While Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians recently expressed his confidence surrounding the number of free agents that the franchise needs to re-sign, there's still a chance that at least a few players will leave in search of more money, a different role, or just a new scene.
While veteran inside linebacker Lavonte David has spent his entire career with the Bucs, David could turn towards free agency in the hopes of signing a contract elsewhere.
According to Spotrac, the 31-year old "has done enough to warrant a raise that puts him in line with the highest-paid minimal-rush OLBs in the league." David is projected to be able to sign a three-year, $39 million keeping him in Tampa Bay, but David could potentially want more money.
Despite his age, David continued to be highly productive for the Bucs this past season on their road to a Super Bowl championship recording 117 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, an interception, six passes break-ups, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries. David was named to the second-team All-Pros by the Associated Press.
David is considered the No. 8 overall free agents in 2021 according to Pro Football Focus so there's a strong chance other teams around the league will come calling With that in mind, we've compiled a list of players who could be a fit in Tampa Bay, including their projected market value and free-agent deals according to Spotrac:
Matt Milano, Buffalo Bills
Projected value/contract: $13.7 million per year; Four years, $55 million total
Milano just wrapped up his fourth year as a pro, after being drafted by the Bills in the fifth round out of Boston College in the 2017 NFL Draft.
Milano recorded 40 total tackles to go along with 3.5 sacks, three pass breakups, and an interception. While at times he has struggled to tackle, he has proven to be one of the better linebackers in coverage. Pro Football Focus described Milano as a "modern-day linebacker."
"He has the 11th-best coverage grade among linebackers since 2018, he’s been excellent matching up with running backs in single coverage and he’s held his own when asked to line up over the slot," according to PFF.
He's also from Florida, growing up in the Orlando area having played high school football at Dr. Phillips. Could Milano perhaps want to return to the Sunshine State? If the Bucs want to replace David with a younger player who has shown his potential, Milano is a great option in free agency.
K.J. Wright, Seattle Seahawks
Projected value/contract: $7.5 million per year; Two years, $15 million total
If the Bucs want to find a veteran presence in free agency to potentially replace David, Wright fits that spot.
The 31-year old outside-linebacker is the same age as David and has been a critical part of Seattle's defense over the years. This past season, Wright played in and started all 16 games recording 86 total tackles, 11 tackles-for-loss, two sacks, one interception, and 10 pass breakups.
While Wright has made it clear he would like to stay with the team that drafted him and retire one day in Seattle, he told Jim Rome on CBS Sports Radio that he doesn't want to sign anything less than a market-value contract.
"I do way too much on the football field to take a discount," Wright said, via ESPN. "It makes absolutely no sense. If you want to win all these championships and look good on Sundays, you've got to compensate your guys that are making plays. ... I have a family and I'm trying to set up long, long-term success for my family."
During the interview, Wright pointed out that he was the only player in the NFL last season to hit double digits in both passes defensed (10) and tackles for loss (11).
Wright mentioned winning championships and there's no better place to do so in Tampa Bay as the Bucs look to defend their Super Bowl LV title next season.
Jayon Brown, Tennesse Titans
Projected value/contract: $11 million per year; Four years, $44 million total
Brown has become an important piece to the Titans defense during his first four years in the league since being drafted in 2017. However, he missed the final six weeks of the 2020 regular season due to a season-ending elbow injury suffered in Week 11.
Despite the injury, there's no denying Brown has play-making abilities having recorded a sack, an interception, eight pass breakups, five tackles for loss, and two forced fumbles before his season ended early.
“I have a lot of big playmaking ability for sure,” Brown recently told ESPN. “I just have to keep going. For me, it’s just about being a guy the team can count on to make a big play in clutch situations.”
In the interview with ESPN, Brown explained it "would be huge" if he could stay in Tennessee in larger part because it's the team that drafted him, he understands the system and he's comfortable. But Brown also spoke about the Bucs and the team's pass rush, which was key to a Super Bowl victory over the Kanas City Chiefs.
"They both make plays in the backfield and have coverage ability," Brown said about Devin White and Lavonte David. "Overall, they are really good linebackers. I believe I have the same traits. I feel I can fit into any scheme because, in our defense, we mix it up from 3-4 to 4-3, depending on the needs for each week."
Could this be a hint that Brown wants to play alongside White if David signs elsewhere? Brown clearly feels like he could be a good fit in Tampa Bay and has paid attention to the type of defense the Bucs use on the field. It's something to watch.
Kevin Pierre-Louis, Washington Football Team
Projected value/contract: 1 year, $2 million total
Pro Football Focus provided a prediction on the type of value that Pierre-Louis might have as a free agent, while Spotrac did not. One thing is clear, however, this is a cheaper option for the Bucs.
Pierre-Louis signed a one-year, $3 million contract to play in Washington this past season and it seemingly ended up being one of his best seasons since entering the league in 2014.
2020 marked the first time he started in more than 10 games while recording 56 tackles, three tackles for loss, two pass breakups, a forced fumble, and a sack in 13 total games played.
Pierre-Louis has been around the league as well. After spending the first three years of his career in Seattle, he was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs during the summer of 2017. He later signed with the New York Jets in spring 2018. Over a year later, he signed with the Chicago Bears in 2019 and finally ended up with the Football Team for the 2020 season.
While there's a likelihood Pierre-Louis might want to stay in one spot for more than a year and just re-sign with Washington, he provides strong pass coverage and could be a well-valued signing for the Bucs.
B.J. Goodson, Cleveland Browns
Projected value/contract: $3.25 million per year; Two years, $6.5 million total
Similar to Pierre-Louis, Spotrac doesn't provide a projected contract for Goodson, so instead, we'll be following the lead of Pro Football Focus again.
The former fourth-round draft pick started his career with the New York Giants and was traded to the Green Bay Packers in 2019 after three seasons. A year later, Goodson signed a one-year deal in Cleveland and played above expectations this past season.
Making 14 starts for the Browns, Goodson led the team with 91 total tackles. In addition, Brown recorded two interceptions, while breaking up six passes, to go along with two tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.
A relatively solid defender for the Browns, Goodson could be a good pickup for the Bucs if David decides to leave Tampa Bay.