The Tampa Bay Buccaneers gave their offensive line a shot of veteran depth on Monday, signing former Atlanta Falcon Joe Hawley one day after a season-opening loss to the Tennessee Titans. To make room for Hawley on the 53-man roster, the team released third-year center Eric Kush.
Hawley brings more NFL experience to the plate than the man he replaces, having played in 57 games and started 23 over five seasons in Atlanta. Kush, claimed by the Buccaneers off waivers the day after the roster cut-down to 53, did spend two seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs but played in just three games with one start. Kush was a game-day inactive for Sunday's game against the Titans.
Hawley was the Falcons' starting center for the first four games of the 2014 campaign before he suffered a season-ending knee injury. He returned to play in all four preseason games for the Falcons this summer, starting two, but he was released last week, three days after Atlanta traded for guard Andy Levitre.
During his last three seasons with the Falcons, Hawley played in an offense guided by Dirk Koetter now the Buccaneers' offensive coordinator. He started six games at center in 2013, helping the Falcons' offense finish seventh in the NFL in passing yards per game and 11th in sacks allowed per pass play.
The 6-3, 297-pound Hawley also has experience at guard, starting 12 games at right guard in 2011 for Atlanta's 10th-ranked offense. He originally came to the Falcons as a fourth-round draft pick in 2010.
The Buccaneers are starting two rookies, Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet, on their offensive line alongside veterans Logan Mankins, Evan Smith and Gosder Cherilus. With usual starting right tackle Demar Dotson currently sidelined by a knee injury, the Bucs other offensive line reserves – Kevin Pamphile, Matthew Masifilo and Demar Dotson – have combined to make two NFL starts.