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Raiders’ free agent focus: Lavonte David

Ageless linebacker remains a stout defender and can provide Las Vegas a productive leader on defense

NFL: Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Even at age 33, Lavonte David is still one of the best inside linebackers in the league. The unrestricted free agent can provide instant credibility to the middle of the Las Vegas Raiders defense.
Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

If Dave Ziegler and Josh McDaniels are truly keen on adding smart and tough players to the Las Vegas Raiders roster, a long, hard look at Lavonte David is a must-happen. Because the Silver & Black’s general manager and head coach, respectively, would be hard pressed to find a free agent that fits exactly what they’re looking for more than David.

While some may immediately point to the veteran inside linebacker’s age — 33 years old — as a detractor, David’s career track record of both production and availability can’t be denied. Manning the inside linebacker spot in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense, the 2012 second-round pick (58th overall selection) played in all 17 games — 96 percent of the team’s total defensive snaps — and was every bit a force defending the run and dropping back into coverage.

For a Raiders team that not only is lacking a stout presence in the middle of the defense against the run and pass, but also only has undrafted free agents Luke Masterson and Darien Butler under contract at the inside linebacker spot, David is a gem of an unrestricted free agent.

Tale of the Tape: Lavonte David

  • Position: Inside linebacker
  • Year drafted: 2012, Second Round, No. 58 overall
  • Age: 33
  • Height: 6-foot-1
  • Weight: 233 pounds
  • 2022 Stats: 124 total tackles (80 solo), 10 tackles for loss, 3 sacks, 5 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery
  • Career Stats: 1,346 total tackles (949 solo), 143 tackles for loss, 29 sacks, 12 interceptions, 59 passes defensed, 27 forced fumbles, 18 fumble recoveries

As an 11-year veteran, David has seen and experienced it all and would not only become an instant credible leader on the Raiders defense, but his presence in the locker room would be both stabilizing and inspirational. He’s a productive lead-by-example-type veteran who can still make an impact on the field as an every-down defender. He still has the legs to not come off the field on third downs and is a cerebral defender who can get the entire Las Vegas defense lined up.

San Francisco 49ers v Las Vegas Raiders
Undrafted free agent Luke Masterson started seven at linebacker for the Las Vegas Raiders in 2022 due to injury and lack of ideal depth.
Photo by Chris Unger/Getty Images

If Pro Football Focus evaluation is your thing, David is a glowing example of that grading system. He’s ranked together six consecutive years of 72.0-plus PFF grade and was the No. 3 off-ball linebacker in the league according to the organization with the Bucs. And there’s nothing to suggest there’d be a steep drop-off for the rest of his career. At least not as much as the Raiders’ prized 2022 free agent signing Chandler Jones experience this past year in the desert.

And that does warrant concern of signing an aging player to a rich contract. Still, it shouldn’t preclude or scare off the Raiders for continuously trying to improve the roster — especially defensively.

The inside linebacker is a spot Las Vegas historically hasn’t earmarked as as priority and the churn at the position speaks to that. Denzel Perryman admirably filled the spot and showcased his thumping ability as as run defender and tackler while also exhibiting a sneaky nature in coverage. However, Perryman’s injury history has limited his availability and he’s an unrestricted free agent, too.

In terms of valuation, David is likely going to garner interest and competition if/when he hits the open market, thus he isn’t going to be a cheap addition.

Spotrac has his valuation set at an average annual salary of $9.7 million, which would put that contract in the top 10 of the position group. Meanwhile Over The Cap values David at $12.488 million per year. For context, the highest annual average belongs to the Baltimore Ravens Roquan Smith who recently inked a new deal that sees him earning $20 million per year.

Yet, for a Raiders defense lacking identity and accountability, brining David into the fold accomplishes both.