Lavonte David and Mike Evans are two of the most accomplished players in Tampa Bay Buccaneers franchise history. David joins all-time great Ronde Barber as the only Buccaneers ever to exceed 1,000 tackles, 20 sacks and 10 interceptions. Evans holds virtually every receiving mark in the team's all-time record book.
David is the longest-tenured player on Tampa Bay's current roster and Evans holds that spot among offensive players. Both will hopefully be Buccaneers for their entire NFL careers. Regardless, someone will eventually be cleaning a spot on the stadium façade for their names to join the team's Ring of Honor. At the moment, though, both are still playing as well as they ever have, with the ends of their playing days nowhere in sight.
David and Evans have something else in common, too. Through the sheer weight of the incredible numbers they have accumulated so far, both have inserted themselves into exclusive clubs filled with some of the most recognizable names in NFL history. For Mike Evans, it's a star-studded group of receivers who produced huge numbers early and often; more on that here. Right now, we're going to discuss Lavonte David.
David joined the Buccaneers as a second-round draft pick in 2012. Having already traded their high second-round pick (#36 overall) to move back into the first round to select running back Doug Martin, the Buccaneers went into the second day of the draft the linebacker of Nebraska, whom they coveted greatly. When David fell farther than the Buccaneers expected, the team made another move, trading up to the 58th spot and getting their man. They have never regretted that decision.
In the eight and three-quarters seasons since that draft, David has amassed 1,098 tackles, 12 interceptions, 52 passes defensed, 22 forced fumbles, 16 fumble recoveries, 24.0 sacks and 126 tackles for loss. That combination of tackles, sacks and interceptions is particularly notable in that very few players have reached those levels of production through their first nine seasons in the league.
Here is the entire list of players who had at least 1,000 tackles, 20.0 sacks and 10 interceptions by the end of their ninth seasons (credit to the Buccaneers' Communications Department for producing this note):
· Lavonte David
· London Fletcher
· Ray Lewis
· Junior Seau
· Brian Urlacher
· Bobby Wagner
Lewis, Seau and Urlacher are already in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In fact, all three were elected in their first year of eligibility, which is the mark of a player widely believed to be among the very elite at his position in league history. Like David, Wagner is still playing and thus not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame, but his six Pro Bowls and five first-team Associated Press All-Pro honors are a very good start for his eventual candidacy.
Here is what each of those six standout linebackers produced in those three categories through their respective first nine seasons. Keep in mind that David and Wagner still have games left this season to increase their totals, four for David and five for Wagner.
(* Have not yet completed ninth season.)
Seau and Urlacher are well ahead of the field in sacks and Lewis and Urlacher have the superior interception totals, but otherwise those six stat lines are very similar. And if David, who has 1.5 sacks so far this season, manages to get one more in the next four games we'll be able to shrink this group even further by setting the sack bar at 25.0 instead of 20.0. In that case, it would be a four-man list, unless Wagner also gets 2.5 more this season.
Most would agree that David is one of the most accomplished players in franchise history, and the brighter spotlight that Tom Brady and a playoff run have brought to Tampa this season has helped the greater NFL viewing public gain a better appreciation for the long-time Buccaneer, as well. But we can also view David's accomplishments with a wider lens, and given what he has produced through the first nine seasons of his career, there is reason to start considering him as one of the all-time greats in the Super Bowl era.