While Tampa Bay has secured its starters from the 2020 Super Bowl team, a key special teams player and backup defensive back has departed in free agency.
Ryan Smith will take his talents to Los Angeles where he will sign a one-year deal worth $1.75 million with the Chargers according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.
— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 30, 2021
Smith played the most snaps of any special teams player with the Bucs in 2020 but didn’t see time on defense according to The Athletic’s Greg Auman. The Bucs lose some depth at cornerback with Smith leaving, which will add to the team’s need to find more depth through free agency or the draft per Auman.
The Bucs currently have Carlton Davis III, Jamel Dean, Sean Murphy-Bunting, and Herb Miller under contract. Ross Cockrell remains unsigned per Auman.
Tampa made numerous signings for the defense’s front seven early on in free agency. The Bucs re-signed linebackers Lavonte David, Shaquil Barrett and Kevin Minter in addition to defensive end Ndamukong Suh.
From an HBCU to the NFL
Tampa drafted Smith in the fourth round out of North Carolina Central, a historically black college in the MEAC, in 2016.
His production at NCCU impressed. He had 168 solo tackles, a school record, and finished his college career with seven interceptions and eight fumble recoveries. He also did damage on kick returns with a school record of 28.1 yards per return on 14 attempts, which included one for a touchdown.
“I was on a partial scholarship at first and then I worked my way to earn a full scholarship,” Smith told ESPN’s The Undefeated before the Super Bowl. “The experience was really fun. I ended up being a freshman All-American and people started to know who I was, and I started to get a little bit of love. ”
Smith started for the Bucs in 2017 and 2018 but became a special teams player primarily in 2019.
“Whatever the case may be, I’m just doing what I got to do and controlling what I can control,” Smith told The Undefeated.
He has 117 tackles and an interception in his career. He made a career high 63 tackles in 2017 in addition to blocking an extra point attempt …read more