TAMPA — Bucs coach Lovie Smith has said he does not believe the Bucs got their money's worth from some offensive linemen last season. On Saturday, he put some action behind those words.
The Bucs released right guard Davin Joseph, their first-round pick in 2006 who started 99 games over the past seven seasons, including 16 in 2013. He was set to make $6 million in 2014.
Joseph's release came after Tampa Bay failed in an attempt to trade him and a few minutes after the noon start for teams to contact free agents.
"I'm never surprised by anything that happens in this league," said Joseph, a Pro Bowl pick in 2008 and 2011. "I learned that seeing some other Tampa Bay greats get released. Their house, their rules. It's a new coaching staff, and they want to bring in their guys and start something new."
Joseph, 30, missed all of 2012 with a torn patellar tendon in his right knee. In 2013, the Bucs ranked 22nd in the league in rushing and allowed 47 sacks, tied for sixth most. So much of Joseph's game is based on power and movement, and neither was the same as before the injury.
"It will be a different year for me, and I'm looking forward to starting the season healthy and playing back to my old self next year," he said.
"It was tough last year, but with every hurdle you jump, you learn something new. I don't think it hurt my career. Had all the support from coach (Greg) Schiano and (general manager) Mark Dominik, and they did a great job of letting me come back. But it took some time. Now with a full offseason, I look forward to showing what I can do."
The Bucs already have $9.357 million committed to the salary cap at guard for Carl Nicks. In 2012, he missed nine games with a toe injury. And he played in only two games last season before having surgery on his left foot for a MRSA staph infection. He is expected to be healthy for 2014.
However, Joseph is not the only Bucs offensive lineman who is a candidate to restructure his contract or be released. Left tackle Donald Penn, who gave up 11 sacks last season, counts just more than $8 million against the cap, and center Jeremy Zuttah is scheduled to count for $4.5 million.
Additional moves might be based on which linemen the team can attract during free agency.
Joseph, the 23rd overall pick from Oklahoma in 2006, has played his entire career in Tampa Bay and said he was looking forward to being a free agent.
"I can't lie and say I won't miss playing in Tampa," Joseph said. "But I look forward to the journey. It's an adventure. I'm sure I'll get an opportunity to play somewhere else. I saw LeGarrette (Blount) and Michael (Bennett) and Aqib (Talib) last year. I'm sure it hurt them leaving Tampa. But they went on to play great ball, and it was fun watching them go on that ride in the playoffs. I hope something like that can happen for me."
By releasing Joseph, the Bucs will be $24.1 million under the salary cap (11th-most in the league), according to overthecap.com.
"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 statement released by the team. "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 a championship team once again."
Rick Stroud can be reached at [email protected]