Bucs interested in ex-Panthers OL Nate Chandler
Two days before the free agency window opens for players to talk with other teams, the Bucs have an interest in offensive lineman Nate Chandler, who was released by the Panthers on Thursday.
Chandler, 26, missed the 2015 season on injured reserve with a right knee injury that also ended his 2014 season early. He was due to make $1.5-million, so he would be an inexpensive signing, giving the Bucs more competition at left guard and right tackle.
The interest in Chandler might suggest the Bucs are expecting to hear that Pro Bowl left guard Logan Mankins is retiring -- he has not decided, but had said he would let the Bucs know before the start of free agency, which is Monday. Third-year pro Kevin Pamphile would likely have the left guard job to lose if Mankins retired, and the Bucs also still have veteran Evan Smith as a backup at center and guard.
Chandler is an interesting story -- he made the Panthers' roster as an undrafted rookie in 2012 playing defensive tackle, but was switched to offensive guard midway through the 2013 season, starting eight games. He started another 11 playing right tackle in 2014 before his knee injury, so his flexibility to play both guard and tackle would make him a valuable backup.
Again, the Bucs have solid depth back on the offensive line -- you can pencil in LT Donovan Smith, C Joe Hawley and RG Ali Marpet as starters, with Demar Dotson and Gosder Cherilus both back at right tackle. Add Evan Smith and you'd have two experienced backups even if Mankins retired, so any addition could lead to a veteran player being released, if only in final cuts in September.
As a released player, Chandler can visit teams now before the free-agent window, but he's not likely to make a decision before Wednesday and has other teams that have expressed interest in signing him.