Do the Buccaneers need to free up cap space at tackle?
Alex Leatherwood, OT, Alabama
As previously mentioned, the Buccaneers will have to tiptoe around the cap space carefully this offseason, especially considering the cap space will likely shrink before the start of the season. The Bucs have to reevaluate every contract to find whatever space is available, and Donovan Smith could be on the chopping block.
To be frank, this comes down more to Smith’s contract rather than his level of play. Smith has been lights out during the playoffs with a near-perfect performance, and he has earned the right to return to Tampa Bay on his current contract.
Unfortunately for Smith, the fanbase may burn the stadium down if the Bucs let Chris Godwin walk, and one of the biggest contracts to cut is Smith’s. Tampa Bay would lose a veteran tackle that is playing almost flawlessly during the playoffs to keep a receiver for a unit that already has depth, but it is hard to consider letting Godwin walk.
The Buccaneers would probably see a drop-off in performance by a rookie in Smith’s spot, but Tampa Bay would have their tackles locked down for a long time to come if they use first-round picks in two seasons on offensive tackles.
Alex Leatherwood, out of Alabama, projects as a consistent starter in the NFL to pair well with Tristan Wirfs down the road. Still, the Buccaneers need to account for a potential drop off in protection as Leatherwood grows accustomed to the speed of the NFL.
Leatherwood had a very impressive career while with the Crimson Tide that indicates NFL readiness and should be available at the end of the first round for the Buccaneers to snatch up if they see fit.