Donovan Smith’s release adds a (lesser) tackle option to free agency

It definitely wouldn’t be an upgrade, but Donovan Smith’s release at least gives the open market another experienced left tackle.

At this point, no one is quite sure who is going to be responsible for blocking the blindside for Patrick Mahomes. After news broke that the Kansas City Chiefs were not going to use the franchise tag to their advantage earlier this week, it appears that Brown could hit free agency in a week’s time—and at that point, it’s anything goes.

That’s not to say that Brown won’t be back in K.C. for sure, but it’s also not a given at this point. And that means other options must be discussed. The problem is that there really aren’t that many realistic options, at least in free agency.

On Tuesday, however, one new possibility emerged on the free agent market with word that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were going to release Donovan Smith. The team’s former second-round selection has been a fixture along the Bucs’ offensive line for eight full seasons and one Super Bowl run back in 2020.

It should be noted that going with Smith on the left side in free agency because Brown was too expensive would represent a step back in terms of production. Smith was already criticized for committing too many penalties before last season, but in 2022 alone, he drew 12 flags in only 13 starts. He also allowed 6 sacks, per Pro Football Focus.

That said, Smith is a reliable player who has averaged 15.5 starts in his career and he’s delivered in big games before. If the Chiefs are bringing a rookie along and trying to save money while transitioning the position, it’s possible that Smith could be a worthy stopgap—if he’s willing to play that role at this point. He’s also still only 29 years old despite his wealth of experience.

While Brown was not perfect, the truth is that any rookie is a variable and any veteran is going to be a downgrade. It’s just how this year’s market has worked out. When the Chiefs first traded for Brown, the best tackle in the game was also available as a free agent in Trent Williams. It just so happens that this year, there are only lesser targets if the team wants to add a veteran option.