Tristan Wirfs

T Tristan Wirfs, Bucs Not Close On Extension

With the Antoine Winfield Jr. extension taken care of, one crucial financial priority remains for the Buccaneers this offseason. Left tackle Tristan Wirfs is in line for a new deal of his own, and that has driven his decision to remain away from the team at this point.

The latter is absent from OTAs, ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reports. A number of players seeking new deals have followed suit to begin the week, and Wirfs certainly has a case to command a lucrative new deal. The three-time Pro Bowler has been present for other offseason workouts, head coach Todd Bowles confirmed (via Greg Auman of Fox Sports). It would come as no surprise, though, if Wirfs were to remain absent until a deal is struck.

On that note, Fowler adds team and player are not close to an agreement. Wirfs began his career at right tackle, but the decision to move on from Donovan Smith last offseason paved the way for a move to the blindside. The Iowa product excelled at his new position in 2023, upping his market value. Wirfs is set to collect $18.24MM this year on his fifth-year option, but the top of the tackle market is far more valuable.

Bucs GM Jason Licht said in March the team and Wirfs’ camp had engaged in discussions. At the time, the standout tackle did not loom as the team’s top priority. Those comments came as the Bucs were attempting to re-sign Winfield, Baker Mayfield and Lavonte David. Each of those deals coming to fruition vaulted Wirfs in the Bucs’ extension queue.

Three years after an offseason in which the Bucs brought their entire starting lineup from Super Bowl LV back for a title defense, the team has rivaled that retention effort by re-signing Winfield, Mayfield, David and Mike Evans. Wirfs being under contract for 2024 gives the team time, but the 2020 first-rounder stands to loom as a high priority given his performance through four seasons.

Tampa Bay moving Wirfs to the left side stands to help his market, but the Lions making right tackle Penei Sewell the NFL’s highest-paid O-lineman will impact Wirfs’ market as well. Wirfs, 25, has three Pro Bowls on his resume — including one at LT — along with first- and second-team All-Pro nods. Sewell is now tied to a $28MM-per-year contract, while Laremy Tunsil‘s $25MM-AAV pact leads all LTs. Sewell also received $85MM guaranteed in total, topping all tackles in that category as well.

Holding exclusive negotiating rights with Wirfs until March 2025, the Bucs would have the franchise tag to deploy if talks stalled ahead of free agency. Past and present Bucs retention efforts, however, would present pretty good odds this situation will lead to an extension at some point.

Sam Robinson contributed to this post.

Buccaneers GM Jason Licht Addresses Negotiations With Antoine Winfield Jr., Tristan Wirfs

The Buccaneers have had success so far this offseason in retaining several key members of the 2023 team which won the NFC South. Extension talks with a pair of foundational players – safety Antoine Winfield Jr. and left tackle Tristan Wirfs – represent major priorities still to be addressed, though.

In the case of the former, optimism exists team and player can hammer out a long-term deal. Winfield is currently attached to a $17.12MM franchise tag, but a multi-year agreement could make him the league’s top earner at the safety spot. Wifrs, meanwhile, successfully moved from the right tackle spot to manning the blindside in 2023 with a third straight Pro Bowl nod. Deals with both players will not come cheaply, but general manager Jason Licht is confident they can be worked out.

“We’ve had really good discussions there,” Licht recently confirmed when speaking about Winfield and Wirfs. “Once again, it’s like the same thing when we were at the Combine talking about Baker [Mayfield] and Mike [Evans] and Lavonte [David]. We really want them here, we want them here long term, I think they want to be here long term. We’ve had a good track record with getting things done. I feel pretty good about things getting done.”

Indeed, Licht and Co. have managed to keep Mayfield, Evans and David in the fold despite all three players facing the potential of free agency this offseason. Neither Winfield nor Wirfs is on the market presently, but both would command substantial interest if they were able to negotiate with outside teams. Avoiding such a scenario would be a costly but rewarding endeavor on Tampa Bay’s part (and one which could free up much-needed 2024 cap space in the process).

Winfield earned first-team All-Pro acclaim last season, and at 25 he could provide solid value for years to come even on a record-breaking pact. Wifrs, also 25, is set to earn $18.6MM this season on his fifth-year option before seeing a major raise on his next pact. If Licht’s optimism proves to be well-placed, both Winfield and Wirfs could have extensions in hand in relatively short order.

Bucs GM Jason Licht On Baker Mayfield, Other FA Plans

Buccaneers GM Jason Licht recently updated reporters, including Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, on a number of free agency-related topics. One of the key takeaways from Licht’s comments is his confirmation that the Bucs will not be active players in the market, though they will of course try to retain some of their own FAs.

The team started that process when it agreed to a new contract with star wideout Mike Evans. Crossing that item off the list may help the club re-sign quarterback Baker Mayfield, both because it allows Licht & Co. to focus their efforts almost entirely on Mayfield at this point and because keeping Evans in the fold makes Tampa Bay a more attractive destination for 2018’s No. 1 overall pick. That said, Licht was not exactly adamant that a deal would get done.

“I see a link between [Evans and Mayfield], because they like each other, they played well with each other,” Licht said. “But once again, it doesn’t make it automatic. I’m not taking anybody for granted here, so it’s a good start. It’s a good player to throw to. Who wouldn’t want to throw to [Evans]? But Baker is going to make the decision for him, for himself.”

Licht went on to say that he has contingency plans in case Mayfield does not return, one of which could feature Kyle Trask. The 2021 second-rounder has backed up both Tom Brady and Mayfield in Tampa but has thrown a grand total of 10 regular season passes in his three-year career.

“You always have to have — as [former Bucs head coach] Bruce [Arians] would say — to look behind Door 2 and 3 and 4 and 5,” Licht said. “So, yeah, we always feel like we need options. Yeah, we always have to have plans. We also like Door No. 2 that’s right here (meaning Trask).”

Sources from multiple teams have told Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com (subscription required) that they expect Mayfield and the Bucs to eventually come to terms on a three- or four-year accord. However, the fact that a deal has not yet been consummated is an indication to Fowler’s colleague, Dan Graziano, that Mayfield realizes the Bucs are not the only team interested in meeting his asking price (which is believed to be $40MM or more per year). Tampa Bay may ultimately pull the trigger, but given the amount of money ownership paid Brady — nearly $100MM over three years — and the fact that the team will need to hand LT Tristan Wirfs a top-of-the-market contract at some point, there are clear budgetary issues at play. The Falcons and Patriots loom as potential Mayfield suitors, and Graziano confirms that Atlanta would indeed be interested if Kirk Cousins chooses to remain in Minnesota.

Speaking of Wirfs, Licht implied that the three-time Pro Bowler’s contract is not a top agenda item at the moment (which makes sense, since Wirfs is under club control through 2024 by virture of the fifth-year option of his rookie deal and can be retained via the franchise tag after that). The GM did say, though, that he has had preliminary talks with Wirfs’ camp.

“For sure, we’ve already had some discussions there,” Licht said. “It’s not that Tristan is not a priority, because he’s one of our best players as well. It’s just something from a time standpoint. He’s already under contract, so we’ve had some beginning discussions with his agent.”

As for linebacker Lavonte David, who recently indicated that he would either re-sign with the Bucs or retire, Licht said, “Once again, we’ve been having good conversations. We know Lavonte wants to be a Buccaneer, and we want Lavonte to be a Buccaneer, so that’s usually a pretty good start.”

Although cornerback Carlton Davis is not eligible for free agency — his contract is up at the end of the 2024 campaign — he is due to count $20.37MM against the Bucs’ cap sheet this year. In a subscribers-only piece published by the Fowler-Graziano tandem last week, Davis was identified as a trade candidate.

NFC West Notes: 49ers, Adams, Cards, Rams

Recent restructures have vaulted the 49ers past the Browns for cap space. San Francisco’s $42.1MM leads the NFL by more than $7MM. GM John Lynch did not rule out some of these funds being used to add a trade piece, but the 49ers are planning roll over the bulk of the space to 2024.

Really, we always look at the cap for three years out,” Lynch said, via NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco. “Obviously, we have all that room this year. But really it’s to create room for future years because we roll everything over. It helps us in future years because it creates some room we’re going to need. … We’ve pretty much done what we’re going to do this year, but you never know with the trade deadline and all that.

The 49ers created some space by extending Nick Bosa, though the team authorized a record-smashing accord that will show up on future caps, but Brock Purdy‘s rookie contract runs through 2025. During the Lynch-Kyle Shanahan era, the 49ers have not been shy about adding at the deadline, as the Christian McCaffrey and Emmanuel Sanders trades illustrate. In place as a Super Bowl contender once again, the 49ers will have some ammo to accommodate a bigger salary if they choose. For now, however, they are viewing the restructures to help down the road. Even with the projected carryover, the 49ers currently are projected to hold barely $17MM in 2024 cap space.

Here is the latest from the NFC West:

  • The Seahawks will not delay Jamal Adams‘ return for another week. Pete Carroll pronounced his highest-paid safety as “ready to go” for the team’s Week 4 Monday-night matchup against the Giants. Adams suffered a torn quadriceps tendon during the Seahawks’ season-opening Monday-nighter against the Broncos last year. The seventh-year veteran spent most of training camp on the Seahawks’ active/PUP list, and while he avoided the reserve/PUP designation, he still was expected to miss regular-season time. Additionally, Carroll said Riq Woolen and Charles Cross have a good chance to return in Week 4. Cross has missed the past two games, while Woolen was down for Week 3.
  • In 2020, the Cardinals had both CeeDee Lamb and Tristan Wirfs on their radar when they held the No. 8 overall pick. Many in the Cards’ war room believed it would be a Wirfs-or-Lamb decision, GOPHNX.com’s Howard Balzer notes. Isaiah Simmons instead became the selection. While Simmons did not pan out in Arizona, being traded to the Giants for a seventh-round pick last month, he was viewed as an elite-level prospect. The Lions and Giants were linked to Simmons at Nos. 3 and 4, while Wirfs and Lamb did not go off the board until Nos. 13 and 17. Simmons represents another Steve Keim misstep at linebacker. The Cardinals missed on Deone Bucannon (2014) and had slotted Haason Reddick (2017) as an off-ball player for most of his Arizona run. Zaven Collins (2021) has since been moved to the outside. Simmons moved around the Cardinals’ formation, finishing his desert run as a safety.
  • Sean McVay remains the Rams‘ play-caller, but he allowed new OC Mike LaFleur to implement new concepts upon coming over from the Jets. LaFleur added elements from the Jets and 49ers’ offenses that were not previously in the Rams’ scheme, Dan Pompei of The Athletic writes (subscription required). McVay indicated LaFleur — a Shanahan assistant from 2014-20, with the Browns, Falcons and 49ers — has earned the autonomy he received this offseason, when he came to Los Angeles shortly after a Jets separation.

T Tristan Wirfs, S Antoine Winfield Jr. Agree To Buccaneers Restructures

As has been the case for much of the 2023 offseason, the Buccaneers finished minicamp near the bottom of the league in cap space. A pair of moves made this week will give them some financial breathing space, however.

Tampa Bay restructured the contracts of left tackle Tristan Wirfs and safety Antoine Winfield Jr., as noted by Greg Auman of FOX Sports (Twitter link). The team added three void years to the former’s contract, along with four for the latter. In all, the pair were scheduled to make $5.8MM in salary this season, but their cap hits will come down as a result of this move.

Both Wirfs and Winfield are still on their rookie contracts, making it something of a rarity that they have seen their deals re-worked. Both figure to be mainstays on the team for years to come, however, having started every game they have played in during their first three years in the league. Winfield will be eligible for free agency next March, but Wirfs is already on the books for 2024 since Tampa Bay made the expected decision of picking up his fifth-year option.

The latter will look to transition to left tackle this season, after spending his first three years on the right side. Expectations will be high for Wirfs, who has earned a Pro Bowl and All-Pro nod (one first-team, one second-team) in each of the past two campaigns. Veteran Donovan Smith was one of several departures this offseason, after he was released in a cost-cutting move. A successful year on the blindside for Wirfs would go a long way toward earning him a sizeable raise on his next deal.

Winfield, meanwhile, is again in line for a central role in the Buccaneers’ defensive play in 2023. The 24-year-old has a Pro Bowl invitation to his name, and has emerged as a highly productive player against the run and pass. Tampa Bay lost Keanu Neal in free agency while adding former Seahawk Ryan Neal; veteran Logan Ryan remains unsigned. The retention of cornerback Jamel Dean will give the team continuity in the secondary, though, and allow Winfield the opportunity to play his way into a multi-year extension.

Second contracts for both Wirfs and Winfield will present the Buccaneers with a new financial challenge, having already navigated the 2023 offseason with more than $75MM in dead cap charges to overcome. Long-term commitments to those two will no doubt be a priority down the road, but the team’s outlook for the immediate future has been improved.

Tristan Wirfs Confirms Move To Left Tackle

The Buccaneers are following through with the long-rumored plan to move Tristan Wirfs from right to left tackle. The All-Pro blocker confirmed as much Tuesday.

In Todd Bowles‘ exit meeting with Wirfs conducted a day after the 2022 season ended, Fox Sports’ Greg Auman notes the second-year Bucs HC said the team would probably go through with the position switch. This, of course, came when eight-year left tackle starter Donovan Smith remained on the Bucs’ roster. Tampa Bay released Smith in March, and the veteran blocker is now expected to become Kansas City’s left tackle starter.

This move comes after Wirfs proved himself to be an elite NFL right tackle. The Bucs traded up one spot for Wirfs in 2020, taking him 13th overall. The Iowa product proved a quick study, helping keep Tom Brady upright during a season that ended with Wirfs playing well in Super Bowl LV. The following year, Wirfs earned first-team All-Pro acclaim at his now-former position. Wirfs received a Pro Bowl nod last year, despite missing four games.

While college left tackles regularly move to other positions as pros, Wirfs spent most of his Big Ten career on the right side. Wirfs began his starter foray at that spot as a freshman in 2017, started all 12 Iowa games there as a sophomore in 2018 and continued that run for nine 2019 games. Wirfs did start three games at left tackle for the 2019 Iowa squad, earning All-American acclaim for his two-position season. That short stint at left tackle suddenly becomes relevant again.

Smith allowed seven sacks last season and led the team in penalties. Pro Football Focus rated Smith outside the top 65 among tackles last season, and the Bucs created some cap space by cutting him. With Wirfs sliding over to the highest-profile O-line post, 2022 second-round pick Luke Goedeke is ticketed to be the Bucs’ first option on the right side. The Bucs attempted to move Goedeke, primarily a college right tackle, to guard last season. They will now try the Central Michigan alum at his more natural spot.

Wirfs, 24, will also have a chance to become one of the NFL’s highest-paid offensive linemen soon. While Wirfs is eligible for an extension now, the Bucs picking up his fifth-year option in April points to the team waiting until 2024 to complete a deal. This move may lead to the Bucs paying a bit more compared to negotiations on a top-tier right tackle extension.

The Chiefs and Eagles raised the right tackle market past $20MM per year in March, via Kansas City’s Jawaan Taylor pickup and Philly’s latest Lane Johnson extension, but left tackles ballooned past that point back in 2020. Although only three LTs (Laremy Tunsil, Trent Williams, David Bakhtiari) are tied to deals north of $20MM AAV, all three earn at least $23MM per annum. Wirfs transitioning smoothly to his new role will put him on track to command a contract in the Tunsil neighborhood ($25MM per year).

With Smith gone, the Bucs only have one higher-end O-lineman pact — the $13MM-per-year accord given to center Ryan Jensen — on their payroll. Wirfs may play the 2023 season on a rookie salary, but the chances of him playing the ’24 slate on the fifth-year option are slim. It will be interesting to see how Wirfs fares on the left side this year, as he may soon be on track to push for a potential record-breaking O-line deal.

Bucs GM Jason Licht On Tristan Wirfs, Luke Goedeke

MAY 10: Lending more to the notion Wirfs will be on the move, Bucs offensive line coach Joe Gilbert said (via Stroud) the left side of the team’s line looks fairly set with the All-Pro on the blind side and free agency pickup Matt Feiler at left guard. After three strong seasons at right tackle, Wirfs appears on the cusp of playing a more lucrative position as a big payday nears.

MAY 7: The Buccaneers have contemplated moving right tackle Tristan Wirfs, who has earned two Pro Bowls bids and one First Team All-Pro selection in his three years in the NFL, to the left side of the line. After the Bucs failed to acquire a left tackle in last month’s draft, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times wrote that Wirfs will officially be moving to LT.

GM Jason Licht, however, says that a final decision on Wirfs’ position has not been made just yet. On a recent appearance on 95.3 WDAE, Licht said, “Now we’re still going to remain fluid here in the offseason. We’re going to see how it goes. We certainly feel very comfortable with a person like Tristan, with his skillset and his athleticism and size and intelligence and all that, that [his transition to left tackle] is gonna be pretty seamless, but that hasn’t completely been etched in stone yet” (h/t JoeBucsFan.com).

Licht’s comments notwithstanding, it would seem that Wirfs, as Stroud indicated, is indeed ticketed for the blind side. At this stage of the offseason, the free agent left tackle options are generally uninspiring and include the likes of Eric Fisher (who did not play a snap in 2022), Jason Peters (who turned 41 in January), and Taylor Lewan (who has suffered two ACL tears in the past three years). Unless Wirfs sustains an injury or proves completely incapable of making the transition to LT, those players likely would not represent an upgrade.

Of course, assuming Wirfs does fill the void created when longtime left tackle Donovan Smith was released in March, someone will need to replace Wirfs at right tackle. Per Stroud, the first crack at that position will go to Luke Goedeke, a 2022 second-round choice. In his rookie season, Goedeke — who worked as a right tackle in college — spent the majority of his time at left guard and largely struggled.

The hope is that moving Goedeke back to RT will make him look more like a second-round draftee. He did line up at right tackle for last year’s regular season finale, and he looked much more comfortable there than he did as an interior blocker.

“We are excited about how Luke did for us at (right) tackle there at the end of the year — it’s his natural position,” Licht said.

It is unclear whether Licht made an effort to trade up from his No. 19 selection to land an OT. The Steelers moved up four spots from their No. 18 slot to nab Georgia LT Broderick Jones, and Licht passed on Oklahoma’s Anton Harrison when the Bucs were on the clock. While the Bucs did pick up North Dakota State tackle Cody Mauch on Day 2, Mauch will be converted to guard.

At present, Tampa Bay’s starting OL, from left to right, appears to be Wirfs, Nick Leverett, Ryan Jensen, Mauch, and Goedeke. That unit will be tasked with clearing more space for what was the league’s worst rushing attack in 2022 and affording presumptive QB1 Baker Mayfield sufficient time to throw.

Wirfs is already under club control through 2024 since Licht made the easy decision to exercise his fifth-year option. But if the Iowa product performs as well at left tackle as he has on the right side, his future earning power will get a significant boost.

2024 NFL Fifth-Year Option Tracker

NFL teams have until May 2 to officially pick up fifth-year options on 2020 first-rounders who are entering the final year of their rookie deals. The 2020 CBA revamped the option structure and made them fully guaranteed, rather than guaranteed for injury only. Meanwhile, fifth-year option salaries are now determined by a blend of the player’s position, initial draft placement and performance- and usage-based benchmarks:

  • Two-time Pro Bowlers (excluding alternate Pro Bowlers) will earn the same as their position’s franchise tag.
  • One-time Pro Bowlers will earn the equivalent of the transition tag.
  • Players who achieve any of the following will get the average of the third-20th highest salaries at their position:
    • At least a 75% snap rate in two of their first three seasons
    • A 75% snap average across all three seasons
    • At least 50% in each of first three seasons
  • Players who do not hit any of those benchmarks will receive the average of the third-25th top salaries at their position.

With the deadline looming, we’ll use the space below to track all the option decisions from around the league:

  1. QB Joe Burrow, Bengals ($29.5MM): Exercised
  2. DE Chase Young, Commanders ($17.45MM): Declined
  3. CB Jeff Okudah, Falcons* ($11.51MM): N/A
  4. T Andrew Thomas, Giants ($14.18MM): Exercised
  5. QB Tua Tagovailoa, Dolphins ($23.2MM): Exercised
  6. QB Justin Herbert, Chargers ($29.5MM): Exercised
  7. DT Derrick Brown, Panthers ($11.67MM): Exercised 
  8. LB Isaiah Simmons, Cardinals ($12.72MM): Declined
  9. CB C.J. Henderson, Jaguars** ($11.51MM): Declined
  10. T Jedrick Wills, Browns ($14.18MM): Exercised
  11. T Mekhi Becton, Jets ($12.57MM): Declined
  12. WR Henry Ruggs, Raiders: N/A
  13. T Tristan Wirfs, Buccaneers ($18.24MM): Exercised
  14. DT Javon Kinlaw, 49ers ($10.46MM): Declined
  15. WR Jerry Jeudy, Broncos ($14.12MM): Exercised
  16. CB AJ Terrell, Falcons ($12.34MM): Exercised
  17. WR CeeDee Lamb, Cowboys ($17.99MM): Exercised
  18. OL Austin Jackson, Dolphins ($14.18MM): Declined
  19. CB Damon Arnette, Raiders: N/A
  20. DE K’Lavon Chaisson, Jaguars ($12.14MM): Declined
  21. WR Jalen Reagor, Vikings*** ($12.99MM): To decline
  22. WR Justin Jefferson, Vikings ($19.74MM): Exercised
  23. LB Kenneth Murray, Chargers ($11.73MM): Declined
  24. G Cesar Ruiz, Saints ($14.18MM): Declined
  25. WR Brandon Aiyuk, 49ers ($14.12MM): Exercised
  26. QB Jordan Love, Packers ($20.27MM): Extended through 2024
  27. LB Jordyn Brooks, Seahawks ($12.72MM): Declined
  28. LB Patrick Queen, Ravens ($12.72MM): Declined
  29. T Isaiah Wilson, Titans: N/A
  30. CB Noah Igbinoghene, Dolphins ($11.51MM): Declined
  31. CB Jeff Gladney, Vikings: N/A
  32. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Chiefs ($5.46MM): To decline

* = Lions traded Okudah on April 11, 2023
** = Jaguars traded Henderson on Sept. 27, 2021
*** = Eagles traded Reagor on August 31, 2022

Buccaneers Pick Up Fifth-Year Option On OT Tristan Wirfs

While Tristan Wirfs‘ future position is in question, the Buccaneers are assuring the offensive lineman is on the roster through at least the 2024 campaign. According to Greg Auman of Fox Sports (on Twitter), the Buccaneers are picking up the OL’s fifth-year option. Scott Reynolds of PewterReport.com was first with the news.

[RELATED: Buccaneers Discussing Tristan Wirfs Move To LT]

The 2020 first-round pick has established himself as one of the top right tackles in the NFL, earning a pair of Pro Bowl nods and two All-Pro selections. Wirfs has finished in the top-10 of Pro Football Focus’ guard rankings in each of his first three seasons, including a seventh-place finish in 2022. After not missing a game through his first two seasons in the NFL, Wirfs missed three games last year with an ankle injury (he was also inactive for the regular season finale).

Interestingly, the Buccaneers are considering changing Wirfs’ position and moving him to the left side of the line. Unlike some of the league’s other top RTs, Wirfs didn’t actually play much left tackle in college and ended up sticking on the right side in the NFL. While the move hasn’t been finalized, the Buccaneers seemingly started to prepare for the transition by moving on from long-time left tackle Donovan Smith. Wirfs is also reportedly open to moving to left tackle.

While today’s move locks Wirfs into an $18.2MM salary for the 2024 campaign, a potential change to the left side of the offensive line could have a significant impact on his future earnings. Lane Johnson and Jawaan Taylor are the only two right tackles in the NFL who top the $20MM AAV mark, while the league’s three top-paid left tackles (Laremy Tunsil, Trent Williams, David Bakhtiari) earn at least $23MM per year. Ryan Ramczyk has the highest total contract among RTs at $96MM, and his contract contains language that would bump his pay if he moved to left tackle and excelled.

Buccaneers Discussing Tristan Wirfs Move To Left Tackle

Tristan Wirfs became extension-eligible in January; he could soon have a chance to increase his price. The Buccaneers are considering shifting Wirfs from right to left tackle.

The team has discussed this change, and Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes Wirfs is open to a move. This is not viewed as a lock just yet, but The Athletic’s Dan Pompei writes the assumption is the former first-round pick will change positions ahead of his fourth season (subscription required).

Unlike a number of NFL right tackles, Wirfs did not primarily play on the left side in college. He spent more time on the right side while at Iowa, though his 2019 All-American year included three blindside starts. This would be an interesting transition for Wirfs, and the Bucs have laid the groundwork for it by cutting Donovan Smith.

Smith, 29, spent the past eight seasons as Tampa Bay’s left tackle; only Paul Gruber enjoyed a longer run at that spot in the franchise’s 47-season history. Smith signed three contracts with the Bucs but will now be in search of a second team, as the franchise that pushed its chips in during Tom Brady‘s tenure deals with a cap crunch. The Bucs making Smith a cap casualty opens the door for Wirfs, 24, to make his mark at the higher-profile tackle spot.

Other high-end right tackles have been connected to possible position changes. Lane Johnson was once viewed as a Jason Peters heir apparent in Philadelphia, and Ryan Ramczyk has been mentioned as a candidate to switch sides in New Orleans. Both have stayed at right tackle, however, and a Wirfs switch does run the risk of the Bucs cutting into one of their biggest strengths — after a season in which the team struggled at the non-Wirfs O-line spots. Wirfs earned first-team All-Pro recognition in 2021 and second-team acclaim last season. He became an instant starter as a rookie and provided strong protection for Brady during the Bucs’ Super Bowl LV-winning march.

By exercising Wirfs’ fifth-year option (which the Bucs will do) by May, they can push out his contract year to 2024. If this position move comes to pass and Wirfs thrives on the left side, his price will likely rise. The league’s top three left tackles each earn north of $22MM per year; no right tackle is tied to a deal past the $19.2MM-AAV mark. The top right tackle deal (Ramczyk’s) also contains language that would bump his pay if he moved to left tackle and excelled.

Following through with this transition will also shift the Bucs’ top need up front to right tackle. Although this is a good year to need a right tackle, as free agency will feature a few quality options, the Bucs would seemingly focus on the draft here. They still have a ways to go to move under the salary cap.