Buccaneers Make Final Decision on Donovan Smith’s Future: Report

Bruce Arians

Getty Bucs senior advisor Bruce Arians will see a different-looking offensive line in 2023.

With the Tampa Bay Buccaneers mired in a salary cap crisis, parting ways with at least a few key players from the Super Bowl run remains inevitable.

Bucs left tackle Donovan Smith looks like one of the first cap casualties. Pewter Report’s Scott Reynolds reported that the Bucs intend to release Smith by March 15 when free agency begins. Smith’s release will save $9.95 million in cap space amid the team’s $56 million over the salary cap per Over The Cap. He has a two-year, $31 million contract, which will incur a $7.95 million dead cap hit if released per Over The Cap, but that’s far better than his $17.9 million cap hit for 2023.

“Smith was coming off his best season with the Bucs in 2021, but he hyperextended his elbow in a Week 1 win at Dallas and wound up missing four games,” Reynolds wrote. “The eight-year pro was also affected by some tragic off-field issues last year.”

Smith, who helped the Bucs win the Super Bowl in the 2020 season, regressed in 2022. Reynolds wrote that Smith “had his worst year as a pro, evidenced by a 59.3 overall grade from PFF, including a woeful 40.8 run blocking grade.”

A second-round draft pick in 2015, Smith started almost every game, 124, in eight seasons with the team. With Smith’s “expected” departure, right tackle Tristan Wirfs could move to left tackle, Reynolds wrote. That could work for Wirfs, who spent time at left tackle at Iowa.

In shuffling around the offensive line, the Bucs could put Luke Goedeke at right tackle and Robert Hainsey at left guard in place of Goedeke, Reynolds wrote.

More Cuts Coming Soon for Bucs

Numerous other key Bucs players, besides Smith, from the Super Bowl run have been on the radar for cuts.

Tight end Cameron Brate, running back Leonard Fournette, and kicker Ryan Succop showed up on lists by both Jenna Laine of ESPN and Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. Stroud also included wide receiver Russell Gage as a potential cut.

The Bucs have until March 15 to get under the $224.8 million cap.

Solving the Buccaneers’ Salary Cap Issues

Pro Football Focus’ Brad Spielberger suggested how the Bucs could get cap compliant and limit the amount of cuts.

The Bucs can clear $19.25 million in salary cap space with post-June 1 release designations on Smith and Brate, Spielberger wrote. Spielberger added Gage as a pre-June 1 cut for a $2.8 million savings but made no mention of cutting Fournette or Succop.

Tampa Bay could also restructure contracts for wide receiver Chris Godwin, cornerback Carlton Davis III, and defensive lineman Vita Vea. That could save the Bucs $33.491 million according to Spielberger. Center Ryan Jensen and linebacker Shaquil Barrett could also get restructured, Spielberger suggested.

“There are more levers to pull here for the Buccaneers, and they may ultimately need to do so to give themselves some breathing room with quarterback Tom Brady’s full $35,104,000 dead cap currently hitting the books in 2023,” Spielberger wrote. “Typically, teams look to carry around $5 million to $10 million in cap space into the season to account for injured reserve replacements and other upward adjustments over the course of the year.”

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