Carlton Davis

Latest On Tampa Bay’s Cornerbacks Room

The Buccaneers allowed depth players Richard Sherman and Pierre Desir to walk in free agency this offseason, but held onto their most important free agent cornerback when they re-signed Carlton Davis to a three-year, $45MM contract. Besides the departures of Sherman and Desir, and the rookie depth additions that counteract them, the room looks quite the same as it did last season. If the position group can stay healthy, how does the depth chart play out with most of last year’s contributors returning? Let’s take a look. 

Davis is the only for sure starter at cornerback for Tampa Bay. He’s been a consistent starter since getting drafted in the second round in 2018, but really broke out in his second year of NFL football. After a rookie season that saw him break up only 4 passes, Davis exploded in coverage recording 19, 18, and 11 passes defensed in each year after. Davis has six interceptions in his first four seasons (four in 2020, alone), but his 52 total passes defensed says plenty about his ability to make plays on the ball. He’ll enter the season as the team’s No. 1 cornerback, with questions surrounding who will be No. 2.

Jamel Dean is likely the top prospect to start opposite Davis in base formations. He or his competition for that second spot, Sean Murphy-Bunting, would still see plenty of the field as the third cornerback, as the Buccaneers primarily utilize a nickel defense, but, when utilizing only four defensive backs, Dean is currently the favorite to be on the field. Not only are they competing for a spot atop the depth chart, but, considering both were members of Tampa Bay’s 2019 draft class, they will also be striving to earn a new payday like Davis’ in their contract years.

Dean didn’t enter the 2021 NFL season as a starter, but, after an elbow injury sent Murphy-Bunting to injured reserve, Dean took over and made the most of his opportunity. Dean has consistently missed at least two games every season with injury, but, considering the extended time Davis and Murphy-Bunting missed last season, two games doesn’t seem so bad. With 33 passes defensed, Dean has shown the ability in coverage to stay close and make plays on the ball. The biggest downside to his game is that Dean hasn’t quite been able to convert those plays into turnovers, only totaling five interceptions over three seasons. Dean possesses ideal size and speed for the position and was even graded one slot above Davis last season according to Pro Football Focus’ position rankings (subscription required).

Murphy-Bunting was drafted one round earlier than Dean and, so far, his opportunities have reflected that. Last year was the first that saw Murphy-Bunting miss time due to injury, but that doesn’t make Dean’s impressive showing in his absence any less inimical to Murphy-Bunting’s starting role. The injury last season really limited Murphy-Bunting, as PFF graded him out as the 90th cornerback in the NFL, compared to Dean and Davis’s 20th and 21st, respectively. Murphy-Bunting has shown the player he can be when healthy, though, and if that version of him shows up for competition, he may find his way back into a solidified starting role. As a rookie, Murphy-Bunting showed off his ball skills with three interceptions. While he only has one pick in the next two regular seasons, he was able to reel in an interception in three-straight playoff games in 2020. Which version of Murphy-Bunting the Buccaneers get this season will largely affect the starting roles, but, as mentioned above, Tampa Bay’s nickel defense should allow plenty of snaps for both Dean and Murphy-Bunting.

Now Tampa Bay does have another option. If either Dean or Murphy-Bunting struggle coming into the season, the Buccaneers could move Logan Ryan, whom they signed in the offseason to fill in the free safety role left vacant by Jordan Whitehead‘s departure, back to his natural position of cornerback. Ryan hasn’t played cornerback since 2019, but he serves as a more-than-qualified “break glass in case of emergency” option.

Behind the top three corners, Tampa Bay returns Ross Cockrell, Dee Delaney, and Rashard Robinson. Cockrell is a journeyman cornerback with plenty of starting experience with his past teams. He and Delaney filled in a bit as starters when Davis and Murphy-Bunting were out last year, but, over the course of the season, Cockrell proved the most effective backup cornerback. Delaney made the most of his defensive opportunities getting an interception and two passes defensed in five games of extended action on defense. Delaney is a core special teamer, though, and really only serves as a depth piece on defense. Similarly, though Robinson has starting experience from his time in San Francisco, he mainly served as a reserve cornerback last year in Tampa Bay.

Rookie fifth-round pick Zyon McCollum and undrafted rookies Kyler McMichael and Don Gardner round out the roster for Tampa Bay at cornerback. They may be able to fight their way onto the 53-man roster by proving their worth on special teams, but McCollum is probably the only rookie here who may find his way into the cornerback rotation as a depth piece.

Tampa Bay’s nickel look should field, essentially, four cornerbacks, with Davis, Dean, Murphy-Bunting, and Ryan all surrounding starting strong safety Antoine Winfield Jr. Dean and Murphy-Bunting will compete throughout the preseason to determine who stays on the field in base formations. Cockrell and Delaney will likely continue their role as key backups. Robinson may find himself competing with McCollum for a roster spot, with McMichael and Gardner attempting to beat the odds. The Buccaneers know they can achieve success with this roster of cornerbacks, based on its similarities to last season, but just how they choose to employ their corners will determine how much success they can achieve.

Buccaneers, CB Carlton Davis Agree To Deal

Carlton Davis will follow Ryan Jensen in staying with the Buccaneers. The standout cornerback agreed to terms with the Bucs on Monday afternoon, Ian Rapoport of tweets.

It is a three-year, $45MM pact, CBS Sports’ Josina Anderson tweets, adding that it comes with $30MM guaranteed (Twitter link). Davis will see $23.5MM fully guaranteed, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe notes (on Twitter), adding that Davis’ pact maxes out at $45MM. The base total figures to come in a bit below that.

Tampa Bay was over the cap before this Davis agreement, so the team will need to continue to make moves ahead of Wednesday’s start to the 2022 league year. But Davis returning fills a key need for a Bucs team that is now firmly back in the Super Bowl mix, Tom Brady having unretired and all. A team that was close to falling to fringe-contender status now has re-upped its center and top cornerback, spending to fortify its roster as it did in 2021.

Within minutes, cornerback-seeking teams have seen the two top UFAs move off the board. The Chargers just gave J.C. Jackson a $16.5MM-per-year deal; Davis’ checks in just below that. The former Bucs second-round pick will still earn top-10 cornerback money.

Although Davis missed seven games last season with a quad injury, he returned in early December and finished the season to re-establish his value. After a four-interception 2020 season, Davis nabbed just one pick last year. He allowed an 83.2 passer rating when targeted and entered the offseason as one of the top free agents available. This will ensure the Bucs’ top corners from recent years — the homegrown trio of Davis, Sean Murphy-Bunting and Jamel Dean — are on track to reprise their roles in 2022. The latter two will go into contract years.

Tampa Bay has lost both its guard starters from the past four seasons — Ali Marpet and Alex Cappa — to retirement and a Bengals defection, respectively, but the team has done well to make these deals happen. Although, the Bucs might have to dip into the void-year realm again to fit these contracts onto their payroll. (No void years are present in Davis’ deal, however, Greg Auman of The Athletic tweets.) Leonard Fournette, Rob Gronkowski, Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh are still unattached.

Buccaneers Rework Vita Vea’s Contract

The restructures keep coming, and this time it’s the Buccaneers opening up a chunk of cap. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter), the Buccaneers have restructured the contract of nose tackle Vita Vea.

[RELATED: Buccaneers Place Franchise Tag On Chris Godwin]

Specifically, the team restructured the veteran’s base salary, opening up $7.64MM worth of cap space. Greg Auman of The Athletic has more details (via Twitter), noting that the organization reduced Vea’s salary from $10.6MM to $1.12MM, leading to the player getting a $9.46MM bonus.

The Buccaneers barely had any breathing room over the cap heading into the offseason, and that was before they slapped wideout Chris Godwin with the franchise tag. The team will surely have more cap-saving transactions, but they’ll still be hard pressed to afford all of their impending free agents, a group that includes Carlton Davis.

Vea has spent his entire four-year career in Tampa Bay, and the former first-round pick signed a four-year, $73MM extension with the Buccaneers back in January. He made his first Pro Bowl in 2021 after finishing with 33 tackles, four sacks, and 12 QB hits.

Bucs To Start Post-Brady Rebuild?

With three-time MVP quarterback Tom Brady announcing his retirement earlier today, speculation has already started on the future of the Buccaneers’ franchise. Brady’s retirement has experts wondering about the futures of tight end Rob Gronkowki and head coach Bruce Arians. Both have flirted with retirement before. 

Contributing to the postulation on Arians’ situation is head coaching interest in the Buccaneers’ coordinators on both sides of the ball. Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich recently had his second interview for the Jaguars open coaching position. Reportedly, talks have stalled as Leftwich has expressed issues with current general manager Trent Baalke continuing in that position, with Leftwich preferring Cardinals’ vice president of pro scouting Adrian Wilson to replace the polarizing GM. The Saints have requested an interview with Leftwich, who previously received interest from the Bears before they hired Matt Eberflus. Defensive coordinator Todd Bowles has interviewed with the Bears, Jaguars, Raiders, and Vikings. With the Bears’ job taken, Patriots’ offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels being the presumed frontrunner in Las Vegas, and Jacksonville having conducted multiple second interviews Bowles’ opportunities for a head coaching job are starting to dwindle, as well.

More cause for speculation has risen from an article from Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network. In the article Wilson reports that Arians has informed the entire coaching staff that they have permission to seek jobs around the league regardless of whether or not the new position would be a promotion. With the potential exit of the two New England-legends and the impactful group of Buccaneers heading into free agency, this permission could potentially be an opportunity to abandon ship before the start of a Tampa Bay rebuild.

In terms of those free agents, joining free-agent-to-be Gronkowski are three other significant role players: wide receiver Chris Godwin, center Ryan Jensen, and cornerback Carlton Davis. Godwin is expected to be the top free agent priority in Tampa Bay after he received the franchise tag for this past season. Jensen came over three years ago from the Ravens on what then made him the highest paid center in the NFL. Davis was a key contributor due for a big contract year on defense before being placed on IR after Week 4 of the season and missing eight weeks during a crucial year.

The domino-effect of Brady’s retirement is already looming large over the Buccaneers’ prospects for the 2022 NFL season. Tampa Bay has the entire offseason to navigate these obstacles and mitigate the potential fallout. After winning a Super Bowl just last year, the departure of Brady could be as game-changing to the Buccaneers as his arrival was nearly two years ago.

Bucs Activate CB Carlton Davis From IR

The Buccaneers will have another of their longtime cornerback starters in uniform Sunday. They activated Carlton Davis from IR on Friday. The fourth-year cover man is set to suit up for the first time since Week 4.

A quad injury in New England rerouted Davis’ season. He has missed the past seven Bucs games, joining Sean Murphy-Bunting in being sidelined for a sizable chunk of the season. But both are now back on Tampa Bay’s active roster.

While the Bucs are still without Richard Sherman and received notice Thursday that Mike Edwards will be suspended three games, the Bucs have not had Davis and Murphy-Bunting on the field together since Week 1. The duo has played together as starters for most of the past three seasons, including in Super Bowl LV.

In addition to Davis’ extended absence this year, he missed four games between the 2019 and ’20 seasons. He still leads the NFL in passes defensed (42) in that span. Davis added four interceptions last season and grabbed another pick this year. This season’s home stretch stands to be pivotal for the Auburn product, who is due for free agency in 2022.

Bucs Designate CB Carlton Davis To Return From IR

The Buccaneers continue to take steps toward having their top set of cornerbacks back in uniform together. They moved closer to that goal Wednesday, designating Carlton Davis to return to practice.

This opens a 21-day window during which Davis will be able to practice with the team without counting against the 53-man roster. At any point during that window, Davis can be activated back to the 53-man roster from IR.

A fourth-year starter, Davis landed on IR after suffering a calf injury during a Week 4 win in New England. The Bucs will be happy to see the return of the NFL’s leader in passes defensed (37) over the 2019 and 2020 seasons. The 2018 second-round pick started the season off with one interception and five passes defensed, adding to his total of six interceptions and 46 passes defensed over his career.

With the return of Sean Murphy-Bunting on Monday, following an eight-game absence, the Buccaneers hope to soon have their three starting corners (Davis, Murphy-Bunting, and Jamel Dean) back on the field together. Davis will be a much-needed addition, with two other cornerbacks — newly signed Richard Sherman and Rashard Robinson — still on IR.

Injury Notes: Murray, Ravens, WFT, Rams

Ravens linebacker Malik Harrison landed on the reserve/non-football Injury list today after being shot in the leg by a stray bullet, per ESPN’s Jamison Hensley.

The 23-year-old was shot outside of a Cleveland nightclub on Sunday night. According to the report, Harrison was struck by a stray bullet; four men were arrested following the shooting, and it sounds like Harrison was an innocent bystander. The linebacker suffered non-life-threatening injuries and was treated at a Cleveland hospital. The Ravens were on their bye week, and Harrison was scheduled to return to Baltimore today.

“I don’t think it’s severe at all,” said coach John Harbaugh. “I’m optimistic that it’s going to be OK … Happy that he’s OK and very grateful that he’s OK and not hurt worse. Anything can happen. It’s just a tough situation.”

Harrison was placed on NFI, meaning he’ll have to sit out three games before he can return to practice.

More injury notes from around the NFL:

  • Kyler Murray was seen limping after tossing a game-deciding interception late during the Cardinals loss to the Packers. Fortunately, it doesn’t sound like the quarterback suffered a serious injury. Fox Sports’ Jay Glazer reported that Murray suffered a sprained ankle that could take one to three weeks to get better (h/t to Mike Florio of However, if swelling goes down, the QB could be good to go for Sunday’s game against the 49ers.
  • Washington Football Team starting center Chase Roullier suffered a fractured left fibula during yesterday’s loss to the Broncos, reports Nicki Jhabvala of the Washington Post (via Twitter). Roullier is set to get a second opinion on Tuesday, but the initial diagnosis could be hinting at a season-ending injury. The 2017 sixth-round pick has spent his entire career with Washington, and he’s started all 54 of his appearances over the past three-plus seasons.
  • Rams rookie receiver Tutu Atwell will miss the rest of the season with a shoulder injury, head coach Sean McVay told reporters (via ESPN’s Lindsey Thiry on Twitter). The second-round pick has seen time in seven games this season, with the majority of his snaps coming on special teams. He’s returned 10 punts for 54 yards and five kicks for 87 yards.
  • The Buccaneers are getting healthier. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweets that wideout Antonio Brown will likely return after the team’s bye. The veteran has missed the past two games while dealing with foot and heel injuries. Meanwhile, cornerbacks Carlton Davis and Sean Murphy-Bunting are also recovering well from their respect injuries and could be back on the field for Week 10.

Buccaneers Place CB Carlton Davis On IR

Carlton Davis‘ injury forced newcomer Richard Sherman into a full-time role in his first Buccaneers outing. The Bucs will be without their fourth-year starter for the foreseeable future.

Bruce Arians said this week Davis will not be back in action any time soon due to the quadriceps injury he sustained, and the team placed the veteran cornerback on IR Thursday. This adds to a litany of Bucs injuries at this spot.

Sean Murphy-Bunting is already on IR, and Jamel Dean missed the Bucs’ Week 4 game due to an injury sustained against the Rams. Dean did get in a limited practice to start this week, representing a positive sign for a battered secondary. But Davis will be down for at least the next three games. It will likely be a longer absence for Davis, with’s Ian Rapoport noting a four- to six-week absence should be expected here (Twitter link).

A 2018 second-round pick, Davis has started 44 games since arriving in Tampa. Davis broke through with four interceptions last season and exited Sunday’s Patriots matchup grading as a top-10 corner this year, per Pro Football Focus. Since 2019, Davis has posted an NFL-high 42 pass breakups; no other defender in that span has more than 35. The Auburn alum will face a key stretch upon returning from injury, being in a contract year.

The Bucs ended the Pats game without their top three corners from last season. Should Dean be forced to miss another game with his knee malady, Sherman will lead a group also consisting of Ross Cockrell and Pierre Desir.

Draft Pick Signings: 5/24/18

Here are today’s second-tier draft signings:

  • The Buccaneers signed their second-round pick, cornerback Carlton Davis from Auburn. Davis was a three-year starter for the Tigers, earning a first-team All-SEC selection as a senior. An average athlete with good size, Davis will slide in behind Brent Grimes, Ryan Smith, and Vernon Hargreaves on the depth chart. The Bucs likely see Davis as the eventual successor to the now 34-year old Grimes.
  • Second-round linebacker Breeland Speaks signed his rookie deal with the Chiefs. Left without a first-round pick in the 2018 draft due to last year’s Patrick Mahomes trade, Speaks was the team’s first selection. Speaks played defensive tackle and defensive end in college, but the Chiefs plan to line him up at outside linebacker. Playing at Mississippi last year, Speaks generated seven sacks. He’ll initially be competing for playing time behind veterans Justin Houston and Dee Ford.
  • The Jaguars agreed to terms with third-round safety Ronnie Harrison on his rookie deal. Harrison was one of a slew of Alabama players selected in last year’s draft, and is looking to be the latest in a long line of Crimson Tide defenders to become stars in the NFL. Harrison was always a great player in college, but underwhelmed athletically with his testing at the combine. Harrison will play strong safety for the Jaguars, and is yet another piece added to their already dominant defense.