Negative news has surrounded the Tampa Bay Buccaneers with the Jameis Winston controversy of late but it’s time to switch gears and focus on Jameis’ blind side protector, Donovan Smith. Before we get into his current contract (rookie deal) and on-field play I’d like to touch on his best ability of all - availability. Since being drafted, Donovan Smith has played and started more games than any other Buccaneer (48 games). Moving forward with this, let’s take a look at Smith’s consistency.
The best ability is availability, we’ve all heard this and when it comes to Buccaneers’ left tackle Donovan Smith, he lives it. Smith has started every game of his pro career along with 31 while in college. Smith currently sits fourth (3-way tie) in consecutive starts for left tackles in the NFL. There hasn’t been a whole lot going on that’s positive for this Buccaneers offensive line in recent years to say the least, but it is nice to know that the franchise quarterback can count on his left tackle week in and week out putting in work alongside him.
As far as his play is concerned, Smith has shown steady improvement each season. While there are many fans that would like a quicker adjustment, Smith has outplayed what many analysts predicted early on. As NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein said about Smith prior to being drafted, “...he has a good shot of getting drafted and fighting for a backup spot.” A backup spot, that’s right.
Three years later and Smith has been the mainstay at left tackle for the Buccaneers. From a statistical grading standpoint, Smith has shown improvements when looking at Pro Football Focus’ grading scale as he’s improved nearly five grading points each season going from a 42.8 rating as a rookie to 2017’s 51.5 overall. Just from watching Smith’s play year over year, the improvements are visible but the consistency overall now has to come with it. Getting the opportunity to play next to Ali Marpet may be what the doctored ordered for Smith to take that final big leap and become a top 20 player at his position.
Smith’s contract will be an interesting one as he is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2018 season. Our own Evan Winter wrote about Marpet’s deal in relation to what Zach Martin got here, this is what makes the Smith contract that much more interesting. The Buccaneers just signed Ryan Jensen this off-season and are on the hook for nearly $5 million a year thru 2019 with Demar Dotson who could become a cap casualty with no dead money left on his current deal. Donovan Smith will get paid handsomely one would presume should he stay healthy and continue to grow as a player in a positive light. Just how much Smith improves is something to watch for as the team prepares to extend Donovan.
As the teams Iron Man, a great community man and the left tackle, Donovan Smith should be applauded for where he is today both as a player and as a person. Smith is one of the good guys and should his on-field play match his off-field good doings, his wallet should feel mighty nice this next off-season. For those looking at a ballpark range, expect to see Donovan Smith bring in $6-$10 million a year in his next deal. Worth the price tag? 48 consecutive starts and a continual uptick and growth each year says yes. Pay the Iron Man.