The window to apply the franchise tag is officially open, and the question now is: how long until Donovan Smith is tagged by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
With the 34th overall pick in the 2015 draft, the Buccaneers selected Donovan Smith out of Penn State, and four full season later, he is set to hit free agency. Well, sort of. Nobody expects Smith to hit the open market, and it is almost inevitable that he will have the franchise tag applied to him.
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For the team to retain his services, they will have to pay Smith $14 million while Jason Licht and his team bides themselves one more season to negotiate a long-term deal with their starting left tackle. Smith is worth every penny of this $14 million that he is about to receive, and given the deals that fellow left tackles Taylor Lewan, Nate Solder, and Jake Matthews have signed over the past two years, Smith could be looking at anywhere between $14.5 million and $16 million a year.
In order for Tampa Bay to retain his services long-term, they should be more than willing to shovel that out and back the truck up for Smith. During the 2018 campaign, Smith scored a 66.4 according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), which ranks him as an above average starter and in the green.
Not to mention, Smith is still only 25 years young, and has been the definition of consistent and reliable. In his four season with the Bucs, the left tackle has not missed a start and has played in 64 straight games since being drafted out of Penn State in the second round.
For a team that believes that their window to compete is still open, they should take the year after inevitably tagging Smith, and brainstorm productive ways to clear cap space in order to retain his services long-term. However, between now and the March 5 deadline, expect for Smith to get the franchise tag treatment from the Buccaneers and reel in a nice $14 million for 2019.