Tampa Bay and Addition by Subtraction: Trading Away Donovan Smith


A glaring issue on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster is the tackle position. Granted, the Buccaneers may have found their starting right tackle in Joe Haeg but there is a need to upgrade. The left side needs help and depth is, as always, a plus. With the Draft quickly approaching, I would fully anticipate Tampa Bay will fill this need in either the first or second round. However, there is a way to get better through subtraction. Here’s how it would work using the 2017 Brock Osweiler trade as a blueprint.

March 9th, 2017

Journeymen quarterback Brock Osweiler is traded from the Houston Texans to the Cleveland Browns. In what was a historic trade, the Texans removed the $18 million dollars it owed Osweiler from its cap in order to fill holes via free agency. ESPN’s Adam Schefter described it as “one of the most creative trades in history.” Here is how it worked.

In order to clear the money from the cap, the Texans traded Osweiler, a 2017 sixth-round pick, and a 2018 second-round pick in exchange for the Brown’s fourth-round pick in 2017. Essentially the Browns, who had cap space traded a fourth-round pick for a sixth-rounder and a second-rounder the next year.

Osweiler was simply irrelevant to the Browns and released shortly after.

Donovan Smith

This year, Smith is due $16.5 million from Tampa Bay. Subsequently, $14.5 million of that contract counts against the cap as dead money if released, as it is the last portion of his guaranteed contract. In 2021 Smith is to earn $17.25 million.

*$3 million was deferred to 2021, along with his $14.25 million base salaries, creating the $17.25 million.

The contract at the time he signed seemed a little more than generous given his play. Additionally, after the 2019 season, it has become clear this contract far exceeds his talents and is detrimental to the team. Granted, he has played every game since being drafted other than one game last season, just being healthy does not equate to that large of a contract. In 2019, he allowed five sacks and multiple fumbles as Jameis Winston was stripped of the ball, and committed nine penalties. The year prior, 2018, he allowed eight sacks. The only positive metrics I can point to is the fact that his overall grade has gone up each year according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required for more in-depth analytics).

It is my opinion that Smith owns some blame for Winston’s faults and departure. Naturally, it is time to move one from Smith as well.

An Osweiler Style Trade

Even with Smith being a liability at times, he still holds value. He is young, 26 years old, doesn’t miss games, and offensive tackles are scarce. I propose the Buccaneers make a 2017 Osweiler inspired trade. Addition by subtraction really.

Offer Smith and a fifth-round draft pick in 2020 for a 2021 seventh-round pick. Throw on top that the Buccaneers will pay some of his salaries and some team may bite at the opportunity. If the Buccaneers cover half of his guaranteed money, $7.25 million dollars, and the acquiring team picks up the rest of the contract owed, then the Buccaneers can clear some cap space. The $9.25 million the Buccaneers clear could become in use to sign left tackle Jason Peters, for example. The Buccaneers could offer a one-year contract for about $7.5 million dollars, maybe less. This then also leaves an additional $1.75 million leftover on the cap.

This transaction could be a plausible way of moving on from Smith. The Buccaneers will gain some cap space and then tentatively replacing him with better talent. Tampa will still require the draft to address the situation. With Peters’ age, he will need a replacement next season. Hopefully, someone, he can mentor, so a draft pick must still be spent on an offensive tackle. With Peters in the mix, it may allow the team to get a more development pick that requires a year of coaching before hitting the starting lineup. That scenario opens up the first-round pick for more opportunities and positions to help this team.

Let’s just hope Jason Licht and Bruce Arians read my articles.

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