Laine’s colleague Adam Schefter tweets, to no surprise, that Tampa has no intention of moving the former fifth overall pick. White has operated as a full-time starter throughout his four-year tenure with the Bucs, and has a Pro Bowl nod and second-team All-Pro nomination to his name. White’s option checks in at $11.7MM.
As is often the case, this trade request stems from frustration with contract talks. Negotiations have not gained traction, according to ESPN.com’s Jeremy Fowler (on Twitter). White, 25, is not eligible for free agency until 2024, due to the Bucs exercising his fifth-year option in May 2023. And the off-ball linebacker market has seen some notable developments this year.
Two teams — the Ravens and Bears — authorized top-five contracts at the position in 2023. Following a fall trade, Roquan Smith secured a $20MM-per-year deal with Baltimore to set the market at the position. In the early hours of this year’s legal tampering period, Tremaine Edmunds agreed to an $18MM-AAV pact with the Bears. That deal sits fourth among ILBs. Considering C.J. Mosley‘s Jets contract — a $17MM-per-year accord that changed the positional market — was finalized in 2019, it will likely take top-five money here for White to sign a second Bucs deal.
A noticeable gap between White’s production and Pro Football Focus grades has been in place for years. While White has generally been regarded as an upper-echelon off-ball ‘backer, PFF has consistently disagreed with that perception. The advanced metrics site, while steadily rating Lavonte David as one of the game’s best, has viewed White far off that tier. White has never carried a PFF grade north of 60th among linebackers. Over the past two seasons, the former No. 5 overall pick has rated outside the top 70. The site has annually viewed the LSU product’s coverage and run-defense abilities as lacking, with pass-rushing production (20.5 career sacks) propping up his grades.
Traditional numbers suggest the sideline-to-sideline playmaker resides among the game’s better linebackers. During Tampa Bay’s Super Bowl LV-winning season, White totaled a career-high 140 tackles and added a staggering nine sacks and 16 quarterback hits. White has surpassed the 120-tackle plateau in each of the past two years, not missing a game. White added two forced fumbles last season and finished with eight tackles for loss for the second straight year. This included an emotional performance that came shortly after White’s father died just before the Bucs’ Germany game.
The Bucs made White the highest non-rush linebacker draftee since 2009, drafting him to play in Todd Bowles‘ defense. The fit has not always been perfect, as accusations of loafing on plays emerged during the Bucs’ underwhelming 2022. Bowles defended White and did not demote him; White has played at least 95% of the Bucs’ defensive plays in each of the past three seasons. But it is worth wondering how the organization views the young defender through a long-term lens.
Tampa Bay re-signed David to a fourth contract and, despite being more than $50MM over the cap weeks ahead of free agency, found room to bring back Jamel Dean, who was drafted two rounds after White in 2019. Several vets from the Bucs’ Super Bowl defense remain on the team, and the organization wanting White back will limit his options. The 2020 CBA’s holdout restrictions further limit contracted players’ options, as even medium-length camp holdouts threaten to delay a player’s free agency. We are months away from camp, however, and this trade request obviously will make for a more interesting offseason for the Bucs.
Adam La Rose contributed to this post.