TAMPA, Fla. — A reshuffling of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ offensive line has begun with the release of two-time Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph.
The Bucs cut Joseph on Saturday morning, three days before the start of free agency. The move ends Joseph’s eight-year career with Tampa Bay since he was taken 23rd overall in the 2006 NFL draft. The Oklahoma product played in 100 games, starting 99 times during that span, and he made the Pro Bowl after the 2008 and 2011 seasons.
"For a new GM, Mr. (Jason) Licht, and coach Lovie Smith, they wanted to go in another direction, and I understand," Joseph told FOX Sports Florida. "It’s a business at the end of the day. It’s their house and their rules. I’ll search the market and see if I can go somewhere else and bring the same attitude — just playing as hard as I can on Sundays."
Smith had made it known that he was disappointed with the performance of the Bucs’ high-priced offensive linemen during the final season of Greg Schiano’s regime. Joseph was scheduled to make $6 million next season, and he was reportedly shopped as a possible trade piece before his release Saturday.
"Decisions like this are never easy when it comes to parting ways with players such as Davin," Bucs general manager Jason Licht said in a release.
"We thank Davin for his contributions on and off the field during his eight years in Tampa Bay and we wish him well in the future. Every decision we make during this time leading up to free agency is with the intention of improving our roster and building towards becoming a championship team once again."
Joseph, 30, sustained a devastating right-knee injury in August 2012 when he tore his patellar tendon during a preseason victory over the New England Patriots at Raymond James Stadium. He returned last season and started all 16 games, but he fell short of reaching the standard that made him one of the league’s best offensive linemen early in his career.
Still, his absence means a leadership void in the locker room could be felt. He served as the Bucs’ NFLPA player rep this past season. He also was a reasoned, well-spoken voice during the MRSA and Josh Freeman controversies, something that was needed when the Bucs worked through the turmoil.
"I really look forward to another opportunity to play for an organization that wants me to play there," Joseph said. "I look forward to a new opportunity."
Joseph’s release gives the Bucs more cap space before the start of free agency at 4 p.m. Tuesday, an asset for Smith and Licht as they work to build the roster in their image. The NFL’s "legal tampering period," a window in which teams can contact representatives of free agents, began at noon Saturday.
Expect a re-shaping of Tampa Bay’s offensive line, now without Joseph, to continue.