Though it was largely lost amid excitement over the schedule release and the looming NFL draft, Friday was one of the "action" dates on the league's 2017 offseason calendar. Specifically, it was the last day that a restricted free agent could sign an offer sheet with a team other than its own, with the final deadline coming at 4:00 p.m. ET.
This deadline was only significant to one current Buccaneer: defensive end Jacquies Smith. Smith and one other player with three years of accrued free agency, quarterback Ryan Griffin, became restricted free agents (RFAs) in March when Tampa Bay extended the necessary qualifying offers to them. RFAs are allowed to negotiate with other teams and elicit contract offers, but their original team has the right to match and, depending upon the level of the qualifying offer, can receive draft pick compensation if the player departs.
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The annual deadline for RFAs signing offers for other teams always falls a week before the draft so that the original team has time to decide whether to match or take the draft-pick compensation. That, too, was irrelevant in Smith's case because the qualifying offer he received would not have required that compensation from a new team.
Griffin signed his qualifying offer on Monday as the Buccaneers were beginning their 2017 offseason program, essentially converting that offer into a one-year contract for the upcoming campaign. Smith has not yet signed his offer but was able to take part in the offseason program after signing a workout addendum. Smith also did not sign a contract offer sheet with any other team before Friday's deadline, which effectively means he'll be remaining with the Buccaneers. There is no great hurry for him to sign the original qualifying offer, however.
Smith spent almost the entire 2016 season on injured reserve after suffering a torn ACL in the Bucs' season-opening win at Atlanta. He was expected to be a significant part of the team's edge-rushing rotation after totaling 13.5 sacks in 27 games over the 2014-15 campaigns. Originally an undrafted free agent out of Missouri, Smith saw time with the Jets and the Bills before being claimed off waivers by Tampa Bay in September of 2014.