The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are attempting to get out of their current salary cap hell as the team is releasing longtime starting left tackle Donovan Smith in the franchise’s first major move of the offseason. Prior to the move, the Bucs were an estimated $57 million above the salary cap, per Spotrac. Smith’s release creates an estimated $9.95 million of cap space, per Fox Sports’ Greg Auman.
Smith still had one more season remaining on a two-year, $31 million contract. The veteran was a key member of the Bucs’ Super Bowl run during the 2020 season blocking Tom Brady’s blindside. Now, the Bucs are beginning the post-Brady era by making some difficult roster decisions after several seasons of using void years on deals to delay cap hits for key players.
Smith battled injuries throughout the 2022 season as the offensive lineman was sidelined for four games. The longtime Bucs starter struggled when he was on the field earning a 58.1 grade from Pro Football Focus last season, the worst score of his career.
More roster cuts are on the way in the coming days with star running back Leonard Fournette and tight end Cameron Brace among the players likely to be released. According to The Athletic’s Jeff Howe, Tampa Bay plans to slide right tackle Tristan Wirfs to the left side of the offensive line following Smith’s release.
The Buccaneers Plan to Release Leonard Fournette Following His Request: Report
According to Tampa Bay Times’ Rick Stroud, Fournette requested to be released by the Bucs this offseason and the franchise plans to honor the rusher’s wishes prior to the start of the league year on March 15. Fournette struggled to fight off rookie Rachaad White to maintain the lead running back duties throughout 2022. The veteran running back posted 189 carries for 668 yards and three touchdowns as Fournette’s numbers were down considerably from 2021.
“I asked after the season to be (released), and they respected my wishes,” Fournette told Stroud during a February 28 interview. “So no bad blood.
“…Winning is everything. That’s all. And in my last three years here, that’s all we’ve done. But since my guy (Brady) left, that’s why I came, so my time here was up.”
Who Will Be the Buccaneers Starting Quarterback?
The Buccaneers will not only have a change at left tackle but will also be welcoming a new QB1. The early signs point to Tampa Bay handing the offense over to Kyle Trask, but the team could still add another quarterback to compete for the starting gig. During the NFL Combine, general manager Jason Licht explained why the team had confidence in Trask as the new potential starter.
“Yeah, we’re very excited about Kyle,” Licht explained during a February 28 press conference. “We’re very excited about him getting the opportunity to be the starter – we’d be very comfortable with that. [We’re] excited – I’ve used that word already but I really am – for him to get a chance to be with the starters in offseason, starters in training camp, starters in preseason, which he’s never done.
“He was a successful quarterback in the SEC – I mean, wildly successful. We took him in the second round for a reason – we didn’t take him in the second round just to be a third-string quarterback. Now, it has yet to be seen what he turns out to be, but we’re confident that it’s going to be very good.”