In this series, in no particular order, we will look at every position on the Buccaneers roster one by one and analyze draft needs based on depth and status of the roster. Besides center, the most consistent position on the Buccaneers offensive line was definitely, in my opinion, guard.
On the left side, veteran guard Ali Marpet was on the field for every single snap on offense, which was 1,139 snaps to be exact. In 2018, he signed a 5 year, roughly $54 million contract extension. He is due roughly $10.6 million in 2020 and carries a cap hit of just over $11 Million.
Ali Marpet is yet another key cog in the offensive line that is absolutely critical in protecting the quarterback and creating opportunities in the run game. He was graded as the #14 guard in the league in 2019, according to PFF. He boasted an average grade of 72.3. His pass-blocking grade was 80.6, while his run-blocking grade was 65.2.
He was drafted in the second round, 61st overall, in 2015. He is the highest-drafted pick in the history of DIII football and remains so to this day. He was also the first player to be drafted out of Hobart College, a small school of 2,271, since 1937. General Manager Jason Licht loved him coming out of college and knew he was their guy, after also selecting OT Donovan Smith in the second round. “My favorite guy was Ali Marpet”, said Licht after the draft concluded. The Bucs moved up four spots in the second round, giving up their third-round pick, and swapping fourth-round picks with Indianapolis, to ensure they got their guy.
Over the years, we have seen him move from right guard to center, from center back to right guard, and from right guard to left guard. With Marpet you have flexibility. In my opinion, the left guard position is where he should stay. This could all change with the Bucs looking for offensive linemen help in the upcoming draft. Ali has been on the record saying that he can play any position on the line. With Ryan Jensen being a near lock to remain a Buccaneer and Donovan Smith still under contract at left tackle, along with the emergence of Alex Cappa at right guard, I do not see it as being necessary to move him around. He plays best at his natural position: Left guard.
He is another tough guy on the line, along with the likes of Ryan Jensen and Alex Cappa. They, as a group, have earned the moniker “The Bash Brothers” by some fans. I could not imagine being an interior defensive lineman and having to line up across from all three of them! The intimidation factor is huge with all three being 6’4″ or taller, and all over 300 lbs. Add in the long flowing locks of hair between the three of them, and Cappa’s mountaineer-esque beard, and you have one scary group of dudes. Ali Marpet will stay a Buccaneer and continue to protect the left side of the offensive line and open up holes for running backs for years to come.
Now we move to the right guard, where a new face emerged this past season.
Alex Cappa held down the right guard position rather well while healthy in his first year starting. He will remain in the third year of his rookie contract and is owed just $705,000 in 2020, with a cap hit of roughly $903,000. With fellow offensive lineman Ryan Jensen, Ali Marpet, and Donovan Smith making a combined $35 Million in guaranteed money in 2020, his rookie contract is part of what makes him so valuable.
He was the #37 ranked guard in the league in 2019, according to PFF. He boasted an average grade of 62.7. His pass-blocking grade was 59.4, while his run-blocking grade was 61.5.
The Bucs drafted Cappa in the third round of the 2018 NFL draft, 94th overall. The Buccaneers traded their fourth and sixth-round picks to Minnesota in exchange for their third-round pick.
He was an early target of Jason Licht’s. He attended Humboldt State University, a small DII school in California. He impressed scouts at the Resse’s Senior Bowl, as well as the NFL Scouting Combine. Former player, and well known NFL Network analyst at the time, Mike Mayock said: “He has the nastiest tape of any Division II offensive lineman I have ever seen.” General manager Jason Licht, in an interview on the NFL Network’s morning show “Good Morning Football”, called him “A barroom brawler” type. His grit and passion for the game would certainly be tested on October 6, 2019.
In the second quarter of a division game against the New Orleans Saints, Alex Cappa could be seen holding his left forearm. He visibly looked like he was in pain, but stayed in the game. Unbeknownst to the fans watching in attendance and at home, he had broken his arm. He continued to play through the entire game with a broken arm without missing a single snap. The Bucs would go on to lose the week 5 contest, but he showed the grit and toughness that the organization knew they were getting when they drafted him. He would end up missing the next three games while recovering from surgery to repair his broken forearm. While out due to injury, veteran backup guard/swing tackle Earl Watford started in his place.
He appears to be a lock to remain the starting right guard unless the Buccaneers select an offensive lineman in the early rounds of the 2020 NFL draft. If the Buccaneers draft a guard or a tackle that would change positions to guard, then he could easily move to right tackle, where he played and excelled at in college. No matter the outcome of the draft, I do believe that he will be a day one starter on the offensive line in 2020. He had a solid season in 2019 that was not without its bumps and bruises, but he showed toughness, grit, and solid play. He will look to build off of that in 2020.
Behind the starters, Ali Marpet and Alex Cappa are Zack Bailey, who was a highly sought after UDFA in 2019, but missed most of last season after breaking his foot in October, Aaron Stinnie, who played two snaps in 2019 vs. Indianapolis, and one of my favorites Earl Watford. Although Watford is not listed as a guard on the team roster, we know he can play the position as needed, as well as center and tackle. In my opinion, the decision of how early the Buccaneers draft a guard all depends on if Watford returns in 2020. He is the wild card. The positional flexibility and familiarity of Bruce Arians and Byron Leftwich’s offense make Watford a must to re-sign, in my opinion. You can never have enough depth on the offensive line. Experienced depth is even better. I don’t see guard as a glaring need in the draft besides for depth and competition among backups. I would not mind drafting for the position either in the later rounds, free agency or as a UDFA.