Tristan Wirfs

Buccaneers Discussing Tristan Wirfs Move To Left Tackle

Tristan Wirfs became extension-eligible in January; he could soon have a chance to increase his price. The Buccaneers are considering shifting Wirfs from right to left tackle.

The team has discussed this change, and Jeremy Fowler of notes Wirfs is open to a move. This is not viewed as a lock just yet, but The Athletic’s Dan Pompei writes the assumption is the former first-round pick will change positions ahead of his fourth season (subscription required).

Unlike a number of NFL right tackles, Wirfs did not primarily play on the left side in college. He spent more time on the right side while at Iowa, though his 2019 All-American year included three blindside starts. This would be an interesting transition for Wirfs, and the Bucs have laid the groundwork for it by cutting Donovan Smith.

Smith, 29, spent the past eight seasons as Tampa Bay’s left tackle; only Paul Gruber enjoyed a longer run at that spot in the franchise’s 47-season history. Smith signed three contracts with the Bucs but will now be in search of a second team, as the franchise that pushed its chips in during Tom Brady‘s tenure deals with a cap crunch. The Bucs making Smith a cap casualty opens the door for Wirfs, 24, to make his mark at the higher-profile tackle spot.

Other high-end right tackles have been connected to possible position changes. Lane Johnson was once viewed as a Jason Peters heir apparent in Philadelphia, and Ryan Ramczyk has been mentioned as a candidate to switch sides in New Orleans. Both have stayed at right tackle, however, and a Wirfs switch does run the risk of the Bucs cutting into one of their biggest strengths — after a season in which the team struggled at the non-Wirfs O-line spots. Wirfs earned first-team All-Pro recognition in 2021 and second-team acclaim last season. He became an instant starter as a rookie and provided strong protection for Brady during the Bucs’ Super Bowl LV-winning march.

By exercising Wirfs’ fifth-year option (which the Bucs will do) by May, they can push out his contract year to 2024. If this position move comes to pass and Wirfs thrives on the left side, his price will likely rise. The league’s top three left tackles each earn north of $22MM per year; no right tackle is tied to a deal past the $19.2MM-AAV mark. The top right tackle deal (Ramczyk’s) also contains language that would bump his pay if he moved to left tackle and excelled.

Following through with this transition will also shift the Bucs’ top need up front to right tackle. Although this is a good year to need a right tackle, as free agency will feature a few quality options, the Bucs would seemingly focus on the draft here. They still have a ways to go to move under the salary cap.

NFL Injury Rumors: Week 17 Updates

Updates to injury questions heading into the Sunday slate of games:

  • Cardinals star receiver DeAndre Hopkins will miss this Sunday’s game in Atlanta with a knee injury, according to the team’s final injury report. The injury seemed to appear from nowhere late this week and, with the Cardinals eliminated from playoff contention, it would not be a surprise to see Hopkins sit for the remainder of the season. Quarterbacks David Blough and Trace McSorley will have to rely on Marquise Brown, Greg Dortch, A.J. Green, Robbie Anderson, Pharoh Cooper, and recently promoted Andre Baccellia in the meantime.
  • The Commanders will have to face Cleveland tomorrow without running back Antonio Gibson, according to the team’s official Twitter account. With Gibson out due to an ankle sprain, Washington will likely continue to rely heavily on rookie starter Brian Robinson. Veteran running back Jonathan Williams will likely find himself in an increased role tomorrow, as will elevated practice squad back Jaret Patterson.
  • Despite returning to practice this week, 49ers star receiver Deebo Samuel is unable to play this weekend against the Raiders, according to Matt Barrows of The Athletic. Rookie quarterback Brock Purdy will have at least one more week depending on the likes of Brandon Aiyuk, Jauan Jennings, Ray-Ray McCloud, tight end George Kittle, and running back Christian McCaffrey without Samuel. Head coach Kyle Shanahan indicated that there’s “a chance” Samuel will be able to return next week.
  • Buccaneers right tackle Tristan Wirfs reportedly aggravated his ankle injury last week against the Cardinals, but according to Jenna Laine of ESPN, Wirfs intends on playing regardless. Tampa Bay is also hoping to get starting left tackle Donovan Smith back for tomorrow’s game against the Panthers. If Smith does play, it will be the first time the two have appeared in a game together since a Week 12 loss to the Browns.
  • The Texans have confirmed that two starters are no longer in question to play this weekend as right tackle Tytus Howard and rookie left guard Kenyon Green are both expected to play against the Jaguars, according to Aaron Wilson of KPRC 2. Howard had to clear concussion protocol in order to play this weekend and successfully did so. Green has missed Houston’s last two contests with an ankle injury but has reportedly improved considerably. Backup interior lineman Jimmy Morrissey was unable to clear concussion protocol and will be unable to play this Sunday.

NFC Injury Rumors: Baker, Lynch, Bucs

Cardinals star safety Budda Baker suffered a fractured shoulder last Sunday in the team’s overtime loss to the Buccaneers, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. Despite the fact that Baker didn’t exit the game, he is expected to sit out the final two games of the regular season. Considering the fact that Arizona has already been eliminated from postseason contention, there’s no reason to risk further injury to the heart and soul of the team’s defense.

For the last two games of the season, Arizona will likely start the next man on the depth chart, veteran safety Chris Banjo. Baker was voted to the Pro Bowl this year, meaning a replacement will have to be made for him in that game, as well. 49ers safety Talanoa Hufanga should get the start in place of Baker, but the alternate to replace his spot has yet to be named. Vikings safety Harrison Smith and Lions safety Kerby Joseph were both top vote getters in fan voting, though.

Here are a few other injury rumors from around the NFC:

  • Another player set to miss the remainder of the regular season, Vikings defensive lineman James Lynch is dealing with a shoulder injury, according to Rapoport. The young defender has graded out impressively as the league’s 41st-best interior defender, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), despite not holding a starting position. Minnesota is pulling him back from play now in order to rehab him in hopes that he will be able to make a return in the playoffs. Dalvin Tomlinson and Harrison Phillips will continue to start on the defensive line, but Lynch’s absence should open the door for Khyiris Tonga and Esezi Otomewo to earn more snaps in rotation.
  • The Buccaneers have not had both of their starting tackles active in a game together since Week 12. While Tampa Bay finally got right tackle Tristan Wirfs back from injury last weekend, left tackle Donovan Smith was unable play with a foot injury. Wirfs, who had missed three straight games with an ankle injury, reportedly aggravated the injury when a player fell on him from behind, according to Buccaneers senior writer/editor Scott Smith. Head coach Todd Bowles told media that he hopes Smith can return this week and, while he was unclear on Wirfs availability for next week, Bowles called the situation “not ideal.”

NFC Injury Rumors: Rams, Peat, Buccaneers

Injuries continue to hamper the Rams in the final stretch of the season. News earlier this week confirmed that calf strains to center Brian Allen and wide receiver Ben Skowronek “are severe enough to sideline them for the rest of the season,” according to team staff writer Stu Jackson. That leaves Los Angeles down two more starters as the Super Bowl hangover continues.

Allen has had a disappointing season, health-wise. After missing five weeks while dealing with a knee injury early on in the year, then two more with a thumb issue, the calf strain has finally put an end to Allen’s tumultuous 2022 season. Starting guard Coleman Shelton, who has plenty of past experience at center, moved inside when Allen left last week’s game and will continue to start at center for the remainder of the season. To replace Shelton at right guard, the team will choose between backup linemen Bobby Evans, Oday Aboushi, and Zach Thomas.

Not that there was much damage left to do to the battle-worn Rams, but Skowronek is yet another damaging loss to the team. With starting receivers Cooper Kupp and Allen Robinson already on injured reserve, Skowronek was Los Angeles’s leading wideout still on the active roster. With the former Notre Dame tight end joining Kupp and Robinson as out for the remainder of the year, quarterback Baker Mayfield will be passing to Van Jefferson, Tutu Atwell, Brandon Powell, Austin Trammell, and Lance McCutcheon.

Allen and Skowronek add their names to the litany of Rams’ starters who have gone down for the year. Here are a few other injury rumors from around the NFC, focusing on a couple teams in the South:

  • Saints starting guard Andrus Peat left Saturday’s win over the Browns with an ankle injury and did not return. Peat is no stranger to injuries, having struggled with them throughout his NFL career. His absence, though, puts New Orleans in a tough spot as it succeeded in remaining in the NFC South race with Saturday’s victory. Already down starting right guard Cesar Ruiz, who is out for the year with a Lisfranc injury, the Saints are having to put together a patchwork offensive line. Peat’s usual backup, Calvin Throckmorton, started the game in place of Ruiz. With backup guard Lewis Kidd inactive, New Orleans had to turn to Josh Andrews, a practice squad center who had been a gameday elevation. The severity of the injury has yet to be determined, but an extended absence from Peat would make it even more difficult for the Saints to clinch a playoff spot down the stretch.
  • The Buccaneers ruled out three starters for today’s matchup with the Cardinals, according to Greg Auman of FOX Sports. Starting tackle Donovan Smith, defensive tackle Vita Vea, and cornerback Jamel Dean have all been ruled out, as has outside linebacker Carl Nassib. With the bad news comes the good news that Tampa Bay’s other starting tackle Tristan Wirfs is expected to play today. Backup tackle Josh Wells, who was also questionable coming into this week, will likely start in place of Smith. Vea’s role should be filled by Rakeem Nunez-Roches and Dean will likely be replaced by a combination of Sean Murphy-Bunting, Dee Delaney, and Zyon McCollum.

NFC South Notes: Panthers, Hayward, Wirfs

Next year’s running back market stands to feature a glut of starter-caliber options. Even if the Giants and Raiders respectively keep Saquon Barkley and Josh Jacobs from hitting free agency, potential first-time free agents Miles Sanders, Tony Pollard, David Montgomery, Damien Harris, Devin Singletary and Alexander Mattison are unsigned through 2023. Ditto Kareem Hunt, who is expected to hit the market after the Browns held off on a deadline trade. Jeff Wilson and Jamaal Williams would also be intriguing second-go-round UFAs, but the Panthers have a player in a similar position.

D’Onta Foreman signed a one-year, $2MM deal to relocate from Charlotte to Nashville this offseason, and he has continued his Titans pace. Christian McCaffrey‘s replacement, who ended up being Derrick Henry‘s top fill-in last year, now has seven 100-yard games over his past 13. Teams are monitoring the former third-round pick’s status, according to Jeremy Fowler of The Panthers have Chuba Hubbard signed through 2024, and although they are likely to change coaching staffs come January, Foreman makes sense as a re-sign candidate. Despite being a 2017 draftee, he is just 26. And thanks to a lengthy hiatus that covered much of a three-year stretch from 2018-20, the ex-Texas Longhorn only has 366 career carries. That bodes well for more quality seasons being ahead.

Here is the latest from the NFC South:

  • Casey Hayward has been on IR since mid-October; he has been eligible to return for a bit now. But the Falcons cornerback is not a lock to come back this year, per’s Scott Bair, who notes the 11th-year veteran underwent shoulder surgery after hitting the injured list. Hayward and the Saints’ Chris Harris are the NFL’s oldest active-roster cornerbacks, at 33, and the former represents a key defender for a team gunning for an unexpected division title. Hayward signed a two-year, $11MM deal to come over from Las Vegas. The Falcons have used second-year man Darren Hall in his place. Pro Football Focus does rank Hall, a fourth-round pick out of San Diego State, 35th overall among corners this season.
  • The Buccaneers are expected to be without Tristan Wirfs for a bit because of a high ankle sprain. While the team is hoping the All-Pro right tackle can return in three or four weeks, Fowler adds the third-year blocker could be facing a five- or six-week absence. Some ligament damage occurred, per Fowler, but Wirfs is not expected to need surgery. This timetable would put run up against the end of the regular season, though the Bucs have not placed Wirfs on IR yet.
  • Whereas Foreman’s free agency stock is rising, Baker Mayfield‘s keeps tumbling. Steve Wilks announced Sam Darnold will start in Week 14 against the Seahawks but stopped short of declaring Mayfield the backup, Joe Person of The Athletic tweets. Mayfield’s QB2 status depends on P.J. Walker‘s health, according to Wilks. This certainly points to Wilks having more confidence in the ex-XFLer. Despite pushing for Offensive Rookie of the Year acclaim and playing a lead role in snapping one of major American sports’ longest playoff droughts two years later, Mayfield will likely need to sign a one-year deal and attempt to prove himself once again. Mayfield, 27, remains last in QBR among qualified starters.

Buccaneers RT Tristan Wirfs Facing Multi-Week Absence

The Buccaneers suffered an overtime defeat to the Browns yesterday, but the health of one of their top offensive players was a key talking point in the aftermath of the game. Right tackle Tristan Wirfs was carted off the field with an ankle injury, leading to fears of a lengthy absence and a resultant blow to Tampa’s offensive line.

X-Rays were negative, however, leading to hope that the worst-case scenario had been avoided. Head coach Todd Bowles confirmed as much on Monday, saying that Wirfs is dealing with a high ankle sprain. That will still likely lead to a stretch where the All-Pro is sidelined, though. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports that a three-to-four week recovery timeline can be expected, and that, encouragingly, surgery does not appear to be necessary at this point (Twitter link).

Wirfs has yet to miss any time in his NFL career, operating as an immediate full-time starter at the right tackle spot after being drafted 13th overall in 2020. His elite PFF grades have continued this season, with an 87.3 overall mark in 2022 – the third-highest amongst qualifying offensive tackles. His absence will therefore be felt by a Buccaneers team which has seen a steep drop-off in effectiveness up front this season compared to the recent past.

Tampa is without all three of their starters along the interior of their o-line from last season, after Ali Marpet retired in February and fellow guard Alex Cappa signed with the Bengals in free agency. Center Ryan Jensen is under contract, but is not expected to return to game action in 2022 as a result of a major knee injury. That left Wirfs and left tackle Donovan Smith facing an increased burden to provide stability for the team’s offense this year, one which has been marred by inconsistency and an underwhelming ground game.

Bowles called Wirfs week-to-week, setting the team up for their second-ever instance of needing to replace him. The Iowa product missed one playoff game last year, also due to a serious ankle injury which, despite initial indications, also did not require surgery. Veteran Josh Wells and undrafted rookie Brandon Walton are available as options to fill in down the stretch, as Tampa looks to get a firmer grip on their NFC South lead in the coming weeks.

Buccaneers Rumors: CBs, OL, RBs, Mason

In line with reports we’ve been following all summer, it appears that Tampa Bay cornerback Jamel Dean has seized the starting job opposite Carlton Davis, according to Greg Auman of The Athletic. Dean was battling it out with Sean Murphy-Bunting who has held a starting role for much of his young career with the Buccaneers but whose injuries last season left the door open for Dean to make a run for the position. Recent reports seemed to indicate that Dean had the inside track on the starting role, but Auman was able to confirm it.

It was also discussed recently that if Murphy-Bunting was unable to win the job, he would only be able to come on the field in a backup capacity, since the Buccaneers would prefer to man three safeties in their nickel package this year. In nickel packages, Tampa Bay will use Davis and Dean on the outside with safeties Antoine Winfield, Logan Ryan, and Mike Edwards manning the rest of the secondary.

Head coach Todd Bowles spelled out the situation for Murphy-Bunting after awarding the starting job to Dean, saying that “he doesn’t plan on rotating his outside corners,” meaning that Murphy-Bunting’s playing time will largely come as a sub in both base and nickel packages.

Here are a few more rumors coming out of central Florida, starting with some more news on the depth chart:

  • After a frustrating offseason that saw Tampa Bay offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs deal with a postseason ankle injury, and an oblique strain once his ankle had healed, the 23-year-old finally got some good news. After he practiced the last two days, Bowles told the media that Wirfs was trending towards being able to play in Week 1, according to Andrew Crane of the Tampa Bay Times. Another youngster should be joining Wirfs on the line as rookie second-round pick Luke Goedeke is in line to start at right guard for the Buccaneers. Tampa Bay doesn’t really have much of a choice with Aaron Stinnie and Ryan Jensen on injured reserve, but Goedeke will get an early opportunity to prove his draft-stock.
  • Despite his lack of experience against elite talent, rookie running back Rachaad White is drawing elite comparisons. The smooth, patient running-style that has drawn comparisons to such standouts as Marcus Allen, Edgerrin James, and Le’Veon Bell, has elevated White above Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Giovani Bernard on the depth chart, according to Auman. Tampa Bay realized that potential talent when they drafted him in the third round and they’ll hope to see some of those comparisons make their way into football games.
  • Tampa Bay got a little bit of breathing room in their cap space today as starting guard Shaq Mason agreed to restructure his contract, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. The renegotiated deal will free up over $6MM against the cap this season for the Buccaneers.

Bucs G Aaron Stinnie Out For Season

Buccaneers guard Aaron Stinnie tore the ACL and MCL in his left knee during Saturday’s preseason loss to the Titans and will miss the entire 2022 season, as head coach Todd Bowles confirmed to reporters. Jenna Laine of reported the news (via Twitter) shortly before Bowles’ announcement.

This was the feared outcome after Stinnie was carted off the field, and it will further test an O-line that does not seem capable of withstanding many more losses. Seven-year starter Ali Marpet surprisingly announced his retirement in February, three-year starter Alex Cappa signed with the Bengals in March, and center Ryan Jensen may be lost for the season after sustaining a serious knee injury of his own. At the very least, it appears that Jensen will miss significant time.

Stinnie, who re-signed with Tampa this offseason on a one-year deal worth up to $2.5MM, was competing with Nick Leverett and second-round rookie Luke Goedeke for the starting left guard gig. Leverett was also battling Robert Hainsey for the starting pivot role in Jensen’s absence, though recent reports have suggested that Hainsey may have that job sewn up.

Stinnie, 28, signed with the Titans as a UDFA in 2018. Tampa claimed him off waivers from Tennessee in 2019, and he became a valuable contributor for the Bucs during their 2020 Super Bowl run. He started the final three playoff games that season — including Super Bowl LV — in the wake of Cappa’s ankle injury.

Bowles did have some good news for Bucs fans today, announcing that right tackle Tristan Wirfs, who sustained an oblique injury, is not at risk of missing Week 1 and is considered day-to-day (Twitter link via Scott Smith of the team’s official website). Bowles added that, while he is comfortable with his existing OL depth, he expects the club to monitor the FA market for reinforcements.

NFC South Notes: Wirfs, Trask, Saints, Gilmore

The Buccaneers cruised on Super Wild Card Weekend to a mostly stress-free victory over the Eagles in January. While they were all smiles on the field, in the locker room, Pro Bowl right tackle Tristan Wirfs was preparing himself for a lengthy recovery. Wirfs left the game early in the first quarter with an apparent ankle injury and, soon after, found out that he had suffered two torn ligaments, including one off the bone, and was initially thought to need surgery to repair his ankle.

Well, according to The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, a second opinion informed Wirfs that surgery was not necessary and, after receiving an injection in the ankle, he’s made progress in his recovery and is expected to avoid surgery altogether.

Here are some other notes from the NFC South, starting with another note from central Florida:

  • According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, head coach Bruce Arians has announced that quarterback Kyle Trask will be given a legitimate chance to replace Tom Brady in training camp. With the retirement of Brady leaving the position behind center wide open for the taking, the second-year player out of the nearby University of Florida will attempt to show his worth as the team’s second-round pick from last year. Veteran Blaine Gabbert spent the 2021 season as Brady’s primary backup, but he is heading back to the free agent market, unless Arians and company decide to bring him back. As of right now, Trask is the only active quarterback on contract in Tampa Bay. It has yet to be seen whom his competition will be.
  • On Monday, news dropped that the University of Alabama’s director of sports science, Dr. Matt Rhea, is expected to join the staff in New Orleans, according to Josh Pate of CBS Sports. Rhea has worked with the Tide for two years after a similar stint on staff with the Indiana Hoosiers. He also brings with him 13 years of experience as a strength and conditioning coach.
  • The Panthers acquired former Defensive Player of the Year Stephon Gilmore via a trade with the Patriots last season. After overcoming an early quad injury to start the season, Gilmore put forth an impressive performance in eight games for Carolina. The Panthers would love to bring Gilmore back on a new deal, but, with Gilmore expected to draw offers up to $14MM, he is expected to test free agency, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

NFC South Notes: Pickett, Bucs, Falcons

The Panthers have received substandard quarterback play for several years and still have Sam Darnold‘s fully guaranteed fifth-year option ($18.9MM) on their books going forward. While Carolina will undoubtedly be linked to veteran passers — potentially Deshaun Watson for a second straight offseason — the team may have early interest in Pitt prospect Kenny Pickett. The Panthers are believed to be high on Pickett, per CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora, who notes multiple evaluators do not believe the ACC talent will make it past Carolina’s No. 6 overall pick. Panthers owner David Tepper was previously a minority Steelers owner and, per JLC, is a Pitt booster, connecting some dots here. Tepper was believed to be behind the Panthers’ aggressive Watson interest last year, before the Texans QB’s legal issues surfaced. Based on that and the team’s push for Matthew Stafford last year, it can be assumed the owner will endorse a splashy QB addition. Although this year’s crop of prospects is not viewed especially well, Pickett impressed at the Senior Bowl and would give the Panthers a low-cost starter amid the Darnold deal.

Here is the latest from the NFC South:

  • Tristan Wirfs could not finish the Buccaneers‘ wild-card win and missed their divisional-round Rams matchup, halting a quality run of durability to start his career. Tampa Bay’s All-Pro right tackle is moving toward taking care of his recent ankle issue. Wirfs plans to undergo surgery, per The Athletic’s Jeff Howe (subscription required). Although Bruce Arians said a non-surgical option exists (via’s Scott Smith), the standout blocker suffered a rather severe ankle injury. The former first-round pick tore two ligaments, one ripping off the bone completely, Howe adds. Wirfs said he will undoubtedly be ready for training camp.
  • The Bucs have not made a roster move regarding Tom Brady yet, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk notes, despite the all-time great announcing his retirement last week. The team has $32MM in dead money associated with its two-year quarterback. A post-June 1 placement on the reserve-retired list would defray $24MM of that total to 2023. The Saints and Panthers did this with Drew Brees and Luke Kuechly, respectively, over the past two offseasons. The Bucs doing this would also mean they would retain Brady’s rights for 2022, entitling them to compensation if the ageless passer decides he wants to play again but for another team. Should the Bucs release Brady after June 1, he would be free to sign with any team.
  • Falcons director of pro personnel Steve Sabo is leaving the team. Sabo spent the past 12 years with the Falcons, working in various roles. Previous GM Thomas Dimitroff hired Sabo, but he stayed on in Terry Fontenot‘s first year. Sabo previously served as the Falcons’ college scouting director.
  • The Panthers made a change in their front office recently as well. They are promoting cap guru Samir Suleiman to a newly created position of VP of football administration, Ian Rapoport of tweets. Suleiman previously worked as Carolina’s salary cap manager.