TAMPA — Donovan Smith’s career-worst performance, combined with the Bucs’ salary cap issues, led the team to decide Tuesday to release the left tackle after eight seasons.
Smith, 29, signed a two-year, $31.8 million extension in March 2021. But the Bucs will save $9.95 million off the cap by parting ways with him.
“I want to thank Donovan for all he has done for the Buccaneers on and off the court over the past eight seasons,” Bucs general manager Jason Licht said in a statement. “He came on as a starter at left tackle in 2015, and his durability and reliability in one of football’s most important positions played a big part in our attacking success during his time here.”
A second-round pick from Penn State in 2015, Smith started 124 regular-season games during his time with the Bucs. He only missed six, with just two of them in his first seven seasons.
But he suffered a hyperextended elbow in the season-opening win on Sept. 11 at Dallas. That may have contributed to an unforgettable year in which he was second in the NFL for most accepted penalties with 12 for a record 100 yards. Two of his on-calls have resulted in touchdowns. He also allowed six sacks, a team high.
Smith is the third known veteran the Bucs are considering parting ways this offseason, joining running back Leonard Fournette and tight end Cameron Brate. Place-kicker Ryan Succop should also be a victim of the cap.
One option the Bucs are considering replacing Smith is to replace All-Pro Tristan Wirfs at right tackle in 2023.
Additionally, the Bucs did not use their franchise player tag for the first time in four years before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. deadline. Prior to releasing Smith, the Bucs were worth $58.26 million above the cap of $224.8 according to Overthecap.com. They must meet that figure by 4 p.m. on March 15, the start of the league’s new year. This does not include the scheduled release of Fournette and Brate, who have been told by the team that they intend to go their separate ways.
The player most likely to receive the franchise tag would have been cornerback Jamel Dean. He was the fifth-ranked player who could enter free agency by Pro Football Focus, a list that included Seahawks quarterback Geno Smith, who agreed to a three-year, $105 million contract Monday with Seattle.
Dean, 26,’s franchise tag reportedly added another $18.16 million to the Bucs’ inflated salary cap. They hope to eventually reach a new agreement with Dean, as well as others, like inside linebacker Lavonte David and safety Mike Edwards.
The Bucs had used the franchise tag for the previous three years. Outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett received the tag in 2020 after setting a club record with 19-1/2 sacks the previous season. He played under the one-year contract before signing a multi-year deal in 2021.
The Bucs have made catcher Chris Godwin their franchise player for the past two seasons. He signed a three-year, $60 million contract just nine days after earning the designation last year.
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Dean is coming off one of his best seasons as a pro. He started 15 games and had two interceptions and eight passes defended. He’s allowed a completion percentage of just 51.95 the past two seasons.
Spectracprojects its market value at three years, $49.67 million or about $16.5 million per year, lower than the franchise value of more than $18 million.
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