Buccaneers T Josh Wells Suffers Season-Ending Knee Injury

Tampa Bay earned a come-from-behind, overtime win last night to maintain their lead atop the NFC South. The Buccaneers lost another member of their offensive line for the remainder of the season in the process, however.

Swing tackle Josh Wells suffered a torn patellar tendon in his left knee and is out for the year, reports Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (on Twitter). He was carted off the field after just 16 snaps yesterday, and was quickly ruled out by the team. That invited speculation that a major injury had occurred, and today’s news confirms that Tampa’s o-line has been dealt another blow.

Wells, 31, was set to make his fourth consecutive start in place of an injured starter at tackle on Sunday, having filled in for Tristan Wirfs the previous three weeks. The latter returned for Week 16, but blindside protector Donovan Smith was unable to play, requiring Wells to shift to the left tackle spot. Wells had already logged the most snaps in a season of his four-year tenure with the Buccaneers (310) prior to suffering the injury.

The former UDFA has made 56 total appearances in Tampa Bay since signing there in 2019. His experience filling in when needed and familiarity with the organization led to a fourth consecutive one-year deal this offseason. The injuries to Wirfs, and then Smith, highlighted his importance despite logging an overall snap share of only 41% on the year. Wells’ PFF grade for 2022 (67.8) was the second-highest of his career, behind only the rating from his rookie campaign in Jacksonville.

This news adds further to the tumult Tampa Bay has endured with respect to their offensive line this season. Both starting guard spots needed replacing with the retirement of Ali Marpet and the free agent departure of Alex Cappa. That was followed by center Ryan Jensen going down with what is expected to be a season-ending injury of his own. The unit’s availability issues – which included Wells being placed on IR in September – have contributed to Tampa’s inconsistency on offense, which has seen the team rank last in rushing production.

If Smith (whom head coach Todd Bowles recently considered benching for performance reasons) is unable to suit up in Week 17, Tampa will likely turn to undrafted rookie Brandon Walton to fill in for him. The latter played 65 snaps in relief of Wells after he went down, and could have a significant role to play in the closing weeks of the season.

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