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Making Sense Of Donovan Smith’s Deal

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It really feels like the Bucs had no better option here.

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NFL: New York Jets at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Smith is officially Tampa Bay’s left tackle for the future.
Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

In what was expected to be a polarizing move, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed left tackle Donovan Smith to a three-year, $41.25 million extension on Tuesday.

Specifics of the deal have yet to be released, but if we want to get an idea of what the contract will look like, it’s not unreasonable to use both Ali Marpet’s and Ryan Jensen’s - the team’s most-recently highest paid offensive linemen - as templates for Smith’s contract.

Jensen signed a four-year, $42 million contract before 2018 that included $22 million in guaranteed money. His base salary of $2 million combined with a $10 million roster bonus in 2018 ate up $12 million of the $22 million in guarantees. If he is cut before or after June 1, 2019, then he will cost the Bucs $10 million in dead money - essentially making his 2019 salary guaranteed. So, that’s where the guaranteed money comes in. He will earn the remaining $20 million through base salary and a $750,000 roster bonus during the 2020-2021 seasons, according to spotrac.com.

Marpet signed a five-year, $54.125 million contract during the 2018 season that included $10,374,581 in guaranteed money. Part of that sum was a $2 million signing bonus that will be prorated over the life of the contract, while the remainder while be paid in full in the form of a $7.5 million roster bonus in 2019, according to spotrac.com.

Tampa Bay can cut Jensen after 2019 with no penalty. Marpet would cost the Bucs a small sum of $1.2 million in case he were cut after 2019.

We still don’t know the official details of Smith’s contract, but we do know that Jason Licht is very good at avoiding dead money. So, using these two examples, it’s fair to assume that Smith’s contract will look something like this:

  • Year 1: $2.5 million base/$10 million roster bonus = $12.5 million cap hit (the cap hit is reported)
  • Year 2: $14.5 million base, if cut before or after June 1, 2020, then the Bucs eat the entire sum = $14.5 million cap hit
  • Year 3: $14.5 million base, with option to cut without penalty

Obviously, this is speculation/deduction on my end. But with this mind, let’s look at some of the pros and cons of this contract.

Update: Per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, the yearly numbers are out and I was pretty much dead on!


Pros

  • The Bucs keep Jameis Winston’s blindside protected.
  • The left side of the offensive line is now a young, cohesive core to build around.
  • Smith hasn’t missed a single game his entire career and has been an integral part of an offense that’s ranked fifth overall in terms of total yardage since 2015. For those into advanced metrics, the Bucs have ranked on average, 14th in offensive DVOA since 2015 according to Football Outsiders - including marks of 11th and 12th in 2017 and 2018.
  • This move now allows Tampa Bay to focus on finding defensive help. Smith’s vacancy would’ve created yet another hole at a very important spot for this team to overcome.
  • He is the 36th-highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL in terms of total contract value.
  • When he is on his game is he is one of the best tackles in the league.
  • The Bucs saved close to $1.6 million in cap room for 2018 and possibly saved more money over the long-term if Smith performs as expected.
  • Two different coaching staffs have now vouched for Smith, that has to say something.
  • He tied a career-low in quarterback hits allowed (9) in 2018 and committed a career-low seven penalties.
  • According to Profootballfocus.com, he has improved every year (62.8/63.9/64.9/66.2).
  • Now Tampa Bay doesn’t have to worry about drafting a rookie or relying on an unknown veteran to man this position.

Cons

  • In terms of guaranteed money, Smith is ranked eighth in the NFL among offensive lineman, according to spotrac.com
  • Despite the high rankings in terms of average salary and guaranteed money, Smith was graded out as the 82nd, 68th, 56th, and 50th rated tackle in the league. Despite the yearly improvement, that averages out to the 64th-best tackle over the past four years, according to PFF.
  • Smith allowed a career-high eight sacks in 2018 and has allowed twice as many sacks (15) in the past two years than he did his first two years (7) in the league.
  • Smith also has shown incredible flashes of poor play, who’s to say that will change under a new coaching staff?

As you can see, there are both pros and cons to retaining Donovan Smith. The thought is that with a new coaching staff, Smith’s full potential will be brought out and the Bucs will have a franchise left tackle for the next few years, but only time will tell.

What do you think Bucs Nation? Do the pros outweigh the cons, or vice-versa?

Poll

Are you happy with the Donovan Smith extension?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Hell Yea
    (17 votes)
  • 21%
    Yea
    (100 votes)
  • 43%
    Kinda
    (205 votes)
  • 14%
    No
    (70 votes)
  • 8%
    Hell No
    (41 votes)
  • 8%
    Let’s burn this motha to the ground!
    (40 votes)
473 votes total Vote Now