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Rick Stroud, Greg Auman and Matt Baker

Center Joe Hawley agrees to terms on 2-year deal with Bucs but will have a tough battle to keep his starting job

The Bucs re-signed center Joe Hawley, right, to a two-year contract.

CHARLIE KAIJO | Times

The Bucs re-signed center Joe Hawley, right, to a two-year contract.

15

March

Center Joe Hawley agreed to terms on a two-year contract with the Bucs, but he will have plenty of competition for his starting job next season.

Terms of the new deal were not released, but it’s expected to be south of the $3.5-million he earned in salary and playing incentives last season. Bucs coach Dirk Koetter has said the Bucs have plenty of options at center. In addition to Evan Smith, guard Ali Marpet and guard/tackle Ken Pamphile also could play center. Koetter has said because of the versatility, the Bucs will try to put their best five offensive linemen on the field.

Re-signing Hawley also makes sense because it is not a deep draft for offensive linemen and as a result, many of them will be taken higher than their actual value.

Hawley, 28, has started 29 of the 30 games he has played with Tampa Bay since joining the team two years ago. But he has had to battle through an array of injuries. Hawley left a Week 5 game at Carolina in the third quarter with a left knee injury but returned to the game. Evan Smith started the next game against the Bears but was forced to leave with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee and Ben Gottschalk finished the game at center.

A few weeks later, Hawley re-injured his left knee and was forced to leave the game against the Atlanta Falcons. Evan Smith started the next week in a win over the Chicago Bears. Rookie Ben Gottschalk, who returns next season, finished the game at center.

Koetter, who served as the offensive coordinator in Atlanta, is very comfortable with Hawley, who was a fourth-round pick out of UNLV by the Falcons in 2010.

Hawley is the seventh potential Bucs free agent to rejoiin the team along with P Bryan Anger, DE William Gholston, RB Jacquizz Rodgers, S Chris Conte, CB Josh Robinson and DT Sealver Siliga.

[Last modified: Wednesday, March 15, 2017 7:46pm]

    

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