1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Bucs

How valuable is Devin White? We’re about to find out

Co-defensive coordinator Larry Foote is pushing every button he can to motivate the Bucs linebacker, including the fact that he is getting closer to a contract year in 2024.
Bucs linebacker Devin White (45) and free safety Jordan Whitehead (33) celebrate White’s sack on Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts during a game in January in Tampa.
Bucs linebacker Devin White (45) and free safety Jordan Whitehead (33) celebrate White’s sack on Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts during a game in January in Tampa. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published May 5|Updated May 6

TAMPA ― Devin White doesn’t lack for motivation. But in case he needs some in order to bounce back from an uneven performance last season, co-defensive coordinator Larry Foote has a way of reminding a player of his true worth.

“The contract is coming up,” Foote said. “Whatever you’ve got to do to motivate them. I threw that in his ear a little bit. You see the salary cap and stuff like that and what linebackers are getting.”

Sure, money talks. But what will it say about White?

The Bucs picked up his fifth-year option worth $11.7 million for 2023. But that’s pocket change compared to what awaits White if he fulfills his promise as one of the NFL’s best inside linebackers after that season.

The highest-paid player at his position is the Colts’ Darius Leonard, who signed a five-year, $98.5 million contract last August.

White will become a free agent in 2024 and can put himself in that salary range if he can return to his 2020 form.

Even though White earned his first Pro Bowl selection last year, his production was down from the 2020 Super Bowl season.

Former head coach Bruce Arians noted last season that while White was having a solid year, he lacked discipline. “He has a tendency sometimes to freelance a little bit because he has so much talent,” Arians said. “Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.”

What makes White great also can be a hindrance. He is a very instinctive player with an incredible blend of speed and strength. But he also tends to force the issue and can take himself out of plays with his over-aggressiveness.

Foote, a former linebacker who played 13 seasons, most with the Steelers, has an answer to fix that, as well.

“A lot of times in basketball, you hear, ‘Let the game come to you,’” Foote said. “That’s playing linebacker. Sometimes you want to make more plays and that can get you in trouble sometimes. He’s just got to calm down. I always remind him, ‘You got the goods.’

“He’s not a slow linebacker like I was. He’s going to make his plays. He’s got to trust the defense and sometimes you know, you might have a quiet game. It might be a couple games. But you’ve got to stick to the process, and he’s going to make his plays. If you stay healthy and play 17 games, you’re going to make a ton of plays.”

White, who turned 24 in February, set a high bar for himself two years ago in his second season. He was second on the team in sacks with nine, had 140 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.

That didn’t include a remarkable postseason. In three games, including the Super Bowl, White had 38 tackles, three tackles for loss, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries. That included game-changing or outcome-sealing interceptions in the division round at New Orleans and in Super Bowl 55 vs. the Chiefs.

“I told Devin, two years ago he had nine sacks. That is not the norm,” Foote said. “Do not count on that. That is not the norm. Three to four, that should be your range. Anything else, that’s great. But if you look at all the Hall of Fame stats, you’re not getting nine sacks as an off-the-ball backer. I’ve got to fight that. I got it twice. But those guys (have) just got to play team ball, and we’re after the (Super Bowl) ring.”

Stay updated on the Buccaneers

Stay updated on the Buccaneers

Subscribe to our free Bucs RedZone newsletter

We’ll deliver a roundup of news and commentary on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers weekly during the season.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

There were plenty of reasons why some of White’s production fell. Fellow linebacker Lavonte David missed five games last season. He managed to return in time for the playoffs but played with a Lisfranc joint injury in his foot. David allows White to take more chances because he can cover up an occasional mistake. The Bucs also had so many injuries in the secondary last season that White was pressed into more coverage responsibilities, which is not his strength.

“They’re getting that on social media, players, they’re looking at the previous year. Just play the game. The plays will be made,” Foote said during a recent news conference. “Trust me, in this defense we are an aggressive-style defense and throw it back at them and say, ‘Hey, we’re blitzing. Make a play. Make a play,’ and that’s what they need to concentrate on inside the defense.

“In this game, you win and lose by missed assignments. Those guys have got to understand they’ve got to block out the noise and, trust me, if you’re not healthy, he should know that. When you’re healthy, your plays will be made.”

The next level for White is to understand his limitations and maximize his knowledge of the game and the schemes used against him through film study. He has to become more consistent on and off the field.

If he does that, a big pay day — and maybe more — awaits.

“You want to keep getting better,” Foote said. “And he is a guy who wants to go down and be great. He wants to get a (Hall of Fame) gold jacket one day. And you know the physical tools are there, so he’s got to do it upstairs.”

• • •

Sign up for the Bucs RedZone newsletter to get updates and analysis on the latest team and NFL news from Bucs beat writer Joey Knight.

Never miss out on the latest with the Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida college sports and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.


This site no longer supports your current browser. Please use a modern and up-to-date browser version for the best experience.

Chrome Firefox Safari Edge