The Tampa Bay Buccaneers took the expected step to keep standout inside linebacker Devin White in the fold through at least the 2023 season on Wednesday, exercising the fifth-year option on his original NFL contract. White was the Buccaneers' first-round draft pick in 2019 and he has already earned a Pro Bowl berth, All-Pro status and a Super Bowl ring during his first three seasons.
Since 2011, all contracts for first-round picks have been standardized as four-year deals with a fifth-year team option. Teams must choose whether or not to pick up that option before the player's fourth season. The specific deadline to do so this year was Monday, May 2. Since the ratification of a new CBA in 2020, those option years have been fully guaranteed and they come with a significant hike in salary based on position, playing time and performance, including honors such as Pro Bowl selections.
This is the sixth year in a row in which the Buccaneers have chosen to pick up the fifth-year option on a previous first-round pick. Beginning with the 2014 draft and the 2017 offseason, the Bucs have done so with wide receiver Mike Evans, quarterback Jameis Winston, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, tight end O.J. Howard, defensive lineman Vita Vea and now White. After picking up Vea's option last spring, the Buccaneers later signed him to a four-year contract extension in January that runs through the 2026 season.
Evans also signed a new long-term deal to remain in Tampa beyond his rookie contract, while Winston and Howard played out their five-year deals before leaving in free agency. Hargreaves was waived during the 2019 season and is currently a free agent.
White has started all 50 games in which he's played for the Buccaneers, including the postseason and has been one of the team's most productive defenders over the last three seasons. He led the Bucs in tackles in each of the past two seasons, with a high of 140 during the 2020 campaign, and has 359 stops over that span, including 27 tackles for loss. He has also proved to be a valuable pass rusher, recording 15.0 sacks and 39 quarterback hits, with a high of 9.0 sacks in 2020. That tackle and sack combination made him a second-team Associated Press All-Pro choice in his second NFL season.
White followed his breakthrough 2020 regular season with a dominant offseason performance as Tampa Bay made its successful run at the Lombardi Trophy. Though he missed the first game of that playoff run while on the reserve/COVID-19 list, White returned to rack up 38 tackles, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries in three games. His interception in Super Bowl LV ended the Kansas City Chiefs' final drive in a dominant 31-9 Buccaneers victory.
Last year, White earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl, playing in all 17 regular-season games and contributing 128 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 18 quarterback hits. As a rookie he notably recovered four fumbles, returning two of them for touchdowns.