Lavonte David

Largest 2022 Cap Hits: Defense

After looking at this year’s top salary cap numbers on the offensive side of the ball, here is a rundown of the players counting the most toward their teams’ payrolls in 2022.

As could be expected, the salary figures here start below the quarterbacks. A few pass rushers, however, are tied to notable cap hits. Those numbers that check in within the top 20 leaguewide regardless of position. With the exception of true nose tackles and pure slot cornerbacks, every defensive position is represented here.

Here are the top cap figures on the defensive side for the ’22 season:

  1. T.J. Watt, OLB (Steelers): $31.12MM
  2. Chris Jones, DT (Chiefs): $29.42MM
  3. Joey Bosa, OLB (Chargers): $28.25MM
  4. Leonard Williams, DL (Giants): $27.3MM
  5. Aaron Donald, DT (Rams): $27MM
  6. Jalen Ramsey, CB (Rams): $23.2MM
  7. Deion Jones, LB (Falcons): $20.1MM
  8. Bud Dupree, OLB (Titans): $19.2MM
  9. Justin Simmons, S (Broncos): $18.85MM
  10. Javon Hargrave, DT (Eagles): $17.8MM
  11. C.J. Mosley, LB (Jets): $17.5MM
  12. Cameron Heyward, DL (Steelers): $17.42MM
  13. Robert Quinn, DE (Bears): $17.14MM
  14. Matt Judon, OLB (Patriots): $16.5MM
  15. DeForest Buckner, DT (Colts): $16MM
  16. Shaquill Griffin, CB (Jaguars): $16.44MM
  17. Tre’Davious White, CB (Bills): $16.4MM
  18. J.J. Watt, DL (Cardinals): $15.9MM
  19. Marcus Peters, CB (Ravens): $15.5MM
  20. Carl Lawson, DE (Jets): $15.33MM
  21. Eddie Jackson, S (Bears): $15.1MM
  22. Lavonte David, LB (Buccaneers): $14.79MM
  23. Budda Baker, S (Cardinals): $14.78MM
  24. Romeo Okwara, DE (Lions): $14.5MM
  25. Trey Hendrickson, DE (Bengals): $14.49MM
  • Illustrating how much the cap has climbed over the past several seasons, T.J. Watt is tied to a number nearly twice that of J.J. Watt, who has been tied to $16.7MM-per-year (a defender-record number in 2014) and $14MM-AAV deals as a pro. Trailing his older brother in Defensive Player of the Year honors, T.J. is signed to an edge defender-record $28MM-per-year accord.
  • Jones’ four-year Chiefs deal vaults from an $8.5MM cap number in 2021 to the league’s second-highest defensive figure this year. The standout defensive tackle’s cap hit accompanies Patrick Mahomes‘ $35.79MM number, which is well north of his 2021 figure, on Kansas City’s new-look payroll.
  • After two franchise tags, Williams scored a monster extension in 2021. The well-paid Giants D-lineman’s cap number this year is way up from his 2021 number ($9.4MM).
  • The Rams redid Donald’s contract last month, adding no new years to the through-2024 pact. The all-world defender’s cap hit actually decreases in 2023, dropping to $26MM
  • It is not certain Deion Jones will be back with the Falcons, who have jettisoned other Super Bowl LI cornerstones from the roster since the current regime took over in 2021. But they would save just $1MM were they to release the seventh-year linebacker.
  • To date, this represents the high-water mark for Mosley cap hits on his Jets deal, which at the time (2019) began a sea change for off-ball linebacker contracts. Mosley’s cap hit, on a pact that runs through 2024 because of the linebacker opting out of the 2020 season, increased by $10MM from 2021-22.
  • Hargrave is one of five Eagles pass rushers signed to veteran contracts. The ex-Steeler’s 2021 deal accompanies Brandon Graham, Josh Sweat, Haason Reddick, and Fletcher Cox‘s new agreement on Philadelphia’s defensive front. As cap hits do not reflect average salaries, Hargrave is the only member of this quartet tied to an eight-figure cap number in 2022.
  • Quinn has also been connected to a departure, with the 31-year-old pass rusher skipping minicamp after it became known he would like to be traded away from the rebuilding team. His cap hit tops the Bears’ payroll. The Bears would save $12.9MM by trading Quinn, should another team sign up for taking on his full 2022 base salary.

Minor NFL Transactions: 1/15/22

Here are Saturday’s minor moves:

Dallas Cowboys

Kansas City Chiefs

Philadelphia Eagles

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Buccaneers To Activate Lavonte David, Giovani Bernard; Leonard Fournette To Remain On IR

Part of the Buccaneers’ injured contingent will be back in uniform for the defending champions Sunday. Lavonte David and Giovani Bernard are set to come off IR on Saturday, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com tweets.

David suffered a foot injury in Week 15, joining Leonard Fournette and Chris Godwin in going down during a shutout loss to the Saints. Godwin is done for the season, and Laine adds Fournette will not be activated ahead of Saturday’s roster-setting deadline. Fournette is battling a hamstring injury.

While Bernard has not played a key role this season, he will be in line to do so against the Eagles. Not only is Fournette out, but the Bucs also declared Ronald Jones out because of an ankle injury. Tampa Bay has Bernard, Ke’Shawn Vaughn and Le’Veon Bell as its healthy backs.

Fournette carried the load for the Bucs for most of this season, reducing Jones and the others to bit parts. The former Jaguars top-five pick totaled a Bucs-most 1,266 scrimmage yards in 14 games. Fournette can still be activated ahead of a divisional-round game or the NFC championship, provided this Bucs iteration’s season extends that far.

One of the NFL’s top off-ball linebackers over the past 10 seasons, David was instrumental to the Bucs claiming their second Super Bowl title last season. He totaled 97 tackles and two forced fumbles this season and ranks as Pro Football Focus’ No. 7 linebacker. David will be tasked with leading a charge against an Eagles team that leads the NFL in rushing.

Bruce Arians said Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul are also on track to return against Philadelphia. While Barrett was a full practice participant Friday, JPP did not suit up for even a limited session due to his shoulder and knee injuries. JPP is not on IR, however, and has not been declared out.

Minor NFL Transactions: 1/12/22

Here are Wednesday’s minor moves:

Dallas Cowboys 

Green Bay Packers

Los Angeles Rams

Pittsburgh Steelers

San Francisco 49ers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Designate Lavonte David, Leonard Fournette, Giovani Bernard For Return

After sustaining several injury subtractions down the stretch, the Buccaneers are preparing to deploy a healthier squad for their first-round playoff matchup. The defending champs designated Lavonte David, Leonard Fournette and Giovani Bernard for return from IR on Wednesday.

David has been down since suffering a foot injury during the Bucs’ Week 15 loss to the Saints, one of a few key Bucs who did not make it past that night. The veteran linebacker has spent the past three weeks on IR but is eligible to return for Sunday’s Eagles tilt. Also seeing an ankle malady sideline him earlier in the campaign, David missed five games during the regular season due to injury.

Joining David in going down in that Saints shutout loss, Fournette returned to practice and is expected to play Sunday. Fournette enjoyed a bounce-back season, rushing for 812 yards (on 4.5 per carry) in 14 games, before suffering a hamstring injury in Week 15. The playoffs stand to be pivotal for Fournette, who is on the cusp of what should be a better free agent market. The former top-five pick played a vital role for the Bucs during last year’s postseason, totaling 448 yards from scrimmage and scoring four touchdowns.

Bernard has been down a bit longer, missing that Saints tilt and having not played since Week 14. One of the few key newcomers for Tampa Bay this season, Bernard has not played much of a role for his second NFL team. The longtime Bengal has totaled just 181 scrimmage yards in 12 games.

The Bucs activated Shaquil Barrett from IR on Tuesday, and Bruce Arians also expects Jason Pierre-Paul to return after a rotator cuff tear sidelined him for the past four games. While Richard Sherman is done for the season, the Bucs stand to be a much healthier squad when they play their 18th game this season.

Lavonte David Done For Regular Season

THURSDAY: Both David and Fournette are now on IR. The Bucs ended the regular seasons of both starters with these moves, but the door will be open for each to return by Tampa Bay’s first playoff game.

WEDNESDAY: The Buccaneers’ sudden availability concerns now stretch to their defensive second level. They are set to be without Lavonte David for the regular season’s remainder, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times.

David suffered a foot injury during Tampa Bay’s shutout loss to New Orleans. He will join Leonard Fournette in missing the regular season’s final three games. Both starters are obvious IR candidates, with three games remaining until the playoffs.

The team’s longest-tenured player, David re-signed on a third deal to stay in Tampa this offseason. The 10th-year linebacker has been a starter since being chosen in the 2012 second round. He missed two games earlier this year but has played in the Bucs’ past seven, running his tackle total to 97 and mixing in two sacks. David, 31, played a key role in keeping the Saints at nine points, recording 11 tackles and a sack.

While Sunday night’s Saints game cost the Bucs David and Fournette for a while, Chris Godwin endured the worst blow in suffering a torn ACL months away from free agency. Tampa Bay may also be without Mike Evans for multiple weeks, though the eighth-year wideout’s timetable is not yet certain. Fournette, who is also months away from what should be a more lucrative run in free agency, sustained a hamstring injury that led to him leaving Raymond James Stadium on crutches.

After entering Week 15 tied with Green Bay at 11-3, Tampa Bay’s odds to obtain a bye for the first time since 2002 are down to 5% — per FiveThirtyEight.com — going into Week 16. The Bucs’ homestretch does feature three winnable games — two against the Panthers, one against the Jets — but the defending champs will be missing some of their top players going into the postseason.

Bucs’ Antonio Brown To Miss Week 7

The Buccaneers will be without both their Tom Brady hired guns Sunday. In addition to Rob Gronkowski‘s fourth absence this season, Antonio Brown will not play in Week 7.

Bruce Arians confirmed the Bucs ruled out Brown for their Bears matchup. An ankle injury kept Brown off the practice field this week. This will be Brown’s second absence this season. He missed Week 3 because of a positive COVID-19 test but returned the following week.

Despite missing the bulk of the past two seasons, Brown has re-emerged as one of the NFL’s top receivers this year. He has posted two 100-yard games and over the past two weeks has hauled in 16 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns. The 33-year-old target is well on his way to an eighth 1,000-yard season. With Brown and Scotty Miller sidelined, second-year receiver Tyler Johnson (seven catches, 110 yards this season) will be positioned as a bigger part of the Bucs’ offense.

Tampa Bay will also be without Lavonte David and Richard Sherman against Chicago. Gronkowski is still recovering from the rib injury he suffered in Week 3. The Bucs elected not to place Gronk on IR.

Buccaneers, Lavonte David Agree To Deal

Shortly after using their franchise tag on Chris Godwin, the Buccaneers are moving forward with the rest of their free agents-to-be. They agreed to terms with Lavonte David on an extension, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

David agreed to stay in Tampa on a two-year deal worth $25MM, Rapoport notes. The nine-year veteran linebacker would have been a coveted free agent, despite going into his age-31 season, but he will stay with the team he helped lead to a Super Bowl title. The Bucs are including $20MM in David guarantees, Rapoport tweets.

Bucs GM Jason Licht confirmed recently the team was interested in retaining David, but the reigning champions have a host of high-end free agents to re-sign. Prior to this David deal coming to pass, the Bucs were $4MM-plus over the projected $180MM cap floor. However, the official cap figure has not come in yet. The Bucs are still going to need to do some work in order to have room to sign the bulk of its free agent glut.

Shaquil Barrett, Ndamukong Suh, Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown and Leonard Fournette remain on track for free agency. Barrett has said he will seek to maximize his value, though Gronkowski and Brown have indicated they would prefer to stay with the Bucs. Despite the Bucs being the first team since 2009 to use a top-five pick on an off-ball linebacker (Devin White), they found room for a third David deal.

This contract does not match David’s 2015 accord in length (five years), but that deal averaged $10MM annually. This one includes a salary north of that mark. David and the Bucs negotiated for a bit last year but could not agree on terms, and Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com notes (via Twitter) Demario Davis‘ late-season extension — worth $9MM annually — induced a delay. David wanted to top that, and after playing a pivotal role on Tampa Bay’s second Super Bowl team, the former second-round pick did so.

Pro Football Focus rated David as its No. 4 overall off-ball ‘backer last season. He finished off the season by helping the Bucs limit Travis Kelce in Super Bowl LV. The Browns were interested in signing David as well, but the Bucs are assured of bringing he and Godwin back. More work remains on Tampa’s core-retention project, however.

Browns Interested In Lavonte David

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.

Bucs To Make Strong Push To Keep Lavonte David

The high-profile Buccaneers free agent that has not generated much in the way of offseason headlines remains a priority for the team. Tampa Bay does not plan on letting Lavonte David leave without making a strong effort to retain him.

With the franchise since 2012, David is in the same boat with a rather famous collection of more recent Buccaneer additions — Rob Gronkowski, Ndamukong Suh, Antonio Brown, Leonard Fournette, Shaquil Barrett and Chris Godwin — in being on the cusp of free agency. And the Bucs already have a major linebacker investment under contract, in former top-five pick Devin White.

Bucs GM Jason Licht said it would be “extremely important” to keep the David-White tandem together, per Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times (on Twitter). David signed a five-year, $50.25MM extension in 2015 and has remained a quality linebacker throughout that deal. His next contract will come ahead of his age-31 season.

The sides were not believed to have made substantial progress in their extension talks last year, and little has emerged indicating otherwise in the months since. But David did say at the time he wants to retire as a member of the Buccaneers. Pro Football Focus graded David as its fourth-best off-ball linebacker last season, putting him on track for big money from the Bucs or another team soon.

Since David’s last extension, C.J. Mosley and Bobby Wagner moved the needle for traditional linebackers considerably. Wagner’s $18MM-per-year extension tops that market, and 10 other linebackers signed deals worth more than David’s since his 2015 extension agreement. Although the salary cap reduction figures to play a role in older veterans’ earning prospects this year, David should still have a live market. And he may reside behind Barrett and Godwin in the Bucs’ free agency pecking order, creating an interesting situation ahead of the legal tampering period’s March 15 opening.