The “Keeper” At Left Tackle

June 16th, 2022

Click on through to shop at Bill Currie Ford GM Sean Sullivan is ready to help you PERSONALLY and give you the Ira Kaufman discount. Just ask!


It’s taken a while for Donovan Smith to earn the trust of Buc fans.

And yes, it’s been worth the wait.

Entering his eighth season, the 28-year-old left tackle is now firmly established as a pro’s pro, with durability off the charts and a solid body of work protecting the blind side of Tampa Bay quarterbacks.

Donovan Smith

Smith has missed only two games in his NFL career, providing the franchise with remarkable continuity at one of the sport’s most critical positions. He lines up every week, at times confounding his own coaches and teammates with his rare pain threshold.

“It tells you about Donovan’s motivation to be on the field,” says GM Jason Licht. “He’s been a model of consistency in terms of being available.”

How does Smith explain his durability?

“It’s a little bit of everything,” he says. “There’s definitely been times like, ‘Can I do it? Will I be the same me? I’m hurting right now.’ All of those things, but that’s the test of a man.”

Buc fans will never forget the 2015 draft in Chicago, where Tampa Bay owned the first overall pick. That was the Jameis Winston draft, with Smith selected early in Round 2 after a distinguished career at Penn State.

At the time, Licht had no way of knowing just how special pick No. 34 would turn out to be.

Of the 256 players chosen that weekend, none has started as many NFL games as Donovan Smith.


Staying Power

The sixth tackle off the board, Smith has 111 starts out of a possible 113 during the regular season while averaging only three holding penalties a year.

No 2015 NFL Draft pick has started as many games as the Bucs’ left tackle, notes Ira Kaufman.

When the Bucs struggled before Tom Brady arrived, Smith was an obvious culprit for fans looking for scapegoats. Some of the criticism was justified as Smith failed to establish himself as one of the league’s premier left tackles.

Then a new coaching staff joined Bruce Arians at One Buc Place in 2019 and Smith’s game steadily ascended. He has played at a Pro Bowl level the past few seasons — even if the votes haven’t been there.

Smith has improved all facets of his game. He is rarely beaten by pass rushers and he often leads the way for Leonard Fournette’s key runs. His focus has sharpened and his toughness has never been questioned.

In 2018, Smith sprained his right knee in late August and was expected to miss as much as four weeks. But when the season began in New Orleans, there was Smith starting at left tackle as Ryan Fitzpatrick gashed the Saints for 417 yards and four TD passes without being sacked.

In 2020, Smith hurt his ankle on Tampa Bay’s initial offensive snap against the Rams. He missed the rest of the game but started the following week against the Chiefs — despite showing up with a protective boot around his left ankle.

Ankle and knee injuries finally caught up to Smith in 2019, when his streak of 77 consecutive starts ended for one game at Detroit. The next season, Smith missed a game at Atlanta because he was on the reserve/COVID list.

“There’s going to be some things you have to play through,” says Smith. “You’ve got to go out there and you’ve got to get it done. It’s one of the things I take pride in. God blessed me to have a high pain tolerance.”

Brady certainly appreciates Smith’s presence for every one of his matchups during his Buccaneer career. In 39 games with Tampa Bay, Brady has been sacked an average of 1.4 times.

It was Smith who took on the challenge of neutralizing Washington defensive end Chase Young in an opening-round playoff game during the 2020 championship run. After crowing that he wanted a piece of Brady, Young couldn’t even register a QB hit that evening as Smith stepped up to play a key role.

Only three players selected before Smith in 2015 are still with their original teams — 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead, Cardinals left tackle D.J. Humphries and Panthers linebacker Shaq Thompson.

You know what that means?

Smith’s a keeper.

Yes, that warranty includes USED vehicles!
Ira drives a 2020 Ford Escape (cherry red).

21 Responses to “The “Keeper” At Left Tackle”

  1. fern Says:

    Guy is solid
    Good article

  2. Buccos Says:

    He sucked against the Rams. Von Miller ate his lunch!

  3. D-Rome Says:

    Eight years, sheesh. The Bucs should look to draft his replacement next year or in 2024. His career is more than halfway over and he’ll be 30 next year.

  4. Pickgrin Says:

    “Only three players selected before Smith in 2015 are still with their original teams”

    Wow – that is a really surprising bit of info. 7 years later and only 3 of 33 players drafted in the first round are still with the team that drafted them…

    Ira this piece is a bit one sided in that you highlight all of Donnie’s best career attributes and stats but ignore the ‘things’ along the way from Smith that had fans questioning Smith’s worth once he got into big $ contracts…. things like the seemingly all too frequent Ole’s, things like leading the team in pressures given up and leading the LEAGUE in penalties one year…..

    D. Smith has finally achieved the status of playing up to his very large contract over the last 2 years and Bucs fans are glad to see it. The durability factor was always a big plus – but Smith has actually improved his game enough since Tommy’s arrival to warrant Top 10 status and salary. Which is good for everyone who cares a thing about the Buccaneers.

    A happy result and kudos to Donovan for all his hard work and dedication to his craft to get to where he is as a top NFL football player at a crucial position.

    No ‘slippin this year Donny! Keeping the GOAT protected and upright is crucial to the success and ultimate fortunes of this VERY talented 2022 Buccaneers football team.

  5. DoooshLaRue Says:

    I attribute the durability to the lack of real effort.
    Back peddling and pushing and rarely taking on a 2nd defender when he beats his man.

    Keep talking him up though.
    Maybe we’ll give him another big extension.


  6. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    I can guarandamntee you….if D Smith was not an adequate LT……Tom Brady would have had him replaced game 1……

    The guy is very good….not great….but very good & that’s good enough

  7. Defense Rules Says:

    Pickgrin … ‘D. Smith has finally achieved the status of playing up to his very large contract over the last 2 years and Bucs fans are glad to see it.’

    Donovan’s salary is chump change compared to some LTs. His current 2-year contract has him making $31 mil ($15.5 mil per year) which is a real bargain IMO. Trent Williams (49ers) is making $23 mil a year; David Bakhtiari (Packers) is also making $23 mil a year; and Laremy Tunsil (Texans) is making $22 mil. So they’re all making about 50% more than D Smith, yet Williams got 15 games in last season, Bakhtiari only got 1 while Tunsil got 5. Donovan played in all 17, giving us very close to 100% of the offensive snaps. That’s Ironman territory.

  8. D-Rome Says:

    I can guarandamntee you….if D Smith was not an adequate LT……Tom Brady would have had him replaced game 1

    It really is that simple. All the mouth breathers that rag on Donovan Smith don’t realize he would have been shipped out long ago if Brady or the Bucs felt like he couldn’t produce. His contract ranks 19th of all starting left tackles. It’s a very team friendly contract.

  9. geno711 Says:

    Donovan Smith has clearly lived up to his salary as a 2nd round draft pick and then that of a UFA with all the games he has started and performed well.

    One of our great value picks.

  10. Alvafan Says:

    I don’t think Brady appreciated the fat lip Von Miller gave him last year.

  11. Capt.Tim Says:

    A franchise Left Tackle in the 2nd round??
    Usually franchise LTs are a top 10 pick!
    And even then, most dont pan out.
    We have the best pair of Tackles in the league. Both are HUGE and atheletic.
    Incredibly good work by Jason Licht!

    Still getting disparaged by guys who couldnt tell you where the left tackle lines up. Some really Pathetic haters posting here.
    Of course, when you are a 35 year old working at McDonalds- you’d be hateful too.

  12. SlyPirate Says:

    PFF grades D Smith 83. Fourth best in the NFL.

    He’s pretty good.

  13. DRFEELGOOD Says:

    It’s Von freaking Miller!! Hall of Famers get to the QB sometimes no matter how good your LT is. Ridiculous take.

  14. Pickgrin Says:

    D-Rome Says:
    “His contract ranks 19th of all starting left tackles”

    Smith’s $15.5M yearly average is the 12th highest paid LT in the NFL. Last I had looked earlier this year Smith was 9th highest so a few guys have signed new contracts since then. Either way – thats about where Smith falls performance wise – he’s in the range of a top 10 LT with his play – not top 5. When he signed his big deal 2nd contract in 2019 – Donovan was the 4th highest paid LT but his performance at that time was more like 20th best LT….

    As I said – he’s improved a good bit with his consistency since TB12 got here and his top 10ish range contract is being matched by his play now. Thats a good thing.

    No need to overstate it though…. $15.5M per year certainly ain’t”chump change” – and pointing out the obvious holes/inconsistencies in Smith’s game his first 5-6 years in the league is hardly worthy of being categorized a “mouth breather”…

  15. Buczilla Says:

    Smith is a good player and the second best left tackle in our history.

  16. Defense Rules Says:

    Pickgrin … OK, not ‘chump change’, especially since Donovan has the biggest CAP hit of any Buc this year. It still blows my mind though that players like Houston’s Tunsil are making $22 mil a year playing LT for a team that went 8-25 in 2021/2022, while D Smith made not much more than half of that playing LT for a team that won the SB & went 24-9 in those same 2 years.

  17. SB Says:

    OK so he is not Forrest Gregg or even Trent Williams. What do you guys expect? A top 5 player in Every position on the team? Your best ability is availability, and he is always available and Brady has been the least hit QB in the league for the last two years. Go fishing for the next couple months.

  18. Dapostman Says:

    He stunk his first 5 years and only got better once he saw his replacement, Wirfs down the line. Wirfs is probably the only guy in the league who could motivate slow Donnie because we all know slow Donnie wants LT money so he had to improve or he’d be gone and no guarantee he’d be a LT on another team.

    Slow Donnie is that guy who does just enough to keep you off his back until you bring in someone who can replace him. Then that guy miraculously improves his performance.

  19. David Says:

    It really is incredible how many haters are on this site who call them self buccaneer fans. They should turn on the TV and watch another team for a year to find out how good Smith is. He’s been a top 10 left tackle in the NFL for quite a while but for some reason morons around here expect an all pro at every position with a mistake never made.
    The hysterical part of this is some of these morons are the same ones who defend Jameis still as if he never made a mistake. LOL

    The O line is fantastic

  20. unbelievable Says:

    Of the 256 players chosen that weekend, none has started as many NFL games as Donovan Smith.


    That’s pretty amazing. Durable Donnie.

    The criticism with his was always the consistency of his effort, AKA, taking plays off. That seems to have mostly stopped since Brady arrived, which isn’t surprising.

    He should be solid for another 2+ years IMO.

  21. Anonymous Says:

    He stunk the first 5 years cuz he has Winston holding the ball for 4 second’s and not being able to see the rush or the WR at that !! He’s always been good he’s just not had a chance to showcase his skills until now