The Tampa Bay Buccaneers dominated Super Bowl LV, and by extending left tackle Donovan Smith and re-signing veteran defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh on Wednesday, they bolstered their pursuit of back-to-back Lombardi Trophies.
Smith is the key blindside protector of GOAT quarterback Tom Brady, but retaining his services for the foreseeable future didn’t come cheap. Meanwhile, Suh has earned a lot of money during his career, and needed a good chunk of change to stay put, too.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers keep Donovan Smith, Ndamukong Suh on player-friendly deals
Don’t ask how Bucs general manager Jason Licht has pulled this off. The tightened NFL salary cap didn’t deter him at all this offseason from keeping much of Tampa Bay’s championship core, and it’s not like he skimped too much on their salaries, either.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter provided the details on Smith’s new deal, which probably offers some sort of short-term cap relief, while NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport passed along the specifics of Suh’s one-year contract:
So, with what money are the Bucs able to give Suh such a nice 2021 check and provide Smith with so much guaranteed dough?
It’s unclear, but several corresponding transactions should be expected in the coming days. Licht still needs to free up enough cap room for Tampa Bay to ultimately sign its incoming rookie class from the 2021 NFL Draft.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ ability to keep their own is mind-boggling
Seriously though, what happened? Drop that mic and take a bow, Jason Licht.
As is often the case with many Super Bowl champions, there’s too much talent on that good of a team to keep everyone around at the price they expect to be paid. Egos are involved, players setting their families up financially as well-off as possible is a huge factor and the opportunity to play larger roles with other teams is always on the table.
Schefter did a fine job of summarizing all the moves Licht made to keep last season’s championship team on board to run it back:
The effect of Brady’s arrival and his willingness to take a pay cut and restructure his contract shouldn’t be understated, yet it’s a far more collective effort than what TB12 has done. It’s been a complete team effort on the part of the other players, the front office and the lure of winning all together.
It shouldn’t be possible to keep this many players intact, particularly with the salary cap being the way it is. This already puts Licht as the front-runner for Executive of the Year for the 2021 season, and we haven’t even hit the draft yet, much less played a single regular-season game.
What keeping Donovan Smith, Ndamukong Suh means for Tampa Bay Buccaneers
OK, we won’t to belabor the salary cap wizardry point too much.
Keeping Smith eliminates a big question mark at one of the most important positions on the field. Also worth noting is how well Smith played down the stretch for the Bucs. He’s steadily improved during his time in Tampa Bay.
When looking at things such as Smith’s Pro Football Focus grade (35th among 79 offensive tackles in 2020), bear in mind that head coach Bruce Arians’ offensive system features a lot of downfield throwing. This requires pass protection to hold up longer than usual, and with the Bucs’ offense continually evolving, there should be more short passing concepts to cater to Brady’s strengths.
As for Suh, he obviously plays with a nasty streak, is a seasoned pro and presents a devastating combination in the trenches alongside nose tackle Vita Vea. Suh isn’t the dominant force he once was, yet on a defense that features so many stars, he’s a key role player who’s still a stout run defender.
With receiver Antonio Brown and tailback Leonard Fournette as the only marquee veterans still unsigned, even if they play elsewhere in 2021, this offseason has already been a raging success for Tampa Bay.
Thanks to a deep receiving corps and the presence of Ronald Jones in the backfield, the Bucs can afford to lose Brown and Fournette, though they might be doing all they can to stay put at this point.