Pewter Report’s Jon Ledyard named Tomlinson, a 2021 Pro Bowler, as one of three viable free-agent options for the Bucs to fill the void left by Marpet. Ledyard also listed Brandon Scherff of Washington and Andrew Norwell of Jacksonville. All rated as the top-three free agent guards by Pro Football Focus.
Tomlinson, 30, could be the ideal target of the three. He hasn’t missed a start since 2017. His contract projection by Pro Football Focus notably falls between that of Scherff and Norwell.
If the Bucs can’t find a guard in free agency during March, Ledyard also suggested drafting a guard with the No. 27 pick in the April draft. He offered Zion Johnson of Boston College as the most likely option.
Making the right move behooves the Bucs as starting offensive lineman Alex Cappa and Ryan Jensen could leave in free agency. Both have market values north of $10 million. As Ledyard noted, the Bucs have some depth Aaron Stinnie, Nick Leverett, and Robert Hainsey; the team can’t afford to go the cheap route in free agency and then pass on a lineman in the first round of the draft.
The Bucs enjoyed continuity on the offensive line back-to-back seasons. The unit ranked No. 2 among offensive lines by Pro Football Focus.
Tomlinson Arguably the Best Value in Free Agency
Tomlinson offers arguably the best value for the Bucs.
He started all games for the 49ers in the past four seasons. Based on Pro Football Focus contract projections, Tomlinson’s value of $9 million annually for three seasons is lower than Scherff’s $16.67 million per year projection.
Tomlinson’s last contract paid him $16.5 million for three seasons. Ledyard noted that Tomlinson protects on rushing plays better than passing plays. The Bucs pass more versus the 49ers’ run-oriented offense.
“Tomlinson is a physical, high character player, but he’s more of a zone blocker than an ideal gap scheme guard,” Ledyard wrote. “He could work in Tampa Bay, but at 30 years old with a big scheme change ahead of him, it’s not ideal.”
Scherff, 30, would come with more than a bigger price tag for less durability — missed time due to injury every year since 2016 as Ledyard noted. Pro Football Focus graded Scherff at 73.6, a tie with Tomlinson.
Norwell, 30, graded lower than both at 66.7 and played for a three-win Jaguars squad in 2021. Ledyard likes him as a pass protector if the Bucs can land him for the right price.
Pro Football Focus projects an annual salary of $7.25 million over three years for Norwell. He made $15 million in Jacksonville last season per Spot Trac.
Johnson or Kenyon Green Ideal at Pick 27 for Bucs
Johnson, a three-year starter at Boston College, could give the Bucs a boost late in the first round of the draft. He gave up six pressures all season according to Pro Football Focus.
“He could be the best guard in a class with very few sure things,” Ledyard noted in his mock draft.
That title also went to Texas A&M guard Kenyon Green, who Pro Football Focus ranked higher than Johnson at No. 2 among interior linemen and first among guards. Green has versatility and has “absurd movement skills for a 325-pounder” per Pro Football Focus.
Green came in as the No. 21 pick in Ledyard’s mock draft, and it’s possible for Green to fall to the Bucs.