Tampa Bay’s left tackle starter since 2015, Smith had one season remaining on his contract. The Bucs entered Tuesday more than $40MM over the cap. The team needs to spring into action to become cap-compliant, and this Smith cut will help on that front. The Bucs will save more than $9MM by releasing Smith. Designating Smith as a post-June 1 release would save the Bucs more money, but the team needs the savings now, which will likely take that move off the table.
This transaction will help the Bucs along the way to moving under the 2023 cap, but it will also create a blindside void for whomever will be playing quarterback in Tampa next season. Smith had started all 124 games he had played with the Bucs, who selected him in the 2015 second round. Going into his age-30 season, the Super Bowl-winning edge protector will have a chance to bounce back elsewhere.
Jones has offered tremendous durability as well, having only missed more than one game in one season. That came in 2022, however, with an elbow injury sidetracking the experienced blocker. Smith missed four games, adding to a nightmare season for Tampa Bay’s offensive front. The Bucs saw Ryan Jensen make a surprising return for their wild-card matchup, after having torn multiple knee ligaments in training camp. But they missed longtime guard starters Alex Cappa and Ali Marpet. With Smith’s release, only two of Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl blocking bastions are left: Jensen and right tackle Tristan Wirfs.
Pro Football Focus, long skeptical about Smith’s performance level, slotted the Penn State alum as a top-15 tackle in 2021. But he fell out of the top 60 at the position, per the advanced metrics site, in 2022. Todd Bowles considered benching Smith, who now stands to join Orlando Brown Jr. in free agency. The Chiefs are not franchise-tagging Brown for a second time. That plan and the Bucs’ Smith release will add two experienced left tackles to the market, one that did not look to house much in the way of quality heading into the week.
The Bucs had previously given Smith two extensions — a three-year deal ahead of free agency in 2019 and a two-year re-up in 2021 — with the most recent being worth $15.5MM per year. The Bucs will still be more than $40MM over the cap, even after releasing Smith, Leonard Fournette and Cameron Brate. Created largely by Tom Brady‘s restructures, this bill will test the Bucs in the days leading up to the 2023 league year. More cuts are coming.