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Thursday, January 9, 2014
Bucs have big money invested in O-line

By Pat Yasinskas

TAMPA, Fla. -- Whenever the Buccaneers get around to hiring a general manager, one thing is going to jump out at him when he sits down and looks at the payroll.

The offensive line is taking up a ton of space toward the 2014 salary cap.

Four offensive linemen -- Carl Nicks, Davin Joseph, Donald Penn and Jeremy Zuttah -- are scheduled to count a combined $27.09 million against the cap.

That would be fine if this was a star-studded offensive line. But the fact is the offensive line wasn't very good in 2013. The running game never found any consistency and the pass blocking wasn't great.

It's a pretty safe assumption that the coaching staff and front office will decide to make changes to the offensive line. The area could be addressed in the draft or free agency or a combination of the two.

And it's possible the Bucs will either restructure the contracts of some of their high-priced offensive linemen or decide to release them. Joseph ($6 million), Penn ($7.733 million) and Zuttah ($4 million) could be released with almost no salary cap implications.

Nicks is a little trickier. His scheduled cap figure is $9.357 million, but $6 million of his base salary is guaranteed against injury. Nicks missed most of last season with MRSA and a toe injury and there's uncertainty about whether he'll be able to get back to 100 percent.

Right tackle Demar Dotson is the only member of the projected starting offensive line who doesn't have a big cap figure. Dotson is scheduled to count $1.25 million against the cap and that amount is fully guaranteed.