TUESDAY, 9:06am: The Buccaneers have officially confirmed the signing of Cherilus, announcing that they’ve cut FB/TE Evan Rodriguez to clear room on the roster (Twitter link). The details on Cherilus’ two-year deal can be found here.
MONDAY, 3:09pm: After hosting free agent offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus for a visit today, the Buccaneers have agreed to terms with him on a two-year contract, reports Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (Twitter link). As Stroud adds (via Twitter), Cherilus is poised to replace injured right tackle Demar Dotson, who could be sidelined for six to eight weeks with a sprained MCL.
Cherilus, who was released by the Colts in late July, started 29 games for the club at right tackle over the past two seasons. However, after a solid first season in Indianapolis, the 31-year-old struggled last year. Pro Football Focus (subscription required) ranked Cherilus 70th out of 84 qualified tackles, and he graded particularly poorly as a pass blocker. According to PFF’s data, he allowed six quarterback sacks, another 42 hits or hurries.
Despite his down year, Cherilus appeared to draw plenty of interest when he became a free agent. The veteran tackle reportedly visited the Bills and Lions, and Stroud tweets that the Chiefs and Vikings had some interest in him as well. Per Stroud, the Colts were also interested in bringing back Cherilus at a reduced salary.
While the financial terms of Cherilus’ new two-year deal with the Bucs aren’t yet known, he’ll certainly make less than he would have in Indianapolis, had the Colts held onto him. The former first-round pick signed a five-year, $35MM contract with the Colts back in 2013, and would’ve counted for $6.9MM against the team’s cap in 2015, including a $4MM base salary, if he hadn’t been released.
In Tampa Bay, Cherilus looks like the favorite to start the season at right tackle, though it’s not clear if he’ll continue to get regular playing time after Dotson returns from his MCL injury. Currently, second-round pick Donovan Smith is penciled in as the Bucs’ starter at left tackle, so his performance early in the season could determine whether or not there’s room on the line for Cherilus throughout the year.