On Wednesday, NFL Network’s Mike Garaf0lo shocked Bucs fans by saying that there was a “general sense that Lavonte David is going to be headed elsewhere” this offseason, as the free agent linebacker weighs his upcoming options. It has been expected that David, 31 years old, would likely re-join the team he has spent his entire career with in an effort to win back-to-back Super Bowls, and Garafolo’s comments were the first to cast doubt on such a result.
But on Thursday evening, Garafolo walked back his statement from the day before on David, indicating strongly that there is a good chance David remains in Tampa Bay after all.
“I would like a word with Bucs fans today,” Garafolo said. “And one of those words is, ‘sorry’. I actually went back yesterday and watched what I said (on David), and I did not state it the way I wanted to. We did a segment where we ran down a bunch of Bucs free agents, and I got to Lavonte David. The point I was trying to make was, at some point if you’re going to keep all those guys that we were talking about – Shaq Barrett, Chris Godwin – that it’s gonna be tough to keep everybody, right?”
“We got to David and we were up against a break, and I kinda rushed it, and I said ‘well, it’s looking not great that he’s going to come back’. And I broke one of my cardinal rules of covering free agency, which is, if there is time (before the start of free agency) for the team that has the guy, don’t rule that out.
“The point I was trying to say is 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 gonna be in a line with a bunch of other teams, if he gets to that point. The Bucs are not done making their push to re-sign Lavonte David, I do expect them to make a concerted effort at some point to make a push. It’s the only team he’s ever played for. He’s also made a chunk of money, made $50 million on his last contract, so does he take a little bit less to stay in Tampa Bay?
“Bucs fans, I am not as pessimistic as yesterday. I’ve had some conversations, I am not as pessimistic, I think there is still a good chance that he returns to Tampa Bay. I’m doing a 180 on this one. Yes, I still believe there’s a good chance that he comes back.”
Well, that’s quite a different story from Wednesday’s report. Reading between the lines, it sure sounds like people in the Bucs organization saw Garafolo’s first report, weren’t having it and let the NFL Network reporter hear about it. That would seem to be a good sign that the front office is optimistic about their chances to bring David back, as would this tweet from fellow linebacker Devin White on Wednesday morning.
After nine years with the Bucs, it would be a surprise if David opted to leave just when the team was entering a competitive window, but it certainly isn’t implausible. In contract discussions with both David and outside linebacker Shaq Barrett the negotiations could go deep into free agency, but both players wanting to return to Tampa Bay is a good sign.
For the second straight season, David did not miss a game while also playing 99 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. He earned second team All-Pro recognition following an 117-tackle, 1.5-sack, 1-interception season, while racking up 12 tackles-for-loss and three forced fumbles. David is one of the most consistently healthy defenders in the NFL, playing in 137 games out of a possible 144 in his career.
Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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