TAMPA — For the past 11 seasons, there has been one image of Lavonte David, in his grass-stained No. 54 Bucs jersey, exploding from his stance at inside linebacker, out-running ball carriers and making tackles while defending every inch of Raymond James Stadium.
He idolized Derrick Brooks and wanted to walk the hallways of Tampa Bay’s training facility for his entire career the way the first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Fame linebacker had done.
“He’s definitely a guy who I kind of want to model after, just be a guy who played with Tampa their whole career and was just a staple for what they do,” David said near the end of the 2022 season.
He will get that chance.
The 33-year-old agreed Wednesday to a one-year, $7 million deal that is fully guaranteed.
It means the Bucs accomplished their biggest priorities entering the free agent negotiating period despite limited salary cap space. They agreed to a four-year, $52 million contract with cornerback Jamel Dean, one of the top five free agents available, according to Pro Football Focus; and they reached agreements with free agent outside linebacker Anthony Nelson and guard Aaron Stinnie while locking up quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Now the Bucs have retained David, their captain, a player who has recorded at least 100 total tackles in nine of his 11 seasons in the NFL. He also has been named to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro team, and twice was second-team All-Pro in his career.
More importantly, in signing his third contract extension with the Bucs, David has a chance to finish his career with the only team he has played for.
“It’s been great seeing Jamel’s growth as a player these past four seasons,” general manager Jason Licht said in a statement. “Keeping him was a priority for us and it worked out well that he also had a strong desire to stay here. Any time you draft a player who meets and exceeds your expectations, you want to do all you can to ensure he remains a part of your organization.
“We think he’s only going to continue ascending as a football player.”
The Bucs were on the hook for $6.9 million in dead salary cap money if they didn’t re-sign David. That is reduced to $2.3 million in 2023 while the remaining $4.6 million can be spread out over future seasons.
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