Carlton Davis comes in at No. 10 on Pro Football Network’s Top 50 Free Agents, and he’s behind only J.C. Jackson among cornerbacks. Translation: Davis is in line for a massive contract in free agency unless the Tampa Bay Buccaneers use the franchise tag on him. Let’s review Davis’ stats and his contract, and we’ll discuss potential landing spots for the talented cornerback.
Carlton Davis: Free Agency Overview
The franchise tag number for cornerbacks is north of $17 million. That would be a big payday for Davis. But the thing is, he probably hopes the Buccaneers decide against it. Davis’ earning potential on the open market is even higher.
Recapping Davis’ 2021 season
For the fourth time in as many years, Davis didn’t play a full NFL season. In fact, he missed seven games in October and November due to a significant quadriceps injury. His season stats — 33 tackles, 11 passes defensed, 1 interception — don’t jump off the page.
But it was no coincidence that the Buccaneers went 8-2 in regular-season games in which Davis appeared. The advanced stats helped explain why. Opposing quarterbacks completed a meager 57.1% of passes thrown in his coverage area, averaging 6.0 yards per target and 10.6 yards per completion. Their combined passer rating? 83.2. Davis was excellent.
Davis’ contract estimate and salary cap implications
He is ready — and deserves — to get paid. Since the Buccaneers took him 63rd overall in 2018, Davis has earned a total of $5.7 million — incredible value for a player of his ability and his occupation. The discount days are done. Spotrac pegs Davis’ market value at five years, $98.4 million, which would make him the NFL’s second-highest-paid corner based on AAV ($19.6 million).
The Buccaneers insist this isn’t a rebuilding year, so if they’re serious about making a playoff run, keeping a player of Davis’ caliber should be part of the plan. Unfortunately, they have just $6.9 million in salary-cap space.
Possible landing spots for Davis
We expect a robust market. There is a relative scarcity of top-notch corners, so when one as talented as Davis hits the market, multiple teams will likely overlook his injury history in hopes of landing a secondary-solidifying player.
The list of teams with a need at corner is long. The list of teams with ample cap space and that need is much shorter: the New York Jets, the Houston Texans, the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Baltimore Ravens. Of course, never sleep on Bill Belichick when it comes to free agency and corners.
What they’re saying about Davis
“He’s playing very well right now. I think it took him about two-and-a-half to three weeks [after his return from IR] to get it back. He’s flying around, he understands the game, he’s hungry. Being injured, he didn’t have to go through the whole grind of the season, so he should have fresh legs. We expect him to be faster than a lot of guys on defense.” — Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles, January 2022
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