Buccaneers can't forget to take care of Lavonte David and Devin White

With the main focus for Tampa Bay in free agency on resigning Mike Evans, Baker Mayfield, and Antoine Winfield Jr., the Buccaneers may miss out on retaining David and White at linebacker

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With NFL Free Agency opening on March 13, numerous teams have started working on their plans for possible contract extensions instead of allowing their top players to hit the open market.

As it stands, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' top free agent priority is to re-sign star wide receiver Mike Evans, quarterback Baker Mayfield, and underrated safety Antoine Winfield Jr. -- all of whom project as top-15 free agents in this year's class.

While bringing them all back won't be an easy task, things became a little easier on Friday. The league announced the new cap figure had increased from $242 million to $255.4 million. As a result, the Buccaneers gained roughly $10 million in salary cap space, and now have $45.5 million to use in free agency.

Outside of Evans, Mayfield, and Winfield Jr., Tampa Bay still has a number of quality free agents to resign this offseason. That starts with the linebacking duo of Devin White and Lavonte David, who are both set to hit the open market in March.

Buccaneers can't afford to forget about reinforcing the linebacker room

Since being drafted with the No. 5 pick in the 2019 NFL draft, White has had a steady five-year tenure in Tampa Bay. In 76 games (75 starts) as a Buccaneer, White recorded 566 total tackles, 40 tackles for loss, 64 quarterback hits, 23.0 sacks, 21 pass breakups, three interceptions, six forced fumbles, and nine fumble recoveries.

During the Buccaneers' magical 2020 season, White played an integral role in Tampa Bay's Super Bowl victory, totaling 140 tackles, 15 tackles for loss, nine sacks, and four pass breakups, while making the NFL's All-Pro Second Team. In the following season, White impressed once again as the Buccaneers' star middle linebacker, posting 128 tackles, eight tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks, three passes defended, and earned his first Pro Bowl nod.

Over the past two seasons, White has continued to pile solid statistical numbers, totaling 207 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, eight sacks, 11 passes defended, and two interceptions in 31 games (30 starts). However, a lack of effort and inconsistency on the field has called to the fact that White may have played his final game as a Buccaneer.

In addition to White, veteran stalwart David will also be entering free agency this offseason. David, a 12-year NFL veteran, seems to have already made a decision for the 2024 season. During an appearance on WDAE (Tampa Bay's Sports Radio), White said he doesn't want to leave Tampa Bay until it's time to retire.

"Of course, I would want to do that. I would want to stay a Buc for the rest of my career as long as I play," David said. "I do want to retire a Buc, but, you know, it's just got to be a mutual thing."

At 33 years old, David is certainly past his prime, but still complied a solid campaign last season. In 15 starts, David recorded 134 tackles, 17 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, five pass breakups, and five quarterback hits. In addition, David posted a 6.8% missed tackle rate, the lowest mark of his career, and a career-high four quarterback pressures.

Ever since being drafted by the Buccaneers with the No. 58 pick in the 2012 NFL draft, David has been Tampa Bay's defensive anchor. In 181 career games and starts, David has recorded 1,480 tackles, 160 tackles for loss, 67 quarterback hits, 33.5 sacks, 64 pass breakups, 12 interceptions, 28 forced fumbles, and 18 fumble recoveries.

Similar to White, David played a key role in the Buccaneers' Super Bow LVI victory. In 2020, David totaled 117 tackles, 12 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, six passes defended, one interception, three forced fumbles, and two fumble recoveries, while being named to the All-Pro Second Team. That marked David's second All-Pro Second Team selection, adding to his one time All-Pro First team selection in 2016 and one Pro Bowl appearance in 2015.

In the occasion that David does retire and White doen't return to Tampa Bay, then the Buccaneers will be stretched thin at linebacker. SirVocea Dennis, Yaya Diaby and Joe Tryon-Shoyinka would be top in-house replacement options at linebacker, alongside K.J. Britt and Shaq Barrett.

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