Bucs Put Their Guard Up With Mankins

This team thinks it can win right now.

With Tuesday’s announcement that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had traded away tight end Tim Wright and a fourth-round draft pick to the New England Patriots for offensive guard Logan Mankins, the Bucs sent a message to their fans that they intend to make a playoff push immediately. Although most thought a .500 season would be a nice improvement over last year, new head coach Lovie Smith and GM Jason Licht apparently have other ideas. By pulling the trigger on this deal, the team gets an instant upgrade at their most troubled position – offensive line.

Now don’t confuse this acquisition with the one in March of 2012 when Tampa Bay landed Saints Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks. At that time Nicks was widely regarded as maybe the best guard in the NFL and in the prime of his career. Mankins is 32 and already has nine years in the league, which puts him on the backside of his career, but he’s still an outstanding addition and one that should stabilize the Bucs up front. He’s a six-time Pro Bowler and five-time All-Pro and better than anything the Bucs would have found off the waiver wire.

It’s amazing that the Bucs front office didn’t bother to address guard until the fifth-round of this year’s draft (Kadeem Edwards) despite Nicks’ battles with MRSA. The probability of him ever returning to his dominate form was slim, yet the Bucs never seemed to generate a legit backup plan. Which is why they found themselves in big trouble after just three preseason games at guard. It’s been a revolving door at that position since camp opened in late July.

How desperate had the Bucs become? They brought in Richie Incognito, who had been suspended by the Miami Dolphins last season for bullying teammate Jonathan Martin, for a five-hour meeting on Monday. He reportedly left without a contract offer, but took with him the attention of the entire Bay area. Someone/Anyone had to be better than the current crop of Bucs guards.

I love this trade. They became a better football team by acquiring Mankins, who’s a bona fide leader. A guy that still has a lot of tread on the tires and played in big games while protecting one of the NFL’s most precious commodities. But maybe best of all, the Bucs recognized their deficiency and acted on it. I still don’t think it’s enough to put them over the top in 2014, but sometimes just thinking you can compete is half the battle.

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