Barring an extension by March 15, Lavonte David will have his first crack at free agency. After playing a key role in helping the Buccaneers win Super Bowl LV, the veteran linebacker will have a strong market.
If the Bucs let David reach free agency, the Browns should be expected to play a role in driving said market. The team has the nine-year veteran on its radar, Mary Kay Cabot of cleveland.com reports.
Chris Godwin and Shaquil Barrett have been the Bucs connected to the franchise tag. While Jason Licht said the Bucs will make a strong push to retain David on a third contract, he could be eager to see what his market looks like. The Bucs have these three, along with Ndamukong Suh, Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown and Leonard Fournette, due for free agency.
David and the Bucs spent time negotiating a deal last year but could not come to terms. He then played out the final season of his $10MM-AAV contract. As of late February, the Browns have $20MM in cap space to the Bucs’ $13MM. Cleveland being in the J.J. Watt mix could deplete those funds in advance of unrestricted free agency’s outset, though Tampa Bay has a far more extensive group of internal free agents.
Although the Browns made their first playoff berth in 18 years last season, they ranked 25th in defensive DVOA. One of the NFL’s best linebackers over the past decade, David would check a key box for Cleveland. Going into his age-31 season, David should still be expected to command a lucrative deal. Pro Football Focus graded the former second-round pick as its No. 4 overall off-ball linebacker last season.
The Browns, according to Cabot, are also expected to be interested in Breshad Perriman, a former Ravens first-round pick who has since found better NFL footing with the Bucs and Jets. Another Rashard Higgins contract is also in play for the Browns, who have Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. signed through 2021. Perriman caught 30 passes for 505 yards last season, doing so after posting 645 yards in 2019 with the Bucs.
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