The Bucs retained their top cornerback in free agency, re-signing Carlton Davis III on a 3-year deal worth $45 million. Davis will earn an average of $15 million per year. That makes him the ninth-highest paid cornerback in the league according to OverTheCap.com.
Tampa Bay risked losing him on the free agent market by not using the franchise tag on him. But when the team couldn’t come to terms with Chris Godwin, the Bucs had to use the tag on their star wide receiver for a second straight year.
That meant Davis would hit free agency and the Bucs could be left with a major hole in their secondary. Jamel Dean and Sean Murphy-Bunting would have been the starters in 2022, heading into their contract seasons. Neither is as good as Davis, and one or both might not be re-signed after the 2022 campaign.
Now that Davis is back, Tampa Bay’s top trio of cornerbacks will start together for one more season. That’s one less major hole for general manager Jason Licht to fill, and for head coach Bruce Arians to worry about.
Davis was considered the second or third-best free agent cornerback available. New England’s J.C. Jackson signed with the Chargers on a 5-year, $82.5 million contract. After Jackson, Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore or Davis were the most sought after cornerbacks on the market.
Bucs Played CB Market Perfectly
The Bucs had some concerns about how much to pay Davis. If used, the franchise tag guaranteed him $17.287 million in 2022. Tampa Bay felt like that was too much to pay for a cornerback with some unanswered questions. Davis missed 14 games in his career due to injury, including seven last year with a quad injury. He has yet to start every game in any NFL season.
Bucs CB Carlton Davis III – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
There was also the issue of Davis’ playmaking ability to consider. Davis didn’t get his first career interception until late in his second year. Then he had four in 2020 while helping the Bucs win Super Bowl LV. But in 10 games last season, he only produced one interception and dropped several others. Is Davis a one-interception cornerback or a multi-interception guy? Cornerbacks who get multiple picks go to Pro Bowls and earn more money.
Davis, a second-round pick of the Bucs in 2018, has been a four-year starter and the team’s top cover cornerback. In his time with Tampa Bay, Davis started 50 games and recorded 207 tackles, nine tackles for loss, 52 pass breakups, six interceptions, three fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles. Davis’ best season came in 2020 when he led the team with four interceptions, which was a career high.