8:24pm: Dotson’s MCL sprain will keep him out of action for roughly six weeks, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link).
3:19pm: Head coach Lovie Smith says Dotson will be out “for a period of time,” tweets Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com, while Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune reports (Twitter link) that the Bucs believe he will return at some point during the season.
8:44am: Buccaneers right tackle Demar Dotson suffered a sprained left MCL in last night’s preseason contest against the Vikings, according to Rick Stroud of The Tampa Bay Times (via Twitter). Dotson will have an MRI today to determine the extent of the injury. Tom Pelissero of USA Today Sports first tweeted that Dotson was believed to have sustained a sprained MCL.
Dotson has been a steady presence on the right side of Tampa Bay’s line, starting all but one of the team’s regular season games since 2012. Dotson has recorded a positive grade in each of the last three seasons according to Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics (subscription required), and he ranked 28th out of 84 qualified tackles last year. He even held down the left tackle spot for three games in 2014.
Dotson is under club control through 2016, but he was understandably seeking a new contract this summer, as he has considerably outperformed his current deal that carries an average annual value of $1.5MM (he is set to earn $2.5MM this year). Although Dotson and the Bucs were reportedly close to agreement on a new contract, the fact that Dotson skipped voluntary workouts in an effort to rework his deal complicated the matter, as Tampa Bay’s team policy prohibits the negotiation of contracts with players who are absent from workouts, whether those workouts are voluntary or mandatory. Even though Dotson ultimately reported to mandatory minicamp and changed agents, it does not appear that the dialogue picked up much steam.
Needless to say, a season-ending injury would be a major blow for the Bucs, who are trying to give Jameis Winston as many chances to succeed as possible. Patrick Omameh is listed as the backup right tackle on the team’s depth chart. Notable free agents still available include players like Jake Long and Tyson Clabo. We will pass along updates on the severity of Dotson’s injury when they become available.