Bucs expected to franchise or extend Donovan Smith

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Buccaneers offensive tackle Donovan Smith has started all 64 games since Tampa Bay drafted him four years ago, and the Bucs aren’t planning to let him get away.

Smith is set to become a free agent in March, but Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times hears that the Bucs will try to re-sign Smith, and franchise him if they can’t.

The franchise tag for offensive linemen this year is projected to be a little over $14 million, which is steep, and the Buccaneers don’t have a lot of cap space. That would be an incentive for the team to work out a deal that would give Smith more money upfront but spread the cap hit out to future seasons.

If the Bucs are sold on Jameis Winston as their franchise quarterback and think Smith is the right person to protect Winston’s blind side, then they’ll pay what it takes to keep him.