I was ready to write this thing on Wednesday in a very Liz Lemon moment before I realized the week was only half over. Quite a few things went down at AdventHealth Training Center in the week following the Combine and leading up to free agency.
-Let’s start with the biggest news: left tackle Donovan Smith is going to be a Buccaneer for at least three more years. Set to become a free agent with the new league year on March 13, the second-round 2015 draft pick has started 64 consecutive games for Tampa Bay. He’s missed a total of 30 snaps, period, in that span and is the second offensive lineman from that 2015 class to be awarded a second contract with the Bucs.
In a press conference held on Wednesday, Smith said he was grateful to be staying in Tampa, a place he has made his home, and ‘couldn’t imagine himself anywhere else.’
View photos from Donovan Smith's press conference with GM Jason Licht.
-The team also picked up the 2019 option on right tackle Demar Dotson’s contract that same day, though the news was a little quieter on that front. Dotson is the longest-tenured Buccaneer, having played with the team since 2009 when he was signed as an undrafted rookie out of Southern Miss. He’s also the tallest Buccaneer, his 6-foot-9 frame aiding in his lengthy career as an outside lineman.
Dotson and Smith, along with left guard Ali Marpet who signed an extension with the team this past October, and center Ryan Jensen who was signed as a free agent last offseason, will provide continuity to an offensive line that allowed for the best passing attack in franchise history in 2018. The only spot to fill remains at right guard, where sophomore player Alex Cappa will get a chance to fight for during training camp. Cappa played a reserve role in his rookie season, filling in where necessitated along the line. Training camp will be the test to see if guard is his best fit at this level.
-The Bucs weren’t done as far as roster signings, either. They brought back veteran linebacker Devante Bond on a one-year deal. Bond was a major contributor on special teams last season and helped out a linebacker corps riddled with injury at one point in the season. He’ll get the chance to vie for a bigger role in Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles’ new system in training camp.
-All that and we haven’t even gotten to Combine reactions yet. The Bucs are sitting pretty with the fifth overall pick in a draft that’s shaping up to be more unpredictable by the day. Will the Bucs land one of the top pass rushers in the draft because quarterbacks and receivers end up going in the first four picks? Could they even end up with the best interior defensive lineman this year in Quinnen Williams? Even in worst-case scenarios, the Bucs still seem to be able to grab a guy like linebacker Devin White out of LSU. I detailed how some performances at the Combine played into the Bucs’ fifth pick, even if the effects were indirect. If you want to play that ‘what if’ game along with me, click here. I also had some takeaways from Day 1, Day 2, Day 3 and Day 4 in case you wanted a tl;dr version of what happened over the weekend wrapped up with a nice little bow on top.
-Both Scott Smith and Casey Phillips were live at the Combine and Casey takes you behind-the-scenes in her new vlog. Check it out if you haven’t already below.
-The Buccaneers hosted Coach's Krewe Night for select Season Pass Members at the Indoor Training Facility on Wednesday night. Head Coach Bruce Arians, along with coordinators Harold Goodwin, Todd Bowles, Byron Leftwich and Keith Armstrong were on hand for a panel discussion and Q&A session. There were a ton of great stories shared (the ones that were appropriate, anyway) along with laughs and insider info on the team moving forward, including who Arians was most surprised by in his evaluations of the roster. Hint: it was running back Peyton Barber. Byron Leftwich and the other coaches had high praise for Coach Arians, as well. The night included on-field drills for fans to participate in, food trucks and the opportunity to greet the coaches after the panel.