FILE - This is a 2015, file photo showing Lavonte David of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL football team. Lavonte David and the Buccaneers have agreed to a five-year, $50.25 million contract extension that will make him one of the highest-paid linebackers i
August 10, 2015

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Lavonte David isn't fazed by heightened expectations that'll come with being one of the highest-paid linebackers in the NFL.

The fourth-year pro welcomes them after signing a five-year $50.25 contract extension with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who are counting on him to help the franchise become relevant again.

David, who's guaranteed $25.5 million, joins three-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy as the second core player the team has given lucrative, long-term deals since coach Lovie Smith and general manager Jason Licht began making personnel decisions in 2014.

The Bucs have missed the playoffs seven consecutive seasons and haven't won a postseason game since their 2002 Super Bowl run, however McCoy and David are cornerstones of what the coach and GM believe has the potential to could become a championship defense.

''We want to bring a winning mindset back to the organization,'' David said Monday. ''We have the guys to do it. We have the coaches to help us. Hopefully, it happens very soon.''

David, who was entering the final year of the contract he signed as a rookie, was a second-round draft choice in 2012. He's the only player in the league with 10 or more sacks and at least six interceptions over the past three seasons.

The 25-year-old was an All Pro in 2013, when he had seven sacks and five interceptions. He's yet to be selected to play in a Pro Bowl, though, in part because he plays in a 4-3 scheme that doesn't give him as many opportunity to rush the passer as some of the outside linebacker who excel as edge rushers in 3-4 systems.

Tampa Bay's lack of success also has been a hindrance. The Bucs were 2-14 a year ago and have won just 13 games since he entered the league.

''Winning is the main thing. You get known for winning,'' David said. ''If you're winning, people will look at the things you've done.''

Smith was an assistant with the Bucs early in the careers of Hall of Famers Derrick Brooks and Warren Sapp. He sees no reason why David and McCoy can't form the foundation of another dominant defense.

The coach stressed David, the team's leading tackler the past three seasons, can ''do it all.''

''He can blitz as well as anyone, there's no better coverage linebacker than Lavonte, and his tackle total has been pretty steady throughout,'' Smith said.

''What we're challenging him to do is make more impact plays,'' the coach added. ''The great players around here, though, what they ultimately did was win a championship.''

A few hours before David agreed to his new deal on Sunday, Smith said he thinks the young linebacker is so good in pass coverage that he's capable of having five interceptions a season.

The coach set the bar even higher on Monday, adding he wants David to strive to be part of what Smith called the ''55 club.''

''That's five interceptions, five sacks every year for a great linebacker,'' Smith said. ''We will keep raising that standard for him''

David doesn't have a problem with that.

''That's just the expectation has for all his players, especially a guy like me who has some big shoes to fill. I've done it before, so he thinks I can do it again. And I believe I can do it again,'' David said.

''When you get rewarded for doing something that you love to do, all it does is just add an even bigger motivation,'' David added of the deal that the Bucs said makes him the league's highest paid 4-3 outside linebacker. ''That's how I look at it.''


AP NFL website: and

You May Like

Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)