The Tampa Bay Buccaneers' bottom-to-top approach to signing their 2012 draft choices has nearly reached the top. On Friday, the team announced that it has finalized a four-year agreement with second-round pick Lavonte David, a linebacker out of Nebraska.
Earlier in the week, the team signed fifth-round linebacker and sixth-round cornerback Keith Tandy. That followed the previous week's agreements with a pair of seventh-rounders, running back Michael Smith and tight end Drake Dunsmore. The only remaining unsigned players from the Bucs' 2012 draft class are their two first-round selections, safety Mark Barron and running back Doug Martin. Roughly two months remain before the start of training camp, and the Buccaneers have not had an extended rookie holdout since 1994.
With his deal in place, David will obviously report on time to training camp, where he will potentially battle for a starting job in the team's linebacking corps. The Bucs have at least one spot to determine in that group following the free agency departure of Geno Hayes, the team's primary starter on the weak side the past three seasons.
The Buccaneers clearly coveted David highly in last month's draft, as they traded a fourth-round pick to move up 10 spots, from the top of the third round into the bottom of the second, to grab the productive defender. General Manager Mark Dominik later confirmed that the team had its eye on David from the beginning of the second round and were hoping he would get into range where they could make a move up to secure him.
David ran a 4.65-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine and was considered one of the top pass-coverage linebackers in this year's draft class. Given his ability to make plays sideline-to-sideline, many scouts considered him a possible late-first-round selection.
A second-team AP All-America selection last year, David won the Big Ten's Butkus-Fitzgerald Award as the conference's top linebacker. He was also a finalist for the national Butkus Award and a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award. The accolades rolled in after he racked up 133 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and two interceptions, enough to earn his selection as the Nebraska team MVP in 2011.
Those stats mirrored his 2010 campaign, his first with the Cornhuskers after transferring from Fort Scott Community College. His transition to the top level of college football was seamless, as in two years with Nebraska he started all 27 games and racked up 285 tackles, 28 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks.