adsdasd In a story featuring a few paragraphs on the top linebackers to receive new contracts, Ross Jones made an interesting observation.
Kuechly, a 2012 first-round pick, had the fifth-year option placed on him a season ago, which would pay in more than $11 million in 2016.
We've had a hard time pinning down a good estimate for Lavonte David's contract, simply because there are no real comparable players. No one's given a weakside, 4-3 linebacker a long-term contract extension since....well probably since Derrick Brooks, really. It's not a position that is a priority in any scheme except those based on the Tampa 2. Lance Briggs may have come closest in recent years, though he's technically a strongside linebacker, but his three-year, $17.5 million contract in 2012 is far, far below what David can expect to get.
That's why Kuechly's fifth-year option is so interesting. Because he and David are probably the best two 4-3 linebackers in the NFL. Which means we're probably looking at $11 million per year as a target for Lavonte David's contract too -- perhaps a little less, given that he's not a middle linebacker, but his agent will (rightfully) argue that weakside linebacker is more important in the Buccaneers' scheme.
Given that the Bucs currently have nearly $20 million in cap space, per Over The Cap's estimates, they have more than enough room to pay for David's extension. But the $11 million per year will be a hefty price for the Bucs going forward, especially coupled with Gerald McCoy's $15 million per year. That's 17% of the cap space spent on two players -- not crippling, especially for two crucial positions, but it's a significant amount of money that will restrict the team's spending elsewhere going forward.
That's natural for any NFL team, though. New players get big contracts as old ones leave the team. The key to a healthy salary structure is not to overburden any single year, and to have a constant influx of talented young draft picks to off-set the expensive veterans. So far, Jason Licht appears to be doing a good job of getting that talent to come rolling in. Let's hope he can continue to do so.