Bucs is Tristan Wirfs moving to LT? Maybe
At a press conference on Thursday, Bucs general manager Jason Licht discussed the possibility of moving All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs to the left side to Donova Smithwhich was released due to poor performance in 2022 and to create nearly $10 million in caproom.
Wirfs started three games with a left tackle at Iowa during his senior season in college in 2019, but played mostly with a right tackle. There he was a starting player in Tampa Bay for the past three seasons and became a two-time Pro Bowler in addition to earning All-Pro honors.
“Since we drafted Tristan, we’ve talked about that,” said Licht. “So I guess it’s just talk now. We have the low season. We have a lot of time to see how this unfolds.”
The Bucs could field a left tackle to go straight ahead and replace Smith, leaving Wirfs on his familiar right side. Oklahoma’s Anton Harrison or Georgia’s Broderick Jones could be options in the first round at No. 19 for Tampa Bay.
Where will Luke Goedeke play?
If the Bucs fail to find Smith’s replacement in free agency or the draft, Wirfs could be moved to left tackle, which would create a vacancy in right tackle. Luke Goedeke, last year’s second round pick, was a two-year starter at right tackle at Central Michigan. Shorter-than-ideal arms prompted him to move in to guard on the next level.
After struggling at left guard for the first seven weeks of the season, Goedeke started the season finale in Atlanta with right tackle in place of Wirfs. It turned out to be the highest rated performance of his rookie year in the regular season.
“It’s great that we think he can play both,” said Licht. “We are not making any decisions today. I think things can change in a few days or a few weeks. We still have the draft coming up. We are pleased that we think he can play at a very high level both defensively and tacklingly.”
It is also possible that Goedeke will move to the right to replace Shaq Mason, who was traded this week to help the team clear some space. The Bucs could also field another guard, or turn to the players on their existing roster.
The Bucs like their depth at Guard
Nick Leverett became the starting left guard in Week 8, replacing Goedeke, and performed well. Robert Hainsey, who started every regular season game at center for the injured Ryan Jensen, is also an option to move to Guard with Jensen’s return this year.
And the Bucs are also high on Brandon Walton, who saw some playing time at left tackle in several games due to injuries to Smith and former reserve tackle Josh Wells. Tampa Bay also re-signed guard Aaron Stinnie, who spent all of 2022 on injured reserve after injuring his knee in the preseason. Stinnie is about to return to action as his recovery wanes.
“We have a lot of confidence in Nick, Brandon, Robert – I think we have a lot of depth and players who can really start for us,” said Licht. “Now we are going to add to that.
“We have the off-season, we have the draft and we have all the way to our first game. We’re not playing in two weeks. So we have plenty of time for that. But we have a lot of faith in these guys. … We are also very excited about Aaron.”
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