The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made a loud pre-agency splash on Tuesday, re-signing starting left tackle Donovan Smith to a three-year contract that runs through 2021. On Wednesday morning, Smith spoke to the media and admitted that he "just couldn't imagine [himself] anywhere else," than Tampa.
Later that same day, the Buccaneers made a quieter move that also could shape how the team's offensive line is arranged this coming fall. That move: Picking up the 2019 option on the contract that starting right tackle Demar Dotson signed in August of 2016. Smith and Dotson combined to make 31 of a possible 32 starts at the two tackle positions for the Buccaneers in 2018.
Tampa Bay faced a similar deadline on both of their incumbent O-Line edge starters. Smith could have become an unrestricted free agent when the new league year began next Wednesday, March 13. He re-signed just hours before the deadline for the Buccaneers to utilize their franchise tag, if they had wanted to avoid Smith hitting the market. The deadline for the team to pick up Dotson's option was also March 13.
Dotson heads into 2019 as the most tenured player on the roster, having first joined the team as an undrafted rookie out of Southern Miss in 2009. Dotson was, in fact, a tryout player in the spring of '09, having mostly played basketball in college. His entire football resume for the Golden Eagles on the gridiron consisted of six games played and three starts on the defensive line.
Dotson's raw talents – specifically his very nimble feet for a 6-foot-9 blocker – allowed him to make the team as a rookie but he logged only two starts in his first three season, spending the 2010 campaign on injured reserve. However, he took over the starting right tackle spot in the second week of the 2012 season and became a stalwart there over the next seven years.
Dotson missed time due to injuries in 2015 and 2017 but otherwise started 74 games at right tackle from 2012-18, including 15 last year. In 2018, he was part of an offense that led the league in net passing yards and set franchise single-season records in yards, points and first downs. As a bookend to Smith over the last four seasons, Dotson helped the Bucs' attack record the fifth-most total net yards (375.3) in that span. Tampa Bay also ranked sixth in passing yards (269.8), seventh in yards per play (5.76) and third in third-down conversion rate (43.7%) over those four seasons.