Jacquies Smith Could Change Buccaneers’ Draft Plans

Jul 30, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Jacquies Smith (56) stretches at One Buccaneer Place. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 30, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Jacquies Smith (56) stretches at One Buccaneer Place. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

With restricted free agent Jacquies Smith meeting with the San Francisco 49ers, the Buccaneers will likely have a decision to make. If the 27-year-old eventually ends up on the West Coast, could Tampa Bay’s draft plans change?

It feels like the Buccaneers are right on the cusp of being legitimate contenders, which makes the upcoming NFL Draft (April 27-29) especially important. Tampa Bay did some good work in free agency, making its needs for the draft a bit clearer. However, a new situation has come up in recent days, bringing up a big question.

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Restricted free agent defensive end Jacquies Smith, who could make a big impact for a rising Bucs defense this season, met with the 49ers recently. He reportedly doesn’t have a contract offer as of now, though there’s a big possibility that he could get one. As a restricted free agent, Tampa Bay has the right to match any offer that San Francisco extends.

Smith would be a great player for the Bucs to keep, whether he finds his way back into a starting role or acts as a depth piece. However, if they don’t match an offer from the 49ers, will their draft plans change?

Right now, no one seems to know exactly which direction the Bucs will go in this draft, especially in the first round. Tampa Bay holds the No. 19 pick, which could be used on a variety of positions. Whether the pick is a running back, tight end, wide receiver or defensive back remains to be seen, but if Smith is no longer a Buccaneer, things could change. Would the Bucs then need to select a defensive end in the first round?

One name that seems to be of note for Tampa Bay is Michigan’s Taco Charlton, who reportedly has a visit set up with the team in the coming days:

No one knows whether the Bucs will see defensive end as a first-round need, even if Smith ends up in San Francisco. However, say hypothetically that the Bucs are currently targeting a running back in round one. If Smith becomes a 49er and Tampa Bay does go with a defensive end on day one, that moves the need for a running back to day two or three. But, if Tampa Bay takes a running back late, will that selection be ready to start from day one? A second or third round running back wouldn’t be a terrible thing, but wouldn’t that bring up the possible need to keep Doug Martin around, at least for this year?

It’s entirely possible that they would think defensive end is a day two need, which may be just fine. Maybe they look at the guys they have and think that it’s enough to field a solid pass rush. But the point is, the question will have to come up. The team’s draft plans could be shaken up in a big way.

The good thing is, the Bucs have control of this situation. Since Smith is a restricted free agent, the team can match any offer and keep him. So, if the front office thinks Smith is worth it, they don’t have to worry about anything. But, Tampa Bay could move on, either with what they have or with options in the draft. The team has control of this situation in most ways. The only way that this isn’t in the Bucs’ control, however, is if the 49ers want to break the bank for No. 56. Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times made that point about the situation on Twitter:

Tampa Bay may have a decision to make in the coming days or weeks. Is there a limit on the price that the Bucs would pay to retain Smith? There may be. And if there is, the draft strategy for general manager Jason Licht may need to change.

Next: Bucs Dueling Seven-Round Mock Draft

What do you think, Bucs fans? Is there a price limit that Licht should stick with in order to keep Smith on the roster? Is there a defensive end that you want to see Tampa Bay target? Let us know in the comments, on Twitter or on Facebook.