Donovan Smith woke up a happy man this morning as it has been reported that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will exercise the franchise tag on the left tackle.
The Buccaneers have made their first big move of the off-season, well, besides signing veteran running back Andre Ellington. Reports are flowing in, first from Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, that the team is going to franchise tag left tackle Donovan Smith, giving them one more season to work out a long term deal for the 25-year-old offensive lineman.
The Bucs don’t have a great deal of cap room to work with as it is and this move will only hamper their spending flexibility moving forward. Tagging Smith will cost a little north of the $14 million mark for the 2018 season as the team is still trying to work out a long-term solution with the former second-round pick; A deal that could reportedly hover around the $12-13 million mark annually.
Smith has started 64 games since being selected in 2015. While he has been scrutinized for his play frequently in Tampa Bay, and rightfully so at times, you can’t take away the fact; he has been available to play in and out every week for the Buccaneers.
His performance on the field has gradually improved over the years as well. Looking at Pro Football Focus (subscription required), his grade has improved yearly, and last season was his best season to date, finishing with a grade of 66.4. Smith has also been a key member in the community as a Buc doing is part on and off the field which can’t be under looked.
Yes, questions still remain on if he is the long-term answer at left tackle. This move will not take the Bucs out of the running for selecting another tackle in the first or second round, as a flurry of moves can be expected to clear more cap space, including likely moving on from starting right tackle Demar Dotson. With Smith now locked in at least for next season, the Bucs quest to fix the offensive line has begun.