Defying the usual lull in trades between the draft and training camp, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers completed a deal with the Chicago Bears to acquire Gabe Carimi in exchange for a sixth round pick in 2014.
The move was finalized on Monday, June 10, and the tackle reported to OTAs at One Buc Place a day later. Following an admirable stint at the University of Wisconsin, in which the 6'7" giant was awarded the 2010 Outland Trophy as the nation's top offensive lineman, Carimi was selected by Chicago with the 29th overall pick of the 2011 draft.
Doesn't Work Out in Chicago
The first rounder never met expectations in just two seasons with the Bears, during a period when Jay Cutler was under seemingly constant pressure, highlighted by absorbing 61 sacks in his last 25 games. Carimi's own misfortunes began by suffering a season-ending knee injury in the second game of 2011.
The tackle required multiple surgeries to get back on the field and progress was still lacking upon his return. Not only was Carimi benched in favor of mid-season signee, Jonathan Scott, but the second year player actually was shifted to guard for the first time in his career in 2012.
When Chicago inked free agent tackle Jermon Bushrod to a generous 5 year, $36 million contract in March, combined with the drafting of first round guard Kyle Long a month later, the Illinois native clearly became expendable.
Offensive Line Plans for Tampa Bay
For the Bucs, the exact nature of coach Greg Schiano's needs are slightly less transparent, but adding depth to the offensive line is never unwise, especially at minimal cost. Just last year, the team's expectations for possessing one of football's top blocking units were derailed, as both starting guards, Davin Joseph and Carl Nicks, experienced their own season-ending injuries.
While 30 year-old Donald Penn has been entrenched as the Bucs' starting left tackle since 2007, right tackle will witness a new opening day starter this fall. It is expected that Demar Dotson, who bested veteran Jeremy Trueblood during the 2012 campaign, will compete with Carimi for playing time. Indeed, Schiano lined up the new addition at right tackle during his first day of practice on Tuesday.
Yet, it may be unwise to interpret the club's situation with such precision.
Though admirably not missing a single game during the past five seasons, Penn's role could be re-evaluated by Schiano, just as Trueblood's job was reconsidered last year. Listed at 305 pounds, the 6'5" Penn always appears heavier and reportedly showed up to OTAs at a size unappreciated by the coaching staff. Penn is now on the back side of 30 years old, has never enjoyed significant athleticism, and is owed a hefty $18 million over the next three years.
In contrast, Carimi still possesses a pair of seasons on his modest rookie contract, while Dotson was rewarded by the Bucs with equally frugal 4 year, $4.5 million deal over the offseason.
Though the deal could affect Dotson's ability to have an impact, if I were Donald Penn, I would equally dislike this move by the Bucs, who surprisingly have not drafted an offensive lineman since selecting the less than memorable Xavier Fulton with a 5th round pick in 2009.
The trade for Carimi addresses that deficiency by catering to a group that has actually served Tampa Bay capably. If both tackles recover, and Jeremy Zuttah transitions smoothly to center, there is every reason to believe offensive line can be steady once again.
O-Line Looks Strong for 2013
In evaluating the line, rookie running back Doug Martin scrambled for an impressive 1,454 yards last season and credit for that unusually lofty feat must also go to his blockers. Furthermore, quarterback Josh Freeman was only sacked 26 times during 16 games of 2012. That number is among the fewest experienced by any full-time starter and is nearly half the wrap-ups of the NFL's most banged up signal callers.
For that accomplishment, credit again must be shared with the team's offensive line and its coach, Bob Bostad. Interestingly, Bostad likely lobbied significantly for the Carimi deal. Now in his second season under Schiano, Bostad was the offensive line coach and running game coordinator for Wisconsin from 2006 to 2011. That means the assistant worked closely with Carimi when the tackle thrived in college. Such a connection certainly gives the newest Buccaneer an edge and makes me wonder about the potential long-term planning anticipated by this trade.
Even if Gabe Carimi never lives up to his first round status, this trade is a solid one for the Tampa Bay Bucs. Reunited with his college position coach, fans can rightfully expect the 24 year-old still holds ample opportunity to blossom in new surroundings. With improved depth at tackle, and developing play-makers grateful for the increased protection, the Bucs' offensive line can be a robust asset in 2013.
More by Jeff Briscoe from Yahoo! Conributor Network:
Jeff Briscoe is a writer who covers sports for the Yahoo! Contributor Network . A loyal Tampa Bay Bucs fan, he co-hosts the Florida-based radio show, The Sports Train.
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- Gabe Carimi
- Chicago Bears
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- Greg Schiano