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Bucs Release Donovan Smith After Eight Seasons as Ironman Left Tackle

Donovan Smith, who started all but six games at left tackle for the Buccaneers over the past eight seasons, was released on Tuesday with the new league year and its salary cap looming next week

Donovan Smith 16x9

Over the past eight seasons, Donovan Smith has started 131 of a possible 137 games, postseason included, for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Buccaneers will now be looking for a successor to their ironman left tackle in 2023.

Tampa Bay released Smith on Tuesday, eight days before the start of the new NFL year. The team must be in compliance with the 2023 salary cap by 4:00 p.m. ET on Wednesday, March 15, which has necessitated some difficult decisions regarding the roster. Smith had one year left on the contract extension he signed with the Buccaneers in March of 2021.

"I want to thank Donovan for all that he has done for the Buccaneers on and off the field over the past eight seasons," said Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht. "He stepped in as our starter at left tackle in 2015 and his durability and dependability at one of the most important positions in football played a significant role in our offensive success during his time here."

The Buccaneers drafted Smith out of Penn State with the second pick of the second round in 2015, making him the 34th selection overall. He stepped immediately into the starting lineup at left tackle and did not miss a single start over his first four seasons. He missed one game each in 2019 and 2020 and four contests last year, eventually taking the field for 92.9% of the Bucs' offensive snaps over the course of the last eight seasons.

Smith was a key contributor to some of the best offensive seasons in franchise history. The Buccaneers set a new single-season record for points scored every season from 2018 through 2021, peaking at 511 points in 2021. The Bucs also rang up a franchise-best 6,901 total net yards in 2021 and set a new standard for yards per play with 6.30 in in 2018. Over the 2021 and 2022 seasons, the Buccaneers scored a league-best 30.4 points per game and ranked third with 404.5 yards from scrimmage per outing.

The arrival of Tom Brady in 2020 ushered in a new era of success for the Buccaneers over the past three seasons, and an essential part of that success was keeping pass-rushers away from the veteran quarterback. Tampa Bay ranked second in sacks allowed per pass play in 2020 and then first in that category in each of the past two seasons. Overall, Smith and company allowed a league-low 67 regular-season sacks in that three-year run. During the Buccaneers' run to their Super Bowl LV championship after the 2020 season, Brady was sacked just six times in 144 dropbacks over four games.

Smith's 124 starts rank 10th in Buccaneer annals. The only offensive tackle in team history to start more games was Ring of Honor member Paul Gruber, with 183.

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