Left tackle should be a leading priority?3 min read
Donovan Smith is not a free agent until 2024
Here I go again. In 2020 and before, I had lobbied for the Buccaneers to address the left tackle position in the first round. The Bucs drafted Tristan Wirfs in the first round of the 2020 draft. It’s certainly impossible to have a criticism of that pick. Wirfs is a top 3, if not the best Right Tackle in the League, but the thing is; the left side is the most important position in football because it protects the blind side of the quarterback due to the majority of quarterbacks being right-handed. The blind side is still in dire need of filling with a first-round dominant player as well. There are just not enough excuses to go around to defend the turnstile that is Donovan Smith. In comparison to his teammate on the right side, D. Smith committed 12 penalties in 2022. 7 holding, 4 false starts, 1 illegal use of hands: penalties totaling 100 yards of going backward. Tristan Wirfs had a grand total of 3. Just 1 holding, 1 false start, and 1 illegal downfield/pass: penalties totaling just 19 yards lost. While you cannot reasonably compare the two and their talents, or lack thereof, you do get a feel for the problem at hand. You don’t get holding penalties unless you are getting beat by your opponent. Compounding the problem, Smith seemed to draw penalties in the most critical of downs and situations. I feel the team overpaid Smith on his current contract. They were in a bad spot with not addressing the need in the draft, and there were no free agents available that they felt could play better than #76. To Smith’s credit, he did play over his head last season (2021), collecting only one holding penalty.
Be it Trask or anyone else
Whether it is as planned and Kyle Trask is behind center or someone else is brought in via free agent, trade, or draft, the problem at Left Tackle must be addressed. The 2023 NFL Draft is a deep one at the position. There are projected high, as well as solid choices available into the second round, maybe even beyond, depending on how it all shakes out. So if the Bucs choose to do so, they can land a very solid player later in the round. The team needs help again in the defensive backfield, and it seems as if that is always going to be the case. Just a few years removed from feeling they had addressed that need, we are at that familiar place again. Murphy-Bunting lost his starting position to Jamel Dean (who I’ve always felt was a better DB). Let’s face it; we need starting or backup help in almost every position. I’m hoping that if there is a player they like in the first, they will pull the trigger on Left Tackle over other needs. It’s been a very long time since the Bucs drafted a Left Tackle in the first round. The last one was Kenyatta Walker (2001). Walker was switched to the right side in his second year. I’m not sure that even actually counts. So you would have to go all the way back to 1991 and Charles McRae for a left tackle drafted by the Bucs in that all-important first round. I’m sure that Mr. Smith is a great guy. You could even probably crack open a beer and have a great conversation with the guy. But when it comes to protecting our quarterback, I’m hoping the team doesn’t let him play out his last year of the contract. The selection of top talent may not be as deep as it is this season. It’s a much-needed position in this game we love, so they tend to vanish quickly. Go Bucs!!