TAMPA – We told you here a couple of days ago that the Buccaneers felt pretty good about the makeup of their offensive line, and they reaffirmed that feeling on Wednesday when they re-signed free agent center Joe Hawley.
Hawley is once again expected to battle with Evan Smith for the starting center’s job but when that battle begins again here in a few weeks it may include a few new combatants.
The Bucs have made no secret of their belief that Kevin Pamphile and Ali Marpet can play center as well and the return of guard J.R. Sweezy could still result in one of them making that move.
Some Bucs fans may find the timing of the Hawley re-signing interesting, because it came just as we were learning that the Ravens were trading center Jermey Zuttah to the 49ers instead of releasing him.
A former Buccaneer, Zuttah is a player many Bucs fans seemed anxious for the Bucs to make a play for but FloridaFootballInsiders learned that the Bucs were never very interested in Zuttah.
The problem the Bucs or any other team may have with the former Rutgers standout is his size and strength. Even at 6-foot-4 and 300 pounds he’s always had a tendency to get overwhelmed by more powerful tackles.
That’s one of the reasons the Bucs, who drafted Zuttah in the third round in 2008, let him go free in the first place three years ago, and it’s likely why they passed again this time.
Hawley, meanwhile, came to Tampa Bay in 2015 after the Falcons had released him on the eve of the regular season.
His familiarity with Dirk Koetter’s offense in Atlanta made him a natural for the Bucs. He anchored an O-Line which helped Doug Martin finish second in the NFL in rushing that year.
There is still a bit of concern about Hawley’s ability to stand up over the long haul, especially after he missed time last year with a leg issue, but the Bucs like his toughness and attitude and have rewarded him for it.