Citing Tampa Bay's up-to-date salary cap situation, it is safe to assume that at least one of numerous important contributors from a season ago - who are set to hit free agency on March 17th, that is - will not wear a Buccaneers uniform in 2021.
In preparation for the annual open market of NFL players, few people, if anyone, expected the Buccaneers to allow long-time linebacker Lavonte David to emerge as a player who might get away from The Bay.
However, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo shared on Wednesday via live TV that there is a "growing sense" David could depart after all, Garafolo made note of the Buccaneers' long list of free agents - edge rusher Shaquill Barrett, wide receiver Chris Godwin, defensive end Ndamukong Suh, and others come to mind - and a similarly long list of suitors for the rising tenth-year linebacker as reasons why David could scoot from the franchise.
“At some point, you’re getting to a point where you just don’t have enough money for everybody,” Garafolo said. “I think there is the general sense that Lavonte David is going to be headed elsewhere. … There’s a lot of teams out there looking to upgrade their defense, and they’ve got a lot of money to spend here. I would think Lavonte David’s going to wind up being elsewhere in 2021.”
The report came as a surprise to just about everyone, leading many to wonder just how much stock there was in such news. Turns out, as Garafolo explained the next day on NFL Network, he believes he had gotten a bit ahead of himself.
Now, according to Garafolo, "there is still a good chance that [David] returns to Tampa Bay."
"I broke one of my cardinal rules of free agency, which is, if there's time for the team that has the guy before the start of free agency, Don't rule that out. And, the point that I was trying to make, I was trying to say that there are going to be a lot of suitors for Lavonte David on the open market. I know the Browns have been mentioned as one of them. They're going to be in a line with a bunch of other teams. If he gets to that point, and the Bucs are not done with their push to re-sign Lavonte David, I do expect them to make a concerted effort at some point to make the push. You talked about it, it's the only team that he's ever played for. He's also made a chunk of money, made $50 million on his last contract. So, does he talk a little bit less to stay in Tampa Bay? I think even the Bucs' Twitter account was subtweeting me earlier today, and it is because he is a guy that a lot of folks love down there. Bucs fans, I am not as pessimistic as yesterday. I've had some conversations. I'm not as pessimistic. I think there is still a good chance that he returns to Tampa Bay."
Got to love the NFL news cycle, right?
In fairness to Garafolo, he hasn't been proven wrong in this situation and there's certainly an opportunity for David to cash in elsewhere this offseason, one that only David currently knows whether or not he will grab.
However, after acknowledging that he received some heat for mentioning David as a candidate to leave Tampa Bay, Garafolo did take the chance to correct his initial statement and provide some clarity. From his conversations, Tampa Bay has yet to turn up the heat in negotiating a new contract with David, but Garafolo does expect the Buccaneers to ramp up that process at some point.