Amid the penny-pinching needed by the salary-cap strapped Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a longtime star player will test free agency.
Bucs linebacker Lavonte David “is expected to test the free agent market” according to a source via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. David’s two-year, $25 million contract will expire on March 15 as he will become a free agent. He could command as much as $9.7 million annually according to Spotrac.
“A return to Tampa Bay has not been ruled out, but given their cap situation, it will be challenging,” Rapoport wrote.
The Bucs would need to maneuver David around a $48.7 million salary cap deficit and still manage another 20-plus pending free agents. Tampa Bay already cut three starters, and more cuts could be coming before March 15.
David will draw interest in free agency, and Rapoport noted that David is “coming off one of his most productive seasons” in 2022. David tallied 124 tackles, including 10 for loss, along with three sacks and a forced fumble.
His career with the Bucs began in 2012 as the team’s second-round draft pick. He burst on the scene as a key starter with 139 tackles, four pass deflections, an interceptions, and two sacks that year. Overall, he has 1,346 tackles, 29 sacks, 12 interceptions, and 27 forced fumbles. Along the way he earned All-Pro first team honors once and second team honors twice plus one Pro Bowl appearance.
David Wants to Retire With Bucs
While David will look at free agency, but he previously said that he wants to finish his career with the Bucs.
“For sure. I’d love to retire as a Buccaneer,” David said on WDAE after the season as transcribed by Pewter Report. “Getting to play in the same building my whole career like guys like Ronde Barber and Derrick Brooks, that’d be amazing. Just to walk the same hallways they walked their whole career. Especially Derrick Brooks, you all know how I feel about Derrick. Every time he comes around, my eyes light up. So, he’s definitely a guy who I kind of want to model after, just be a guy who played with Tampa their whole career and was just a staple for what they do.”
David played through many losing seasons and no playoff appearances before the arrival of former Bucs quarterback Tom Brady in 2020. David helped that team in the Super Bowl, and he helped the Bucs win back-to-back NFC South division titles in 2021 and 2022.
David’s Suitors Elsewhere
CBS Sports’ Garrett Podell floated a few teams that could pursue David in free agency.
Podell also highlighted David’s value in free agency, particularly that David owns the second-most tackles in the past decade among defensive free agents this year. Only Los Angeles Rams linebacker Bobby Wagner has more with 1,523.
The Philadelphia Eagles could pursue David amid “numerous holes to fill on their defense” due to the team’s own potential free agent departures, Podell wrote. The New York Jets and Miami Dolphins could also go after David in an effort to bolster their respective rosters. Podell noted the Jets’ potential of landing Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers as the draw for David in the Big Apple, and Podell highlighted David’s Miami roots as an interest for the longtime Bucs star.