Buccaneers Want To Re-Sign LB Lavonte David; No Baker Mayfield Talks Yet

The Buccaneers’ interest in retaining Mike Evans and Antoine Winfield Jr. has been fairly well documented at this point, but the organization wants to retain one of its other Super Bowl starters. Lavonte David remains in the team’s plans.

Wrapping his 12th year with the Bucs, David is still playing at a high level. The veteran defender led the team with 134 tackles — his most since 2015 — and produced 4.5 sacks (his most since 2016). While Devin White‘s propensity for freelancing has undercut his athleticism, David has offered the team much more consistency. And the Bucs are placing a priority on David finishing his career in Tampa, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com notes.

While White could well be on the move after a disappointing contract year in which he saw his role decrease, David still looks to have a great chance of playing another season in Tampa. David, 33, played out a one-year, $4.5MM contract. If the Bucs do not re-sign David before the start of the 2024 league year on March 13, they will be hit with a $2.67MM dead-money charge. That is unlikely to faze a team that spent a season with a $35.1MM in Tom Brady dead money on its books.

One of this era’s best off-ball linebackers, David’s Pro Bowl count is lacking (one) due to the NFL still grouping rush linebackers and non-rush ‘backers together. David, however, is a three-time All-Pro who is the team’s second-leading tackler. Only Derrick Brooks (1,713) has more than David (1,480) among Buccaneers. David played 15 games this season, rating as Pro Football Focus’ No. 28 overall linebacker.

After carrying more than $70MM in dead money this year, the Bucs are projected to hold more than $37MM in cap space. The statuses of Evans, Winfield and Baker Mayfield will likely cut into that figure and require more work. The franchise tag figures to come out, with Winfield the cheapest of Tampa Bay’s options (the safety tenure is projected to be $17.2MM). The Bucs, however, have done quite well in retaining their top free agents in recent years. They let Shaquil Barrett, Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean test free agency before re-signing each over the past three years.

Barrett acknowledged recently he is probably on the cap-casualty radar. If the Bucs designate the veteran sack artist as a post-June 1 cut, they would save $4.9MM. Void years and a restructure have Barrett’s through-2024 deal (four years, $68MM) sitting as a rather onerous figure on Tampa Bay’s payroll. Barrett is due a $15MM roster bonus if he is on the team as of the fifth day of the 2024 league year, Laine adds. The 31-year-old veteran’s situation will be one to monitor; coming back from an Achilles tear, Barrett tallied just 4.5 sacks in 16 games.

Both Mayfield and the Bucs want to extend this partnership, but the quarterback confirmed (via The Athletic’s Mike Jones) no talks have taken place yet. Mayfield put together a strong playoff outing to lead the Bucs to a Round 1 win over the Eagles. That brought the 2023 UFA signing an additional $250K, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

March 2023, which saw three midlevel veterans sign for between $25MM and $40MM per year, can be labeled a broad price range for Mayfield. Even eclipsing the Geno Smith AAV — on a three-year, $75MM deal — would be an achievement for Mayfield, who could only command a one-year deal worth $4MM. Then again, Smith’s contract represents the floor for established QBs. Mayfield could conceivably move toward the Daniel Jones price point, with ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano mentioning $40MM as a logical place for talks to end. That would put the Bucs to the test, seeing as Brady never topped $25MM per year (though, his money was fully guaranteed).

Building a roster with Mayfield at $40MM per annum would be much more difficult, but the market the former No. 1 pick would command if he reached free agency — as a few teams will be looking for veteran options — will work against the Bucs this time around. Given his value fluctuation in recent years, Mayfield will be one of this year’s most interesting free agents.

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