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Joe Hawley officially takes Evan Smith's starting role

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have officially benched Evan Smith for Joe Hawley, as the latter is now listed as the starting center on the latest depth chart. Hawley has started the past five games at center, the last two with Smith healthy so this was mostly an administrative move, but it's still noteworthy.

The Bucs picked up Hawley after the Falcons cut him in final cuts -- he'd grown too expensive for Atlanta, and they had a cheap and decent alternative waiting in the wings. He was reunited with his former offensive coordinator in Tampa, and grabbed his opportunity as soon as Smith went down with injury. Not that Hawley has been significantly better than Smith -- though his snaps have been more reliably -- but he's consistently executed the Bucs' scheme, and he looks a little loving in space in the running game.

The Bucs signed Smith to a four-year, $14.25 million contract last year to replace Jeremy Zuttah, but Smith has mostly not lived up to the contract. He hasn't been a liability, but he's not been better than replacement level either. This doesn't necessarily mean the Bucs say goodbye to Smith this offseason, though. He's still a useful backup center/guard, and at $2.5 million for 2016 his salary isn't exorbitant. It's high for a backup, but the Bucs can afford to keep him around for some solid insurance. As we see every year, reliable backup linemen are valuable.

This makes the 2014 free agent class even worse. Despite going out and replacing numerous starters last year, the only free agent to still hold on to his starting job now is Clinton McDonald. Every other player's been replaced. Last year may have produced the Bucs' worst free agent class ever -- and that's saying something.