Bucs’ new O-line: Tristan Wirfs moves to left tackle, Luke Goedeke likely to right
TAMPA — It’s official: Tristan Wirfs is moving from right to left tackle. The two-time Pro Bowl player and All-Pro is switching positions because the Bucs didn’t address their biggest need in the NFL draft.
Not in the first round. Not with any of the eight players they selected through seven rounds.
Four offensive tackles went before the Bucs’ pick at No. 19. Oklahoma left tackle Anton Harrison was still available and eventually went to Jacksonville eight picks later.
Instead, the Bucs went with the highest-rated player on their draft board in Pittsburgh defensive tackle Calijah Kancey.
Sometimes the winning lotto ticket doesn’t fall in your soup.
“It just sometimes doesn’t go the way you want,” Bucs vice president of player personnel John Spytek said Saturday as the draft wrapped up. “We all would’ve loved to add tackles, but I don’t want to lose enough games every year to be up there where those tackles typically go. We’ve got guys we feel good with. We’ve got guys who we know can compete.”
In 2020, Wirfs was the last of four elite tackles remaining in the draft when the Bucs traded up one spot with San Francisco to take the former Iowa star.
It’s hard to know what effort general manager Jason Licht made to plug the biggest hole in the offensive line. The Steelers traded up four spots with the Patriots to take Georgia tackle Broderick Jones.
So where does that leave the Bucs? If Wirfs is taking over at left tackle for Donovan Smith, who was released after eight seasons, who is filling his size 17 shoes?
The early betting favorite is Luke Goedeke, the Bucs’ second-round pick from Central Michigan a year ago.
Goedeke was a right tackle in college but the Bucs tried to shoehorn him in the starting lineup at left guard. He didn’t just switch sides, he changed positions.
Not surprisingly, Goedeke at times appeared as if he had two anvils for feet but played 69 percent of the offensive snaps. Only a foot injury forced the Bucs to go with Nick Leverett at left guard and he never let the starting job go.
The Bucs did use their second-round pick Friday on North Dakota State offensive lineman Cody Mauch, who played left tackle in college. But general manager Jason Licht said Mauch will play guard for the Bucs.
The Bucs have former Seminole High and Florida Atlantic offensive lineman Brandon Walton, who can play guard or tackle. The same is true with Chargers free agent Matt Feiler.
“We saw Luke play right tackle in an NFL game, we saw Luke play right tackle in Baton Rouge against some really good edge rushers in college,” Spytek said. “Am I betting my house that he’s going to be great at it? I wouldn’t bet my house on anything, probably, but I know he’ll go out there and compete. He’s done it at a good level. He’s going to give it everything he’s got.
“We’ve got Feiler, we’ve got Walton, we’ve got options, and we’ve got one of the best there is, too (in Wirfs), which most people can’t say.”
Goedeke played every snap at right tackle in the Bucs’ regular-season finale at Atlanta. Tampa Bay played their starters only a couple series and lost 30-17.
Indeed, Goedeke looked much more comfortable but the league’s worst rushing attack didn’t fare much better. Running back Rachaad White had four carries for 15 yards. Giovani Bernard and Ke’Shawn Vaughn got the bulk of the work, combining for 54 yards on 15 rushing attempts.
“We are excited about how Luke (Goedeke) did for us at tackle there at the end of the year — it’s his natural position,” Licht said.
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