It sounds as if Donovan Smith expects to be playing for the Bucs in 2019.
Smith could become an unrestricted free agent in a matter of weeks. But he said Wednesday he hopes to remain in Tampa Bay.
Smith has started all 64 games since coming to the NFL as a second-round pick from Penn State. Appearing on NFL Network’s Good Morning Football, Smith talked about becoming a free agent.
"Just take it a day at a time, really,'' Smith said. “You really don’t know the process, and there’s a lot of back and forth. But I put everything in my agent’s hands and tell them to come back to me when they’ve got anything good.”
Does he expect to return to the Bucs in 2019?
“I hope so,'' Smith said. "I hope so. That’s the thing, you never know. But I love Tampa. The community, teammates, everybody there. I’ve kind of established myself there, so why not?''
Smith is expected to earn $12-$13-million per year as a free agent. But if the Bucs can’t sign him to an extension, they will likely place the franchise tag on Smith, which will cost them $14-million on a one-year contract.
Smith said he was a bit under the radar when he went to the NFL scouting combine, which begins next month in Indianapolis.
"So, for me, I was kind of an underrated guy,'' Smith said. "I came onto the scene late. So, like, nobody knew who I was, so I was just out there doing my thing. They put me into position to succeed, and that’s where I’m at now.''
Co-host Kyle Brandt read an analysis of Smith by an anonymous NFL scout prior to the 2015 draft.
"Athleticism lacking to play tackle,'' Brandt said, reading the report. "Got a good shot at getting drafted and fighting for a backup spot.''
“Who wrote that?” Smith asked.
"People got to sit there and put stuff out there. I mean, whether it’s good or bad, whatever is going to hit is mostly negative. I mean, what did he know? He’s never seen me play. It’s absolutely motivating because there’s nothing like proving somebody wrong.''
Smith also had some words of support for Jameis Winston.
"They don’t know a thing about Jameis, you feel me?'' Smith said. "He’s the most humble, coolest guy to be around. He’s all in. He loves his teammates dearly and you can see that, genuinely. He wants you to succeed and be great. So a lot of people will look at it and say, ‘Ah, he’s just playing a role.’ But that’s him. If you’re around his family, his friends, his close friends at his house. He’s the same way 24/7. And you kind of got to get adjusted to it, but that’s him. He’s authentic. ... That’s him.''
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Smith said he met new coach Bruce Arians for the first time last week.
“It’s pretty cool,'' Smith said. ”I’m actually really excited. I sat down with B.A. for about 15-20 minutes just chopping it up, and the vibe around the facility is just amazing. Everybody is upbeat and excited and to see that aura come from one person is crazy.
"I love it, and I just can’t wait to get out there.''