Donovan Smith

Bucs To Extend Donovan Smith

The Buccaneers and offensive tackle Donovan Smith reached agreement on a two-year, $31.8MM deal, as Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. As a part of the extension, Smith will earn $30MM guaranteed over the next two years. 

Between Smith’s new contract and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh‘s re-up, this has been a pretty great morning for GM Jason Licht & Co. Many wondered if the Bucs would be able to keep the band together after their Super Bowl win, but they’ve pulled it off with some clever accounting. Quarterback Tom Brady, wide receiver Chris Godwin, edge rusher Shaq Barrett, inside linebacker Lavonte David, tight end Rob Gronkowski, and kicker Ryan Succop and other core players have been re-upped, positioning the Bucs for another championship run.

Smith has never been a world-beater, but even an average blindside protector is a valuable in the NFL. In 2019, the Bucs re-signed him to a three-year, $41.25MM contract. He’s served as the Bucs’ starting left tackle since entering the league in 2015 and he’s missed only two games throughout his career (The latest one was due to COVID-19 exposure).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Minor NFL Transactions: 12/22/20

Here are Tuesday’s minor moves:

Atlanta Falcons

Baltimore Ravens

Carolina Panthers

Chicago Bears

Cleveland Browns

Detroit Lions

Kansas City Chiefs

Las Vegas Raiders

Los Angeles Rams

Miami Dolphins

New York Jets

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Place Donovan Smith On Reserve/COVID-19 List

The Buccaneers have placed starting LT Donovan Smith on the reserve/COVID-19 list, per a team announcement. As a result, Smith will miss Tampa’s matchup with the Falcons on Sunday.

The 27-year-old blocker released a statement saying that he had close contact with a family member who recently tested positive for the coronavirus. Per league protocols, Smith must self-quarantine for at least five days.

Smith has never been a world-beater, but even an average blindside protector is a valuable commodity in the NFL, as evidenced by the three-year, $41.25MM contract Smith signed with the Bucs in 2019. He has been entrenched as the Bucs’ starting LT since Tampa selected him in the second round of the 2015 draft, and this Sunday’s contest will be just the second missed game of his career.

2020 has actually been a solid year for him relative to his usual performance, at least if you believe the advanced metrics. Pro Football Focus thinks favorably of both his run-blocking and pass-blocking this season and considers him the 39th-best tackle in the league out of 80 qualified players. Josh Wells will likely get the start in Smith’s absence.

There is some good news to pass along, however. Specialists Bradley PinionRyan Succop, and Zach Triner, who all found themselves on the reserve/COVID-19 list earlier this week, have been activated. According to Josh Alper of Pro Football Talk, one of those three players tested positive for COVID-19 earlier in the week, and the other two were placed on the list as close contacts. However, it appears that the positive test was a false one.

In order to guard against the possibility of losing their primary punter, kicker, and long snapper, the Bucs brought in free agent P Dustin Colquitt, K Brett Maher, and LS Garrison Sanborn for visits, as Tom Pelissero of the NFL Network tweets. It doesn’t sound like there is a need to sign those players now, but Tampa may be keeping them on speed dial just in case.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Contract Details: Smith, Kelce, Johnson

Let’s take a look at the details of a few recently-signed contracts from around the NFL:

  • Donovan Smith, T (Buccaneers): Three years, $41.25MM. $27MM fully guaranteed. Guaranteed 2019 base salary of $7MM with a $5.5MM roster bonus. Guaranteed $14.5MM base salary in 2020. Non-guaranteed $14.25MM base salary in 2021. $5MM of 2019 salary deferred until 6/15/20. $3MM of 2020 salary deferred until 3/5/21. Deferrals have no impact on salary cap (Twitter link via Dan Graziano of ESPN.com).
  • Jason Kelce, C (Eagles): Extended through 2021. $7.57MM signing bonus. 2019 base salary reduced from $6.5MM to $930K. 2020 base salary reduced from $7MM to $1.5MM with a $2MM roster bonus. $500K playing time escalator available in 2020 for playing 90% of offensive snaps. 2021 base salary of $5.5MM (Twitter links via Reuben Frank of NBC Sports Philadelphia).
  • Denzelle Good, OL (Raiders): Extended through 2019. One-year, $1.7MM. $500K signing bonus. $200K per-game roster bonuses. $100K workout bonus. $1.2MM available via playtime incentives (Twitter link via Michael Gehlken of the Las Vegas Review Journal).
  • Lane Johnson, T (Eagles): Restructured contract. Created $8.2MM in cap space by converting $10.045MM of his 2019 base salary into a signing bonus. Base salary is now $805K (Twitter link via Field Yates of ESPN.com). Added voidable years in 2022-23 (Twitter link via Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer).
  • Mike Person, OL (49ers): Three years, $8.25MM. $2.45MM fully guaranteed. $1MM roster bonus, $1.45MM fully guaranteed 2019 base salary. $250K in per-game roster bonuses (Twitter link via Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com).
  • Romeo Okwara, DE (Lions): Two years, $6.8MM. $2.705MM signing bonus. 2019 base salary of $720K fully guaranteed. $500 workout bonus in 2019 (Twitter link via Michael Rothstein of ESPN.com).

Extra Points: Tags, Haskins, Jets, Bucs

Both the Chiefs and Texans may be in for grievances. Both teams used their franchise tags on edge defenders — Dee Ford and Jadeveon Clowney, respectively — and each team officially classified its tag recipient as a linebacker. The linebacker tag comes at a $15.443MM price. Both players have cases to be tagged as defensive ends, with Clowney frequently lining up as a lineman for Houston and Ford set to play end in Kansas City’s new 4-3 scheme. The defensive end price: $17.128MM — the second-highest tag figure. Clowney already received just more than $1MM from the Texans to resolve a dispute about what position he was categorized as in regards to his fifth-year option. That may go toward preempting a grievance here, but it’s not certain. A Ford grievance seems likely. He spends more time rushing from the defensive end position in the Chiefs’ sub-packages. Terrell Suggs filed a grievance about a linebacker tag in 2008, and an arbitrator ruled the parties to split the difference between the linebacker and end tags. But this is a case-by-case process.

Here is the latest from the pre-free agency news cycle:

  • While Janoris Jenkins is set to avoid cap-casualty status, another member of the Giants‘ 2016 free agency defender splurge may not. Whether Olivier Vernon is traded or cut, the veteran edge rusher is a near-certainty to be jettisoned from the Giants’ defense, Tom Rock of Newsday notes. As is the case with Landon Collins‘ exit, a Vernon departure would create a massive need on a New York defense that has several need areas.
  • Dwayne Haskins has been a popular mock pick for the Giants, and Ralph Vacchiano of SNY notes Big Blue indeed has been “all over” the Ohio State-developed quarterback, researching his viability as Eli Manning‘s successor. Dave Gettleman does not plan to turn the keys over to a later-round pick, with Vacchiano adding the heir apparent will be a first-round choice. So if the Giants balk at a passer with another top-10 pick, they may be willing to roll the dice one more time and wait until 2020.
  • Mike Maccagnan has said the Jets will be aggressive in free agency, which would make sense given the team’s plethora of needs and $100MM-plus in cap space. Gang Green will attempt to find a center and a guard in free agency, per Vacchiano. This comes after the Jets cut 2018 center Spencer Long. There are some interesting center options, with Matt Paradis and Mitch Morse set to hit the market. At guard, there aren’t as many younger free agents; the top options are deeper into their careers.
  • Donovan Smith‘s 2019 cap figure will still be hefty, according to Jenna Laine of ESPN.com, who notes the Buccaneers‘ left tackle will carry a $12.5MM figure next season. Although it is not the $14.1MM figure Smith was briefly attached to via the franchise tag, that is still a large number for a team that does not have much cap space. Smith’s 2020 and ’21 base salaries will be $14.5MM and $14.25MM, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets.
  • Former Bears head coach Mark Trestman will return to coach in the States. He’s been hired as HC of the XFL’s Tampa Bay team. He joins Bob Stoops, Jim Zorn and Pep Hamilton as coaches to have signed on with the rebooting league. An acclaimed CFL coach prior to his two-season Bears stay, Trestman went back to Canada and was the Toronto Argonauts’ HC for the past two seasons.

Bucs, Donovan Smith Agree To Extension

Buccaneers tackle Donovan Smith received a small fortune in a new deal with the club. Smith has agreed to a new three-year, $41.25MM deal including $27MM guaranteed at signing, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets

The new deal positions Smith as the fourth-highest paid offensive tackle in the league behind Taylor Lewan, Nate Solder, and Jake Matthews. Meanwhile, he graded out as just the No. 46 ranked tackle in the NFL in 2018, according to the advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus. His so-so 66.4 score was roughly in line with his scores from the previous three seasons.

The Bucs were planning to apply the franchise tag to Smith, which would have earmarked him for $14.077MM this year. Instead, the long term deal smooths out the cap hit slightly and keeps him under club control through 2021.

Smith’s payout is indicative of the lack of offensive tackle talent throughout the NFL. Elite tackles in their prime rarely reach the open market, which has driven up the price for lower-tier options such as Smith. That means a similarly large deal could be on the way for Dolphins free agent Ja’Wuan James, even though James is not among the best at the right tackle position.

Smith’s durability likely gave the Bucs additional comfort in the deal. According to the team, he’s just the second player in franchise history to start every game in his first four seasons. The pact will also keep things consistent on the O-Line after they locked up fellow 2015 draftee Ali Marpet on a pricey extension last year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bucs To Franchise Tag Donovan Smith

The Buccaneers will place the franchise tag on left tackle Donovan Smith between now and the March 5 deadline, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times tweets. At the same time, Stroud hears extension talks are going well, so a long-term deal could be hammered out between now and the extension deadline for franchised players on July 15. 

Smith, 26 in June, has started in every single game for the Bucs since entering the league as a second-round pick in 2015. He not exactly a star on the offensive line, but the Bucs do not want to lose him at a time when it is hard to find reliable tackles.

Smith graded out as just the No. 46 ranked tackle in the NFL last year, according to the advanced metrics at Pro Football Focus. His so-so 66.4 score was roughly in line with his scores from the previous three seasons.

Tagging Smith would cost the Bucs $14.077MM for the 2019 season. A long-term deal, presumably, would call for upwards of $10MM per year. That’s a big chunk of change for an average starter, but Dolphins free agent Ja’Wuan James is also expected to clear that hurdle if he reaches the open market in March.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bucs Rumors: Brown, Steelers, Smith

We could see a lot of change in Tampa this year, but do not expect the Buccaneers to pursue Antonio Brown, GM Jason Licht says (via ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert).

From a talent perspective, the Bucs would surely like to have Brown on the roster. However, a Brown trade would require the forfeiture of significant draft capital and would hurt the team’s cap room, effectively forcing them to mortgage the future for a soon-to-be 31-year-old.

For now, the Bucs seem intent on keeping deep threat DeSean Jackson, though it remains to be seen whether they can hang on to pending free agent Adam Humphries.

Here’s more on the Bucs:

  • I don’t envision Donovan Smith being anywhere else but the Bucs, at least for next year,” Licht said on SiriusXM (Twitter link via Greg Auman of The Athletic). He added that the franchise tag is “more than likely” for the left tackle. This jibes with what we’ve heard previously. if the Bucs follow through on that plan, they’ll be even less likely to keep their hands on Humphries.
  • Bruce Arians’ recent chat with Jackson went well, according to the Bucs’ new head coach. “It went great. We had a long sit-down. From my perspective, it couldn’t have been any better,” Arians said (via Jenna Laine of ESPN.com). “You’d have to talk to DeSean to find out what his perspective is. But I thought it was great. I look forward to working with him. Ton of respect for him as a player … and a person.” Licht, meanwhile, was non-committal when asked about D-Jax.
  • Licht was similarly non-committal when asked about six-time Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy, who carries a $13MM cap hit in 2019 and is under contract through 2021. “Gerald’s been a real productive, successful player for the Bucs — one of the Bucs’ all-time best defensive players, you could argue,” Licht said. “He’s under contract. Ideally, [we’d] love it if he continued to be a Buc.” For what it’s worth, rumor has it that the Bucs see McCoy as a good fit, even as they transition to a 3-4 scheme.
  • Rising sophomore M.J. Stewart will get looks at several positions but “we’d love to see him at safety,” Licht said (Twitter link via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times). Last year, the 2018 second-round pick spent the bulk of his eleven games (five starts) at cornerback. He finished out with 33 tackles and three passes defensed.
  • Licht noted that the Bucs can keep running back Peyton Barber with a high tender in order to keep him from free agency, which may give some insight into the team’s plans (via Auman). A second-round tender at just over $3MM should ward away other interested clubs.
  • Caleb Benenoch struggled in 2018 as the team’s right guard and Licht believes that a switch to tackle is in his future, Auman writes. The change would mean a backup role, so Auman wonders if his job will be safe given his scheduled $2MM salary for ’19.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Bucs, Smith, Jets, Sanders

More buzz points to the Buccaneers keeping Donovan Smith. After a report indicated the Bucs were not likely to let Smith walk in free agency, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times follows that up by noting the team will, in fact, use its franchise tag to keep the left tackle — barring a pre-free agency deal coming to fruition. The Bucs will talk with Smith’s representatives at the Combine. While the team is up against the salary cap and changed coaches, Stroud adds the Bucs are eager to see how Smith progresses under new offensive line coach Joe Gilbert and new run game coordinator Harold Goodwin. Tampa Bay already has three offensive linemen signed to veteran-starter-level contracts — Ryan Jensen, Ali Marpet and Demar Dotson. But shedding Dotson’s deal in advance of the right tackle’s age-34 season would free up nearly $5MM. A 10-year Buccaneer, Dotson has one season left on his deal. It stands to cost more than $14MM for the Bucs to tag Smith.

With the Combine approaching, here is the latest from around the league:

  • A Smith tag would make it less likely Adam Humphries returns. Although the Bucs are high on their slot receiver, Stroud notes he was eyeing an $8MM-AAV pact prior to his career-best 2018 season. With receiver not a particularly strong position this year — though, some key names will be available — Humphries can probably command a deal worth more than the Bucs ($15MM-plus in cap space) can afford.
  • Needs exist across the Jets‘ roster, but they are expected to target a pass rusher with their No. 3 overall pick, Brian Costello of the New York Post notes. However, the top two teams in this draft — the Cardinals and 49ers — are candidates to select edge defenders ahead of the Jets. The Cards have been connected to trade-down scenarios, and Costello adds the Jets would love to move back to collect more picks as well. New York traded three second-round picks — two last year, one this year — to move into position to nab Sam Darnold. The Jets’ second 2019 pick comes at No. 68 overall.
  • Gang Green could use skill-position help, and the team is expected to pursue a slot receiver, Costello notes. From Wes Welker to Jarvis Landry, Adam Gase‘s offenses have worked best when a high-end slot player has been present. Humphries, Golden Tate, Jamison Crowder, Randall Cobb and Cole Beasley are the top slot talents available in free agency.
  • Should the Broncos decline Emmanuel Sanders‘ option, they would save $10.2MM. However, the injured wide receiver was by far their best aerial threat last year. Releasing Sanders would leave Denver thin at wideout, which would not make much sense after the team traded for Joe Flacco. The Broncos will probably pick up Sanders’ option, CBS Sports’ Joel Corry and OverTheCap’s Jason Fitzgerald predict (subscription required). Both analysts write that even if Sanders starts the season on the PUP list, he would be worth keeping. One year and nearly $13MM remain on Sanders’ deal. He recently said he would reject a pay cut, though the Broncos haven’t made that request. He tore an Achilles’ tendon in December, so training camp would be the earliest the soon-to-be 32-year-old receiver could return.

Buccaneers Notes: McCoy, Smith, Brate

As a fourth new Buccaneers coaching staff this decade continues to gather intel early in a pivotal offseason, here is the latest out of Tampa. It’s looking like Gerald McCoy will be part of Bruce Arians‘ first Bucs squad.

  • Arians and his new staff have evaluated McCoy and view the stalwart interior defender as a good fit, even as the team transitions to a 3-4 defense, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports. McCoy is not in line to be traded or released, per Stroud, who adds the 10th-year defensive lineman was confident he would return to finish out the 2010s with the Bucs. A McCoy move was considered possible, with Jason Licht not guaranteeing the former top-five pick’s status with the 2019 team. McCoy coming back would mean a move to defensive end, but with teams spending so much time in nickel sets, the longtime 4-3 defensive tackle should see plenty of time as an interior presence next season.
  • McCoy will turn 31 on Monday, and after recording at least seven sacks from 2013-16, the former Oklahoma standout has registered six in each of the past two seasons. While McCoy remains an upper-echelon defensive tackle, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com writes his $13MM 2019 salary seems lofty. However, Laine adds that trading McCoy would likely only fetch the Bucs a fourth- or fifth-round pick. There are a few defensive tackles in free agency, even if the Falcons tag Grady Jarrett. Ndamukong Suh and Sheldon Richardson are back in free agency. And this year’s defensive line class being one of the best in many years further weakens McCoy’s value.
  • Another player considered a possible departure candidate could well be staying in Tampa as well. Donovan Smith is three weeks away from free agency, but Laine notes the four-year left tackle starter is not going anywhere. The Bucs will either tag Smith or extend him before free agency’s outset, per Laine. Smith has not graded as a top-tier tackle in the view of Pro Football Focus, but he has been a durable edge blocker, never missing a game. That said, a Smith tag would cost the Bucs approximately $14MM. It is debatable if he would receive that AAV on the open market, even considering how well offensive linemen have fared in recent free agency periods. A long-term Smith deal is expected to be in the $12-$13MM-per-year range, Laine adds.
  • Although Cameron Brate signed an extension to stay in Tampa last year, no dead money remains on the tight end’s deal. Arians, though, intends to keep the Bucs’ TE2 for 2019, Stroud notes. Arians, whose Cardinals teams did not have a consistent receiving threat from the tight end position, is intrigued by having two with the Bucs, per Stroud. Brate will make $7MM this coming season. He underwent hip surgery after this season, however. Both Bucs tight ends are coming off injuries, with foot and ankle maladies ending O.J. Howard‘s season.