Bucs star Lavonte David named as Top 5 linebacker in NFL

  • USA Today ranked the best linebackers in the NFL
  • Lavonte David finished in the Top 5
Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Carolina Panthers
Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Carolina Panthers / Grant Halverson/GettyImages

One of the biggest changes that almost happened this offseason was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers losing one of its most iconic future Hall of Fame players.

We’re not talking about Tom Brady — who indeed left — rather Lavonte David became a free agent in March and was free to sign wherever he wanted. The 11 year veteran is closer to the end of his career than he is the beginning, but he’s been nothing short of legendary with the Buccaneers and would make any defense he went to even better than it already was.

David knew which defense he wanted to be a part of, and it was the one he had helped build into a Super Bowl winner. Rather than leave, David re-signed with the Buccaneers and in doing so validated the mutual feeling of love and respect that fans in Tampa Bay have had for him since he arrived back in 2012.

David returning was more than a ceremonial gesture; the Bucs retained one of the best linebackers in the entire league. Last year he has 98 solo tackles, 62 stops, an opponent passer rating of 98.3. There were absolutely zero signs of slowing down, and at least one NFL expert took notice when assessing the best linebackers in the league entering this upcoming season.

Lavonte David named a Top 5 linebacker in NFL

NFL expert Doug Farrar ranked the top linebackers in the NFL and ranked Lavonte David among the best in the entire league. Specifically, Farrar ranked David No. 5 and both gave the future Hall of Famer his flowers and established that not everyone makes a living off dogging the Bucs.

“At age 33, David hasn’t lost much of the speed and burst that has always defined his playing style; it’s why he’s just as likely to create a tackle for loss in the passing game as he is with a run stop,” Farrar wrote. ”If you’re trying to run any kind of screen, swing pass, or release route, and No. 54 is on the case, you may want to make other plans.”

Despite Tom Brady’s exit — and what a majority of the national media would like you to think — there’s still a ton of talent on the Buccaneers roster. David graduates to being the most senior team leader and is going to be an important voice in the locker room as the Bucs try to find an identity this season.

That’s the flip side of what David brings on the field. His accomplishments speak for themselves and he’s going to go down as one of the greatest Bucs of all-time but that will be as much because of what he offered as a leader as what he brough between the hashes.

David had a chance to leave in free agency and take his Top 5 talents to a place like Buffalo or Cincinnati where he could without a doubt compete for a Super Bowl. Instead, he returned to Tampa Bay, which puts him very near the echelon of legends like Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber.

His name and number will one day be hanging in the Ring of Honor, but it’s clear that he still has work to do and plenty of gas left in the tank.