There’s a chance Lavonte David might have already played his final down with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, as he’s expected to test free agency this offseason.
We all knew this offseason would be difficult for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, filled with tough decisions that very well could alter what the team looks like next season in a significant way.
The team has already parted ways with Leonard Fournette, Donovan Smith, and Cameron Brate, moves that were subsequent to Tom Brady retiring from the NFL in February. Those were expected moves, though, as the Bucs need to find a way to shed over $50 million to get back under the salary cap, and are navigating a nasty dead cap space situation at the same time.
Such a predicament has created a scenario where Lavonte David doesn’t return next season.
It’s news that Bucs fans have been dreading since the season ended; NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported this week that David is expected to test free agency when the new league year begins on March 15th.
Buccaneers Rumors: Lavonte David expected to test free agency
“Long-time great Bucs LB Lavonte David, coming off one of his most productive seasons, is expected to test the free agent market, source said,” Rapoport reported. “A return to Tampa Bay has not been ruled out, but given their cap situation, it will be challenging.”
This one hurts, a lot.
As much as Brate and Smith have been applauded for surviving the Dark Years of the mid-2010s to eventually win a Super Bowl in Tampa Bay, nobody has been more finely stitched into the Bucs fabric than David.
He was passed the baton to be the next great Buccaneers defensive player and quickly became not only that but a fan favorite in the process. A consummate professional for an organization that has been anything but at times during his career here, it’s often felt like the Bucs don’t deserve all that David put into the franchise — yet he did that and more.
Not only was David a spiritual successor to Bucs legends like Derrick Brooks and John Lynch, but he played with one of those legends too. David’s career overlapped with Ronde Barber, who was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year.
It might not be long before the two are reunited there one day.
Actually, it might be a while because David is still playing at an incredibly high level even at the age of 33. He’s entering free agency as one of the best linebackers available and will almost certainly get offers that price the Bucs out of the conversation.
There’s hope that he’ll return, and he’s stated that he wants to retire with the Bucs not unlike how Barber did after playing his whole career here. If he doesn’t return, though, David has done everything to earn a big contract somewhere else and there will be nothing but love remaining for him in Tampa Bay.