TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Carlton Davis weighed his options, then followed his heart.
It helped that Tom Brady decided to return to Tampa Bay last weekend, but Davis felt all along that the Buccaneers are a perfect fit for him.
“Obviously, Tom coming back automatically makes us a contender again,” Davis said Wednesday after signing a three-year, $45 million contract to remain with the NFC South champions. “Who wouldn’t want to come back and compete with the GOAT.”
The 25-year-old cornerback became the second key player to re-sign with the Bucs since Brady ended his 40-day retirement, joining Pro Bowl center Ryan Jensen, who received a three-year, $39 million deal.
Davis and Jensen were among 10 starters who could have left Tampa Bay via free agency, a group that also includes running back Leonard Fournette, tight end Rob Gronkowski, linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul, and defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and William Gholston.
Two others, safety Jordan Whitehead and guard Alex Cappa, have agreed to deals with the New York Jets and Cincinnati Bengals, respectively.
Davis not only acknowledged Brady’s return impacted his decision to stay, he suspects other free agents will take the seven-time Super Bowl winner’s return into consideration, too.
“Just to have the opportunity to come back here and compete for another ring was huge for me. ... I know when we come back together as a team, everybody’s going to be full of confidence,” the fifth-year pro said.
A second-round draft pick out of Auburn in 2018, the 6-foot-1, 206-pound Davis has started 50 of 51 games he played with the Bucs over the past four seasons. He has six career interceptions, three fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles.
“Carlton is a fantastic player. I’ve said for a few years that I thought he was one of the top cornerbacks in this league and he has continued to grow,” Bucs coach Bruce Arians said. “He’s a great tackler, excellent in man-to-man defense, a very physical corner, and has the length you want. He has everything you are looking for to be a shutdown corner.”
Davis started all six of Tampa Bay’s postseason games over the past two seasons, including Super Bowl 55. He was limited by injury to 10 games in 2021, when he finished with one interception after having four the previous season.
“As an organization, it is always a point of emphasis to keep and reward our core, homegrown players,” general manager Jason Licht said. “Carlton is the most experienced player in our secondary and we believe he is entering the prime of his career.”
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