Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Lovie Smith is fond of calling Lavonte David "the best 4-3 outside linebacker in the NFL." On Monday, the Buccaneers organization demonstrated agreement with Smith's words, signing David to a five-year contract extension that makes him the highest-paid player at his position in the league.
Specific financial terms of the policy were not divulged by the Buccaneers, as is team policy, but the extension begins next year and runs through the 2020 season. David was set to enter the final year of the four-year contract he signed in 2012 after being drafted in the second round by Tampa Bay.
The Buccaneers were able to lock their star linebacker in long-term less than 10 months after signing Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy to a new seven-year deal running through 2021. David and McCoy play two of the most important positions on the team and are expected to form the foundation for another dominant Buccaneer defense.
The best photos of Lavonte David during the 2014 season shot by the Buccaneers' team photographers.
"We are very excited to announce that Lavonte will be a Buccaneer for the long term," said Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht. "Lavonte, along with Gerald McCoy, form the foundation for the championship-level defense that we are building, and it was crucial to have them both in the fold to lead our defense. I can't say enough about Lavonte's professionalism and his commitment to our team throughout this entire process. This extension is a prime example of our desire to reward the types of players who will play a key role in helping us achieve long-term success."
The Buccaneers revealed on Sunday via Twitter that they had reached agreement on contract terms with David, then scheduled a press conference for 2:00 p.m. ET on Monday. Though the official announcement of the deal would come during that press conference, David's teammates had plenty of time to react to the good news following Sunday's training camp practice. McCoy's Twitter response included a nod to their shared role as the core of the Bucs' defense: "Good to know we'll have each other's back for years to come!! Go Bucs!!"
David, who doesn't turn 26 until January, has needed only three seasons to emerge as one of the NFL's most consistently productive defenders. He has missed just two games in three years, starting all 46 contests in which he has played and amassing 429 tackles, 18 passes defensed, 10 sacks, six interceptions, six forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. He ranks second in the NFL in total tackles and first in solo tackles (319) since the beginning of the 2012 season. He is also the only player entering the 2015 season on a run of three consecutive seasons with at least 100 solo stops.
David is one of the league's best defenders at and behind the line of scrimmage. He has second in the league to Houston defensive end J.J. Watt – the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 2015 – in both tackles for loss (58) and run stuffs (40) over the last three years. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), David has been the premier run-stopping 4-3 outside linebacker, recording the most run stops in each of his three seasons in the NFL. Per PFF, his 228 total defensive stops are the most in the NFL, regardless of position. He is the only player in the NFL with 10 or more sacks and six or more interceptions since the start of the 2012 season.
David won first-team Associated Press All-Pro honors following the 2013 season, during which he became the first linebacker since sacks became an official statistic in 1982 to record at least seven sacks and five interceptions in the same season. Last year, David set a career high with 146 tackles despite missing two games and led the NFL with 10.4 tackles per game played.
The Buccaneers made David the 58th player drafted overall in 2012 after trading up 10 spots from the third round into the bottom of the second round. He played his college ball at Nebraska after transferring from Fort Scott Community College in Kansas. David hails from Miami, where he helped Northwestern High School win back-to-back state championships.
David has not yet joined McCoy in the Pro Bowl, despite garnering the more exclusive All-Pro honors. David is a victim of the position he plays in terms of Pro Bowl invitations, as the outside linebacker spots tend to go to pass-rushing 3-4 'backers with high sack totals. That hole on David's trophy shelf likely won't last much longer, but it is of little consequence to the Buccaneers anyway. They already consider David the best the NFL has to offer at his position, and they made it clear on Monday that they want him on their side for many years to come.