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FAB 1. Bucs Plan To Extend David’s Contract
On Sunday when Bucs linebacker Lavonte David lines up against Atlanta, he will have his 121st career start in Tampa Bay, which ranks ninth in Bucs history – just two starts behind former teammate Gerald McCoy (123). If David starts all 16 games next season he’ll have 137 in red and pewter, surpassing Warren Sapp (130) and John Lynch (132) and will be tied with Mike Alstott with 137 career starts, which will rank fifth in franchise history.
In 2020, David will turn 30 on January 23, and will enter the final year of his contract in Tampa Bay where he has spent all eight years of his spectacular NFL career. Here is some breaking news – 2020 won’t be David’s last season with the Bucs, as the team is expected to enter contract extension talks this offseason.
In the waning days of 2019, the NFL finally recognized David’s greatness, naming him to the All-Decade team at the linebacker position despite his annual snubbing by the Pro Bowl. In his illustrious career, David has been to the Pro Bowl just once (2015) and has been named an All-Pro only twice (2013, 2016).
The Bucs have recognized David’s greatness all along, especially general manager Jason Licht, who made re-signing the team’s second-round pick in 2012 a top priority once he took over the franchise. On August 11, 2015, David was awarded a five-year, $50.5-million contract extension that averaged $10.25 million per season.
Licht, head coach Bruce Arians and director of football administration Mike Greenberg have a lot of top personnel decisions to make this offseason, including re-signing pass rushers Shaq Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul, and perhaps defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, in addition to figuring out whether to use the franchise tag on quarterback Jameis Winston or offer him a multi-year contract extension.
But extending the contract of David is among the team’s top priorities.
And despite never playing on a playoff team in his eight years in the NFL, David doesn’t want to go anywhere else. He wants to stay in Tampa Bay to help right the ship and finally get it sailing towards the postseason.
“It would mean a lot because growing up I never imagined myself in this position,” David said of his interest in a possible contract extension. “Getting drafted here and knowing that hardly nobody stays with a team for a long time, it’s rare that it happens. It would be a blessing – an absolute blessing. To have that Tampa Bay logo on my helmet and going balls to the wall for the Tampa Bay organization, it would be a blessing. I can’t take this situation for granted. Every day I take it one day at a time and do my best to represent the Bucs the best that I can.”
Once again, David is having a great season and is leading the team in tackles with 116 stops. And once again, David has been snubbed for the Pro Bowl despite having some better stats than a well-known player in Luke Kuechly, who seemed to get the honor this year based more on reputation than impact.
Carolina ILB Luke Kuechly – 2019 Stats
137 tackles (76 solo)
0 forced fumbles
0 fumble recoveries
Tampa Bay ILB Lavonte David – 2019 Stats
116 tackles (77 solo)
3 forced fumbles
1 fumble recovery
David also got cheated out of another forced fumble and recovered fumble in Sunday’s 23-20 loss to Houston when officials prematurely whistled a play dead. Still, David did force another fumble in that game, the third of the year and the 21st of his career, which is second in Tampa Bay history only to Lee Roy Selmon’s 28.5 forced fumbles.
With his first two stops against Atlanta on Sunday, David will reach 1,000 career tackles, which is a feat that has been only accomplished by three other Buccaneers in team history – Hardy Nickerson (1,028), Ronde Barber (1,428) and Hall of Famer Derrick Brooks (2,198). David recently surpassed John Lynch (973) and Shelton Quarles (985) for fourth place on the list of the franchise tackles record.
Despite the fact that he’ll be turning 30 in less than a month, David shows no signs of slowing down and the team wants him here for the long haul.
“He’s one of my favorite players,” Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles said. “I think he’s a complete football player. He plays the run very well. He plays the pass very well. He can blitz. He can play zone. He can play man. He’s very intelligent – he has a lot of football savvy and he understands the game, and that’s priceless. I think Devin [White] has learned a lot from him in that aspect of the game and the team in general on defense he’s one of the leaders over there and I can’t say enough about him.”
David, a long-time team captain has been more vocal over the last few years and really stepped up at halftime in the locker room in Tampa Bay’s 38-35 come-from-behind victory over Indianapolis when the team was trailing 27-21. David’s fiery speech helped rally the Bucs for a win that got the team to a 7-7 record after a 2-6 start to the season.
“He is our vocal leader,” Bowles said. “He is one of them – he speaks up all the time. It’s not just when things aren’t going right. He speaks up when they’re going right. He comes to play every time, he holds everyone accountable and like I said, he is one of our leaders.”
David is currently the second-longest tenured player in Tampa Bay behind only right tackle Demar Dotson, an 11-year pro. Dotson has seen David develop into the great player that he is today and thinks it would be foolish for the team not to extend his contract past 2020.
“Lavonte is the cornerstone of this defense,” Dotson said. “He plays with great passion and I think he should go down as one of the great Bucs that have ever played this game with Sapp, Brooks, Lynch, and Ronde and guys like that. His play speaks for itself, and the way he comes to practice and prepares and then he gets snubbed by the Pro Bowl every year … he definitely should have made the Pro Bowl this year.
“I think the guy’s legacy on the field speaks for itself. I think he retires as a Buc, and I think it would be crazy for the Bucs to let him go due to the passion and leadership he brings, especially to the young guys like Devin White.”
Veteran Bucs inside linebacker Kevin Minter has played in Bowles system for years dating back to 2013 when he was drafted in the second round by Arizona. He’s marveled at how quickly David has picked up the scheme and fit in so well.
“I’ve been watching Lavonte since college,” Minter said. “I was getting recruited by Nebraska and the guys in Lincoln said they wanted me to play with Lavonte. He’s tremendous. He’s a legend – as a player and a person. He has a great grasp of this defense, but he’s really getting it now. He’s going to do nothing but ascend in this defense. Just look how he played in his first year in it – and the leadership he provides for us is outstanding. He’s not just a leader by example or a vocal leader. He’s both. He deserves that C on his chest for sure.”
While the Bucs’ high-scoring offense has led the way in Tampa Bay through most of the season, Dotson has seen the improvement on the defensive side of the ball down the stretch, and knows that David’s leadership is a big reason why.
“That defense, especially against the run, has been phenomenal all year,” Dotson said. “Now you can see, as they year goes on, they’re playing better, especially in the secondary. They started the year crazy against the run, but they struggled in the secondary. Now they fixed it and those guys are playing better. Lavonte is a big reason for that. He’s the leader of the defense, and in some ways he’s the leader of this football team. I don’t know if he’ll get a contract extension after next year or this year coming up, but he definitely deserves it. He definitely deserves to retire as a Buc with a contract extension. We’ll see.”
There have only been a limited number of the Bucs’ greats that have been able to play their entire NFL career in Tampa Bay – Brooks, Barber and Alstott are among the few.
“Those are guys that I know and guys that I look up to,” David said. “Guys that meant a lot to this organization not only as football players, but as men. The main thing is winning and I have to get to that level and win. Unfortunately we didn’t win enough this year, but our goal next year is to come back and win every game that we play. I would die to make the playoffs. I want to make it so bad. I know we can do it with a better start, but it really all starts on Day 1 of OTAs – our voluntary on-field activities next year.”
David made $9.75 million in 2019 and is slated to make $10.75 million next year. The Bucs’ 2020 salary cap situation could be eased by reducing David’s cap hit next year by several million dollars in exchange for more guaranteed money in a new, lucrative contract extension. David has always been a team player and would gladly do his part to keep the Bucs’ up-and-coming defense together.
“This is definitely the best front seven I’ve played with since I’ve been here,” David said. “We have some veteran guys that understand the scheme and understand what Coach Bowles is trying to do and then going out and executing it. We definitely take pride in it. I hope we can keep it all together for next year because we can do great things. You’re seeing it now.
“What keeps me young is my love for the game to be honest with you – my love for the game and getting the opportunity to continue to play the game that I love. It’s all for the guys in the locker room and the name on my jersey, this organization and this city. That’s what I give week in and week out.”
It’s time for Tampa Bay’s front office and ownership to show Lavonte David the love and sign him to a contract extension that will allow him to retire as a Buccaneer.
A Buccaneer legend.