His Time Ran Out

March 8th, 2023

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Donovan Smith leaves One Buc Place with his head held high and his hand extended for another lucrative contract.

At the age of 29, Smith is still young enough to generate considerable interest from a contending NFL team in search of a dependable left tackle. He won’t come cheap — and he won’t come at all as a free agent if a suitor suggests Smith is viewed as a quality backup.

Donovan Smith with retired fellow 2015 draft pick Ali Marpet.

As an 8-year starter, Smith showed up for work every day as Tampa Bay’s blind-side protector. He missed only two starts through his first seven seasons and he raised his game noticeably in 2021, when he was elite in Job 1 … keeping Tom Brady upright.

That’s the year Smith should have made the Pro Bowl.

Smith’s rise to another level began late in the 2020 championship run as he didn’t allow a sack or commit a penalty in the postseason. A month later, the Bucs rewarded him with a contract extension.

“I’m still young, I’m still learning,” Smith said when the new deal was announced. “I feel like that’s the biggest thing, because as you keep learning, the better you can get through the years. Once you feel like you’ve stopped learning or know it all, that’s when you become complacent and you’re just chilling.”

Instead of counting his money, Smith left opposing pass rushers feeling bankrupt in 2021, allowing only one sack for the league’s No. 2 offense.

Former Bucs tight end Anthony Becht noticed the difference.

“Right now, Donovan is up there with the best left tackles in the game,” Becht said at the time. “I think the presence of Tristan Wirfs has been the difference maker for him. Donovan has had his lapses in the past, but seeing how polished Tristan has been right out of college pushed the envelope for everybody.”

Wirfs, arguably the best player chosen by Jason Licht in his 9-year stint as GM, is now expected to be Smith’s replacement at left tackle.

Let’s be honest — Smith picked the wrong time to have a lost season.

Playoff hero.

Despite missing four games in 2022, Smith led all NFL offensive linemen with seven holding penalties as he dealt with some personal issues. His release saves the Bucs almost $10 million in cap space and given Smith’s struggles last year, the franchise made the right decision.

Smith will be remembered as one of the best left tackles in team history. He certainly ranks behind Ring of Honor member Paul Gruber, vying with Donald Penn for the No. 2 spot.

He will also be remembered as a very astute draft pick by Licht in 2015, the year Jameis Winston came off the board at No. 1 overall.

Five offensive tackles — Brandon Scherff, Ereck Flowers, Andrus Peat, Cedric Ogbuchi and D.J. Humphries — were chosen before Licht tabbed Smith at No. 34. Eight years later, Smith’s 124 games rank first among all tackles selected in that draft.

Even if Smith goes on to play well for another organization, the Bucs shouldn’t regret Tuesday’s decision. They have tough calls to make and Smith’s erratic play last year gave Licht and this coaching staff pause. Perhaps Smith will return to his stellar 2021 form, but that season looks like an outlier.

Smith’s release gives the Bucs a chance to get younger and cheaper up front. Besides, Smith was part of an offensive line that failed to carve out consistent running lanes last fall.

Can this ground game get any worse without Smith?

Smith was well liked and respected in the locker room and enjoyed being an active part of the Tampa Bay community. He did a lot of good things as a Buccaneer and now he and the organization are moving on.

Buc fans wish him luck with the rest of his career. You can never say Donovan Smith failed to punch the clock at One Buc Place.

Now, his time has run out.

24 Responses to “His Time Ran Out”

  1. HC Grover Says:

    Cry me a River

  2. gp Says:

    If other teams are prepared to pounce on an almost pro bowl talent, why didn’t we trade him for some draft capital???

  3. BucsFan81 Says:

    I know smith got a lot of heat from the fan base. I liked him though for the most part him and Marpet came in and solidified the line. Yes smith did take some plays off and this past year he made way too many penalties. He had to fight through injuries this year however he was pretty damn dependable majority of the time and solid LT for many years.

  4. DoooshLaRue Says:

    “Right now, Donovan is up there with the best left tackles in the game,” Becht said at the time. “I think the presence of Tristan Wirfs has been the difference maker for him. Donovan has had his lapses in the past, but seeing how polished Tristan has been right out of college pushed the envelope for everybody.”


    That right there says a lot.
    He was being paid 1 million dollars per game before Wirfs got here, but then he suddenly turned it on because a rookie was showing him up.

    Sorry Donnie fan boys and apologists…… he sucked.

  5. Redeemer Says:

    He came into the league with lazy footwork and ended his time here the same way. Didn’t he lead the league in penalties for LTs? If not he was close. If I’m Licht, I use 19 on a LT.

  6. BucsfanFred Says:

    I’ll miss the guy, but last year he stunk. Tough decisions still to come.

  7. gotbbucs Says:

    Pretty much sums it up.

    Ho-hum player in my opinion.

  8. Ugotrobbed Says:

    Thanks and good luck Donovan!

  9. Redeemer Says:

    If Jones from Georgia is still on the board, licht should take him without question. He was very raw entering this past season, but quickly turned himself into one of the best LTs in the nation. The draft never goes the way you think. He’ll probably be long gone by 19.

  10. SlyPirate Says:

    The REAL ISSUE with Smith

    Smith was vocal about having personal issues all season. He needs to get right in the mind and spirit, eliminate distractions, and rediscover a passion/drive for football.

  11. LongSeason Says:

    Donovan Smith is a backup at best.

  12. Fansince76 Says:

    Smith was a good LT sorry to see him go.
    Gruber was a GREAT LT! a way better player.

  13. zzbucs Says:

    I agree 100% with you Mr Kauffman, the problem here is that Joe can label you or me with the word HATER…..
    He was average at best with JW, and pleayed really well 202 and 2021…..On 2022 he regressed big time…..And with this cap situation makes sense to cut him……

  14. Dooley Says:


    Because the rest of the league is privy to our salary cap situation and why give up capital for a player via trade if you know the team he’s playing for can’t/refuse to afford him by time the new league year deadlines arrives. Also, this isn’t really the time of year for significant trades to happen. Mostly you see roster moves for tags, extensions, and teams figuring out how to keep/lose talent for a variety of reasons.

  15. Statisticly Insignificant Reader Says:

    Smith is now gone. No need to continue the bashing. Best of Luck to you Donovan. Lets move on Bucs.

  16. John Says:

    I remember him being a human turnstile. He must have really developed back muscles from helping Brady off of the ground so often due to blocking like a sieve. If anything reduced his sack numbers, it was Brady’s quick release. People are acting like he should be in the Bucs Ring of Honor.

  17. Jeff’s grandpa Says:

    He was always a middle of the pack LT who’s best ability was availability

  18. #99 the Big fella Says:

    Every penalty He had came at the worst time.. We needed to get younger so now is the perfect time to let him go.

  19. Cobraboy Says:

    @gp: the trade value of a guy every team knows is gonna get cut is about equal to supermodels who think I’m handsome…

  20. gp Says:

    Dooley & Cobra
    It’s a need/value/cost equation.
    There are teams out there that need a LT.
    Apparently, none of them felt he was worth the salary and draft pic he would cost.
    Now it’s a crap shoot to see who can lure him in.
    Provided he doesn’t just retire.

  21. JimbobBucsFan Says:

    Thank you Donovan for what you gave us in your time here. You local critics can … … … go jump into the Hillsborough River for all I care. 🤬

    Sidebar 1:Thank you Jason Licht for what you were able to salvage in that year’s draft by giving us D. Smith, A. Marpet and K. Alexander for a while. Too bad Jameis Winston proved uncoachable. It verges on the tragic for this franchise. All of the “experts” were wrong in the great debate regarding Winston and Mariota in 2015.

    Sidebar 2: If Wirfs proves to be Licht’s best pick, who will we say was his second best? Mike Evans? Vita Vea? Antoine Winfield Jr.? Is there a chance he might not have drafted that person yet?

  22. Chris@Apple Roof Cleaning Tampa Says:

    Before we go alll ape shiit about Licht drafting Wirfs, lets all remember how he fell to us ?

  23. 80forBrady Says:

    Nice article that recaps Donovan’s time in Tampa and says what needs to be said, Ira. Hope Smith catches on somewhere where he can get back to the playoffs. He is a solid contributor to the community and a genuinely good guy. Good Luck Donovan!

  24. Chris@Apple Roof Cleaning Tampa Says:

    The entire NFL knew we were fixing to release him, so there went his trade value