TAMPA — During his foray into free agency, Bucs cornerback Carlton Davis said a handful of factors weighed heavily in favor of the team that drafted him in 2018.
There was Florida’s lack of a state income tax, the continuity of the Bucs’ coaching staff, and the inherent desire not to pull up the roots he began planting locally four years ago.
But make no mistake, the tipping point was Tom Brady.
“Obviously, having Tom come back automatically makes us a contender again, and who wouldn’t want to come back and compete for another ring with the GOAT?” said Davis, who agreed to a three-year, $45 million deal with Tampa Bay less than 24 hours after Brady announced his unretirement Sunday.
“So when I heard the news, it definitely played into some of my thought process going into my decision,” Davis said Wednesday.
The potential and promise of the 2022 Bucs are burgeoning. Since Brady announced his return for a 23rd season, the Bucs have re-signed center Ryan Jensen, traded for veteran Patriots right guard Shaq Mason, have agreed on a deal with highly productive Falcons receiver Russell Gage, and have re-signed receiver Breshad Perriman.
And defensively, they now have locked up their best cover corner.
“I know when we come back together as a team, everybody’s going to be full of confidence, especially hearing Brady coming back and all the free agency signings that we’ve got coming back so far,” Davis said. “I know for me, I can’t wait to get back on the field with my teammates and get started on another one.”
Davis, who turned 25 on New Year’s Eve, enters 2022 with not only a bona fide chance at another postseason run but an intense hunger to atone for an abbreviated 2021 season. A quad injury suffered while on special teams during an Oct. 3 win in New England ultimately sidelined him for seven games.
He finished the year — a contract year — with one interception and 11 passes defensed, the lowest total since his rookie season.
“When I went down, I wasn’t so much worried about contracts and the future. I was more so worried about getting back on the field and just trying to win another ring,” he said.
Still, his 48 passes defensed since the start of the 2019 season remain the most in the NFL in that span. Davis also is tied for the league lead in games with multiple passes defensed (13).
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“Carlton is a fantastic player,” coach Bruce Arians said in a statement. “I’ve said for a few years that I thought he was one of the top cornerbacks in this league, and he has continued to grow.
“He’s a great tackler, excellent in man-to-man defense, a very physical corner, and has the length you want. He has everything you are looking for to be a shutdown corner.”
For good measure, he has the GOAT on his side again.
“When Tom retired, I thought personally that he was done, just because he had done 22 years, and that’s a long time in the league,” Davis said.
“When he announced he was coming back, I was just surprised and full of different emotions. I don’t think anybody started a group chat or anything, but I’m pretty sure everybody who heard the news and had the chance to come back either tried to come back or got in touch with the team on coming back.”
Contact Joey Knight at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_Bulls.
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