In a historic offseason for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the reigning Super Bowl Champions are tasked with bringing back their core from the 2020 season. One of the sole bright spots on the Tampa Bay roster in the past nine years has been linebacker Lavonte David, who has been a staple on Tampa Bay teams for years.
David, a one-time first-team All-Pro, has tallied 1125 total tackles (128 for loss), 24 sacks, 12 interceptions, 51 pass deflections, and 24 forced fumbles throughout his time in Tampa. The Nebraska alum has also been voted second-team All-Pro twice and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2015.
David is now due for another contract, his third of his NFL career. Will he remain in Tampa Bay on a deal that is friendly for both sides, or will he cash in elsewhere?
Linebacker Lavonte David
2020 stats (including playoffs): 20 games, 143 total tackles (104 solo), 2.5 sacks, 10 pass deflections
Previous contract: 5 years, $50,250,000 (approximately $10 million annually)
Spotrac market value: $12.7 million annually
According to Spotrac, David has totaled $53,747,757 in cash in his nine years as a pro. The Miami native signed a contract extension in 2015, adding five years and $50 million to David's rookie contract, which was valued at $3.59 million.
Fresh off of a Super Bowl, it is time for David to hit unrestricted free agency for the first time in his NFL career. Spotrac projects David to take a slight pay raise at $12.75 million annually, even at his older age.
Depending on who you ask, inside linebacker is one of the least valuable positions on a roster as even the best at the position do not make much more than $15 million a year. Only two inside linebackers make more than $15 million annually: Seattle's Bobby Wagner and New York's C.J Mosley.
A handful of inside linebackers ean $12-15 million, highlighted by names such as Atlanta's Deion Jones ($14.25 million), Jacksonville's Myles Jack ($14.25 million) Carolina's Shaq Thompson ($13.54 million), and New Orleans' Kwon Alexander ($13.5 million).
It is no question that David is comparable with these players and deserves about the same, but there is not much wiggle room separating him from the other 12 linebackers who make more than him.
David has plenty left in the tank and the Buccaneers should value their loyal linebacker who has been one of the one bright spots in Tampa prior to the Tom Brady era.
Similar to receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, both David and fellow linebacker Devin White have had tremendous success playing alongside one another. Keeping David around while White continues to develop on his rookie deal would allow both to prosper, combining their talents to continue as, arguably, the best linebacker duo in the NFL.
Pro Football Focus considers David as the highest-rated linebacker in free agency, one that will demand looks for teams who have a need at the linebacker position.
The 31-year-old David has found a home in Tampa, but that will not stop teams with cap space to try and lure him away from Cigar City. Teams may try to overspend to get a defensive leader in David, but it would cost a significant amount of cash to uproot him from Tampa.
It would make sense for David to cash in one last time, but taking a few million less to play for a contender seems more likely for David, especially after only making the playoffs once in his nine years as an NFL player.