National Football League
Former Eagles guard Sua Opeta eager to grab Bucs' starting job
National Football League

Former Eagles guard Sua Opeta eager to grab Bucs' starting job

Published May. 28, 2024 3:31 p.m. ET

TAMPA — The competition for the Bucs' starting left guard job will likely carry into training camp, but when the team lined up for its first OTA practice last week, the guy with the first crack at the job was veteran Sua Opeta, signed as a free agent after five years with the Eagles.

"He's been a pleasant surprise," coach Todd Bowles said after the team's workout Tuesday. "He's tough. He comes off the ball, he's an excellent run blocker. You can't really see the pass block until the pads come on, but right now, he's tough, shows up every day, really gets off the ball."

The Bucs want to upgrade their interior offensive line, and took a big step in using their first-round pick on center Graham Barton from Duke. But they'll have a new starter at left guard as well, with veterans Matt Feiler and Aaron Stinnie gone.

"I think it's an incredible opportunity," the 6-foot-4, 315-pound Opeta said of competing to start with the Bucs. "I've worked really hard the past five years to get to the level of play I'm at now, and I feel like it's definitely an open spot, and I'm ready to take it."


Opeta, 27, is a story of persistence, joining the Eagles as an undrafted rookie in 2019 out of Weber State, getting cut five times before finally settling in as an every-week player last season. Obscured as a backup on one of the best lines in the NFL, Opeta had only four starts in his first four seasons in Philadelphia, then got a chance to prove himself last year, making six starts and playing 59% of the team's offensive snaps.

"As far as a confidence booster, it was huge for me last year," Opeta said. "I played over 500 snaps, whereas before, it'd be like two or three starts a year. To play week after week like that last year, it was a great opportunity, and I feel like I ran with it. That's what I'm trying to do here."

The Bucs signed another veteran in Ben Bredeson, who started 16 games for the Giants last year, and used a sixth-round pick on UTEP's Elijah Klein, so there will be good competition in coming months. Opeta worked with the starting line last week, but on Tuesday, it was Bredeson working there as coaches try different combinations early on to see what their options are.

Being in Philadelphia allowed Opeta to learn from a pair of future Hall of Fame linemen in center Jason Kelce and tackle Lane Johnson, and also lining up behind a Pro Bowl guard the past two years in Landon Dickerson. They taught him how to be a professional, to come in every day ready to work and improve. The Eagles are two years removed from a Super Bowl, but they also had two of their postseasons with Opeta end in Tampa against the Bucs in 2019 and 2023. Leaving the Eagles gave him a clearer path to regular playing time with the Bucs.

"You don't really think about it too much and just take on the role you're given at the time, but yeah, in the back of your mind, you're wondering, 'Are there more opportunities elsewhere?'" Opeta said.

He said one of the things that drew him to Tampa was the chance to play next to an All-Pro tackle in Tristan Wirfs. Opeta has already seen how Wirfs holds himself in the weight room, and he's looking forward to being able to practice with him. With a new offensive coordinator and line coach in Tampa, Opeta liked the idea of everyone starting from scratch with an open competition for jobs.

"They don't have their specific guys, so to come in with fresh eyes on you, it's a great opportunity," he said.

The locker-room culture in Tampa is "amazing," he said, saying players welcomed newcomers from his first day, something that isn't always the case, even with successful teams. He's made a good first impression on new Bucs offensive line coach Kevin Carberry.

"He's a guy who's been around, been a part of a good program," Carberry said. "He's a professional in taking things from the meeting room to the grass. He's a good pro, and he's going to work hard and continue to improve. He has all the tools to be a starter in this league."

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Opeta signed a modest contract with the Bucs, with a veteran minimum salary of $1.125 million and a $250,000 bonus, and only $650,000 guaranteed. Bredeson, by comparison, got a $3 million deal with $1.75 million guaranteed, setting up a good competition that could extend into the regular season.

Opeta said his time in Philadelphia, going back and forth from practice squad to the main roster and having to fight to keep his spot on the roster, has prepared him for whatever challenge awaits this fall.

"It's not easy, but it gives you something to work toward every time," he said. "You constantly want to prove yourself."

Greg Auman is FOX Sports' NFC South reporter, covering the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He is in his 10th season covering the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having spent time at the Tampa Bay Times and The Athletic. You can follow him on Twitter at @gregauman.


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