have traded that pick to another team that was interested in Wirfs.

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The move was a bold one, which fits in with this Bucs' off-season. But it doesn't guarantee anything. The last two first round tackles drafted by the Bucs were Kenyatta Walker, drafted 14th in 2001, and Charles McRae, who went seventh in 1991. But McRae, team officials say, didn't like the sport and Walker didn't seem to understand it.

”He's not only a great athlete, but a great guy.," said Bucs' general manager Jason Licht, "He’s a hard worker. He’s very smart. He's a top-notch character guy. We had to give up a little capital. We thought because of the player it was worth it."

Wirfs will be welcome. The Bucs' offensive line allowed 47 sacks last year and finished 24th in the league (of 32 teams) in rushing.

"We're excited," Licht said. "We're not anointing him as a future Hall of Famer, but we're glad to have him."

With Wirfs, the Bucs have raised the stakes. They haven't won a playoff game in more than 17 years, but with the additions of Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski, and the retention of Shaq Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh, Bucs' fans will expect more this season. And isn't it about time?

“Sometimes you have to look — if you have to give up a fourth, what were you going to get in the fourth round?” Licht said. “Hopefully, we are going to get a great player [in Wirfs].

“But to ensure we get the player that we love… I think it was well worth it. We felt like it was still worth it.

“We felt like we hit a home run.”

Because of the current pandemic, it might take Wirfs a while to work into his slot.

“One thing is not to force it, let him come along at his pace," Bucs' coach Bruce Arians said. "He’s coming from a program that’s so similar to what we do set-wise, pass protections, run-game wise. He’s extremely well-coached so I think he’s ahead of the curve that way and it should allow us to put him in the lineup when he’s ready. We’re not going to just throw him out there until he’s ready.”

The Bucs have two picks among the selections in today's draft.

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