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Evan Smith might be a Buccaneers cap casualty this year

The Bucs can save $3.5 million by cutting their third-string center.

NFL: Tampa Bay Buccaneers at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers don’t have many clear cap casualties this year, or candidates for them. The Bucs have plenty of cap space—some $25 million according to Over The Cap—and don’t need to make any room, but there’s not many players they can really cut, anyway.

Two players stand out, though. Cutting Doug Martin would save the Bucs some $5.7 million, given that he’s suspended without pay for three games. That’s unlikely to happen given the team’s failure to add a possible replacement, though we can’t rule it out completely—maybe Martin will disappoint in preseason, or Jacquizz Rodgers will look outstanding.

The other possible casualty: center/guard Evan Smith. He was brought in as a starter back when Greg Schiano still ruled the roost, but wasn’t ever anything more than a mediocre starter. When he got injured in 2015 the Bucs brought in Joe Hawley to replace him, and haven’t looked back since.

With the arrival/return of J.R. Sweezy, the Bucs have demoted Smith not just to backup, but to a backup’s backup: he’s behind Joe Hawley and Ali Marpet as the team’s third-string center. That’s not entirely fair as he can also play guard, but he’s not particularly good at playing that position, either.

Moreover, Smith is seeing competition as a backup guard from last year’s fifth-round pick Caleb Benenoch, who looked pretty promising in very limited time last year, as well as guard/tackle Leonard Wester. And that’s not counting the many undrafted rookies and other inexperienced players who he needs to beat out.

Add in the fact that Smith is set to earn another $3.5 million this year (he got a $1 million roster bonus earlier this offseason), and hanging on to him doesn’t make a lot of sense unless the Bucs suffer an offensive line injury in the preseason. Smith has some value, but that $4.5 million is what you pay starters, not backups of backups.

On the other hand, this wouldn’t be the first time the Bucs hung on to a useful veteran backup despite a relatively high salary. They kept Gosder Cherilus last year despite a $4.5 million price tag, and Alterraun Verner despite his making nearly $7 million. Neither player got on the field much.

We’ll see come September. But I wouldn’t be surprised if the Bucs decide that that $3.5 million looks a lot better spent on another player this year or the next, than with a backup guard.