The end of training camp always brings some significant cuts around the league as teams trim their rosters down to the 53-man limit. We’re still a ways out from the start of camp, but the ESPN NFL Nation team has already put together some speculation on veterans that could be cut by each of the league’s 32 teams.
For the Buccaneers, beat writer Jenna Laine named offensive lineman Evan Smith as a seasoned guy who could miss the cut in 2019. Here’s what Laine had to say on the outlook for Smith:
The Bucs’ coaching staff is high on Smith, not only for his ability to play both center and guard, but because of his experience (he’s entering his 10th season). However, he missed the entire offseason program because he has been recovering from torn labrums in both hips. Alex Cappa has been getting a lot of first-team reps at right guard. Earl Watford can play just about every position along the offensive line. Mike Liedtke has gotten a lot of reps at center and could be a viable backup to Ryan Jensen. We’ll have a better idea of where things truly stand when the pads come on in training camp.
There’s some unpacking to do here, considering Smith has a couple of things in his favor and a couple of things going against him. Laine said the coaching staff is high on the soon-to-be 33-year-old, which is an obvious plus. His versatility is another positive, as he can fill in for Ryan Jensen at center or rotate in at either guard position. With right guard being a relative question mark for Tampa Bay, having a guy like Smith available should be reassuring. As Laine notes, he’s entering his 10th year in the NFL. Plus, he has a Super Bowl ring.
Injuries and age go against Smith. How he plays after recovering from torn labrums in both hips is a concern, as is the fact that he is set to turn 33 next month. He probably has some mileage left in him, but with the Bucs’ current group of offensive linemen, perhaps he could be seen as expendable?
Smith can play guard, but Alex Cappa is going to get his shot to play on the right side. Ali Marpet has the left side locked down. If either guy goes down, new Buc Earl Watford (on a sub-$1 million contract) is capable of sliding in at guard. As Laine said, Watford can play just about anywhere.
Smith might also be expendable as a backup center, with Mike Liedtke potentially taking on that role. The 27-year-old is also on a sub-$1 million contract, while Smith is set to make $2 million in 2019.
The Bucs will have to weigh the pros and cons here. To me, cutting Smith would be a gamble. It puts added pressure on Cappa, who has yet to play a significant number of snaps at the NFL level. It assumes that Watford, who has played just 56 games (21 starts) in six seasons, will be both effective and healthy. And it puts Liedtke, who has never started a game, in position to back up Ryan Jensen if he were to go down. That’s putting a lot on an unproven group. Letting go of Smith would practically put all three guys, who have question marks of their own, in sink-or-swim mode. Having Smith as an insurance policy, in my opinion, would be smart.
Is saving the extra cap space worth parting ways with Smith? Will Smith be healthy enough to add anything anyway? Luckily, like Laine mentioned, we’ll know more once training camp arrives.