Shaquil Barrett was an under the radar signing for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last March. General Manager Jason Licht hit this signing out of the park as Barrett erupted for 19.5 sacks on the season. Barrett only signed for a one year, $5 million dollar deal. That type of value is what all general managers dream of.
This off-season will surely be different for Tampa Bay’s salary cap. Barrett is, of course, an unrestricted free agent once again but now will be highly sought after. Many contenders will have their eyes on him and will want to sign him to put them over the top talent-wise. Can the Buccaneers convince the young man to stay and try and win in Tampa? If they can would that be the correct move? Let’s dive into the decision of signing Shaquil “Sack” Barrett.
Tampa Bay’s Sack Record
Tampa Bay once had a dominant defense for those too young to remember. Defensive tackle and Hall of Famer Warren Sapp was a beast in the middle for the team. He was so dominant as a pass rusher upfront he actually owned the season sack record for a season at 16.5 total sacks. Well, Barrett did three full sacks better in 2019. Players that can come off the edge and put down opposing quarterbacks that often are extremely rare. Therefore signing a player of Barrett’s caliber is certainly the smart move, right? I am not that confident, to be honest.
As a Denver Bronco, his highest sack total in five seasons was 5.5 sacks. That came in his second NFL season at the age of 23. He signed with Tampa Bay as a 26-year-old. Could he just be a late bloomer? Sure. He did play behind great outside linebackers Von Miller and Demarcus Ware. The Broncos also drafted defensive end Shane Ray and outside linebacker Bradley Chubb in the first round while he was in Denver. Could his lack of stats just be a lack of opportunity? He was an undrafted free agent after all. One thing is for sure and its that he signed a “prove it” deal for Tampa Bay and did just that.
In Tampa Bay, there has been something missing off the edge since defensive end Simeon Rice finished harassing opposing quarterbacks. Every year fans plead for management to draft or sign a defensive end or outside linebacker that can rush the quarterback. They have tried but failed miserably in the past decade outside of Jason Pierre-Paul.
Good teams have at least one edge rusher that can put the passer down. Great teams have a few. Jason Licht might see this team and see that they have enough defensive fire power to justify signing Barrett long term and roll the dice. That would tell the fans that he and head coach Bruce Arians are thinking playoffs. If Barrett is the player we all need him to be, the Buccaneers can finally have a defense that’s feared once again. With young draft picks on all three levels of the defense, all the team needs are strong veteran talents. Linebacker Lavonte David could use a veteran like Barrett to help off the edge.
What’s the Cost?
In a perfect world with unlimited cap space, it’s an easy choice. Sign the man and lets lace up our cleats. Unfortunately for management and fans alike, it isn’t so easy. Jason Licht will have roughly $85 million in cap space, according to spotrac.com. That money will be used for the many upcoming free agents Tampa Bay has including defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, defensive end Carl Nassib, Jason Pierre-Paul and quarterback Jameis Winston. I honestly can’t see a way for Tampa Bay to sign Winston and Barrett to long term contracts without losing at least two out of the three veteran defensive players.
Teams are always in search of foundation players at quarterback and pass rusher. If they view Barrett and Winston as those players, they have no choice but to re-sign each. Unfortunately for Licht and company, the choices couldn’t be easy for either and they both will most likely reach the top 10 in yearly salary. I expect Shaquil Barrett’s agent to demand a contract similar to what linebacker Chandler Jones received, which was a five year $82.5 million deal. That’s a yearly salary of $16.5 million per year that can get Barrett into the top five contracts in the league.
So Whats The Move?
In my opinion, the correct decision is to sign Barrett and hope he can deliver the goods. If he can keep his sack totals above 12 a season, that would be a big win for the Buccaneers. That pressure is much needed for young defensive backs. That will also keep a threat to the divisional quarterbacks in the NFC South.
Head coach Bruce Arians is going to turn 68 years of age during the 2020 season. How much longer can the team count on him roaming the sidelines? The goal is to win a championship and signing a playmaker in his prime, like Barrett, is the correct decision. If Jason Licht can somehow get a team-friendly deal done, it will be a massive win for his career. Barrett has said recently, during Pro Bowl week, that he would like to be back.
“I’m here right now, just taking advantage of this next step right now,” he said. “I don’t know where it’s going to end up at but I’m confident that I’m going to be where I should be, which is Tampa. It’s up to Tampa Bay right now, whatever they want to do. We’re on board with them and our plan is to get whatever we can out of anybody, but I’d be planning on Tampa. I’m planning on Tampa.” He continued, “I don’t know if it’s going to be done before [March], but I love that confidence that it gives me. I’m just ready to get it done and start building my life in Tampa and being here for the long haul.”
Let’s get it done Mr. Licht, and run it back!