TAMPA, Fla. — Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said Thursday that the team has “no intention” of trading Pro Bowl inside linebacker Devin White despite White requesting that the team trade him. Licht said he fully expects White to remain on their roster in 2023.
“We all have all the respect in the world for Devin,” Licht said. “He’s done some great things for us and we look forward to more from him in the future. … If he has the type of year we think he’s capable of, we can hopefully put this to rest and everybody’s happy.
“This isn’t something I’m holding against Devin. I still feel he’s a tremendous person. I would never say he’s not the type of teammate we want because of this.”
A source told ESPN this week that White is “fed up,” with a second source saying White’s frustrations stem from negotiations on a contract extension. White is currently slated to play under the fifth-year option, which would bump his salary from $9,527,760 in 2022 to $11,706,000 in 2023.
A source not directly involved with the negotiations but familiar with them said White is seeking between $18 million and $20 million per year, which is on-par with what the top inside linebackers in the league are making and mirrors a statement White made at his LSU pro day, when he told the Shreveport Times, “Draft me, because when I hit free agency in five years, the price will go up. I’ll be looking for $100 million then.”
The Bucs’ fifth overall draft pick in the 2019 NFL draft, White became an immediate Day 1 starter at inside linebacker for the Bucs and was named a team captain on defense in his second season. In 2020, he finished with 97 solo tackles during the regular season — third-most in the NFL. He produced a postseason-high 27 solo tackles (38 combined) two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and two passes defensed in three postseason games that year, including eight solo tackles (12 combined) and an interception in the Bucs’ Super Bowl LV victory.
White’s 315 solo tackles since 2019 are seventh most of any player in the league behind Fred Warner. He has also produced 20.5 sacks as an off-the-ball linebacker — second most on the team in that span. But the Bucs want to see more out of White, who has, at times, shown inconsistent play sprinkled in with moments of brilliance.
He memorably hit 22.8 mph chasing down Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson for 60 yards to force a fumble his rookie season. At that time, it was fastest play by any front-seven player and third-fastest of any linebacker since 2016, according to NFL Next Gen Stats data. He also had three-sack performances against the Atlanta Falcons and Las Vegas Raiders in 2020, and two-sack performances against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 1 last year and against the Seahawks in Germany. His 10-tackle, two-takeaway performance against New Orleans Saints in the divisional round of the playoffs was key to taking down Drew Brees in his final game at the Superdome.
But he also gave up a touchdown on the opening drive against the Pittsburgh Steelers last year in Week 6, allowing Najee Harris to get to the flat, and on that very same drive, he had a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty that kept the defense on the field. White was then criticized by Bucs Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Sapp for a perceived lack of effort against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 8 and he was on the receiving end of a pancake block by Ravens center Tyler Linderbaum.
Still, the Bucs have voiced support for White all offseason. Coach Todd Bowles said at the NFL combine in February, “Devin takes a lot of heat for some things — everybody judges the missed tackles — but he makes tackles that I haven’t seen linebackers make in 30 years. He can make plays for us. He is still one of our best two players on defense. I have a lot of faith in him. His growth mentally understanding the system — and it’s not an easy system — has been outstanding. I think the world of the guy. I think he is a heck of a ballplayer and I think this will probably be one of his better seasons.”
When asked if he thought this could escalate to the point of a holdout, Licht said, “I can’t look into the future. We have the utmost respect for Devin. It’s part of the business world, the business of this job that we have that I don’t like. But he’s a competitor, he’s a player — everyone holds him in high regard.”