Bucs Send Starter to AFC Contender in Proposed Trade

Todd Bowles

Getty Todd Bowles and the Buccaneers could make a change at tackle by trading Donovan Smith.

With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers strapped for cash, it behooves the front office to make salary-cap clearing moves such as trading offensive tackle Donovan Smith.

Bleacher Report’s Kristopher Knox proposed that the Bucs trade Smith to the Cincinnati Bengals for a third round draft pick to clear $10 million in salary cap space. The Bucs sit at $55.5 million over the cap, per Spotrac, with 20-plus free agents to re-sign and a big hole to fill at quarterback with Tom Brady retired.

“While the Buccaneers wouldn’t get a premium pick back for a soon-to-be 30-year-old above-average tackle, the cap savings would be significant,” Knox wrote. “The Bengals, meanwhile, would get a steadier starter and a proven vet to help bolster the line.”

Knox noted that Smith gave up fewer sacks, six, than his Bengals counterpart Jonah Williams, 12, per Pro Football Focus. The Bengals also had their share of troubles with injuries to the offensive line along with subpar performances as a unit, Knox wrote. Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow sustained 41 sacks in the regular season, and Burrow’s protection played a role in the AFC Championship Game loss, Knox noted.

Bucs Pick Well in Third Round, Can Fill Smith’s Void

Tampa Bay would receive a new player at pick No. 92 in the third round with the Smith trade, per Knox. The Bucs did well in the third round in recent years with running back Rachaad White in 2022, offensive lineman Robert Hainsey in 2021, and defensive backs Jamel Dean and Mike Edwards in 2019. All of the aforementioned players had starting roles in 2022. Running back Ke’Shawn Vaughn, who went in the third round in 2020, had some good moments in 2021 but had a quiet 2022 season.

Parting with Smith could leave a void at tackle, but Smith’s performance declined after an elbow injury in Week 1. The Bucs will have multiple changes coming on the offensive line no matter what because of Ryan Jensen‘s return, moving Hainsey from center, and filling a hole at left guard. Continuity from 2022 to 2023 on the offensive line simply won’t happen.

Smith’s name has come up as a trade candidate or a cap-saving roster cut in recent months. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo told WDAE on Tuesday, February 15, that he believes the Bucs will “move on from him” this offseason. Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times previously listed Smith as one of the Bucs’ likely salary-cap casualties this year.

Giant Need Looms Amid Salary Cap Issues

The Bucs need to create the salary cap space to address the most pressing hole on the roster — quarterback.

Brady retired on February 1, and the team only has third-stringer Kyle Trask on the roster. Trask, a second round pick in 2021, only has one regular season game appearance in two seasons as a backup.

Brady’s cap hit from the retirement alone takes up $35.1 million, which limits the team’s options unless major cuts, including Smith, occur. Pewter Report salary cap specialist Joshua Quiepo listed players whom the Bucs could cut to clear “as much as $29.5 million” of cap space: Cameron Brate, Leonard Fournette, Russell Gage, Ryan Succop, and Smith.

Top free agent quarterbacks such as Derek Carr or Geno Smith will cost a team over $30 million annually. An experienced starter such as Jacoby Brissett could land with the Bucs for as little as $5.4 million annually, per Spotrac.

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