When J.J. Watt signed with the Arizona Cardinals on Monday, he may have unintentionally made it harder for the Buccaneers to retain edge rusher Shaquil Barrett. Many around the league expected the former Texan to sign with a contender on a relatively modest contract with the chance to compete for a championship. But then details emerged that Watt was signing with the Cardinals on a two-year, $31 million dollar deal with $20 million guaranteed.
How much of a ripple effect will this have across the league? We won’t know until March 17, but there’s a good chance that it will directly affect the Bucs.
With Watt at a $15.5 million dollar annual average, long are the days thinking Barrett might take a home town discount to remain in Tampa Bay. When you couple Barrett’s recent remarks that he wants to “break the bank” with Watts deal, it appears he expects to get paid in the upper echelon of players at his position. The Bucs tagged Barrett last year after a stellar 2019 campaign, which put a nice chunk of change in his bank account.
But now he’s in line for a bigger pay day. While he didn’t quite match his 19.5 sacks from the year prior, Barrett still racked up 12 total sacks through 20 games (includes the postseason) and finished with the third-most pressures in the league, per Sports Info Solutions. If you ask Pro Football Focus, he led the league in total pressures. Either way, he got after the quarterback in 2020.
And one has to wonder if Barrett, listed as an outside linebacker, views himself as such? He made it pretty clear last year that he thinks of himself as a defensive end. Will he feel the same way this year?
Regardless, the numbers at the top of each market are staggering, no matter the position designation. Leading the way at outside linebacker is Khalil Mack at $23.5 AAV million followed by Von Miller at $19 million. However, the Defensive end market is set much higher. Joey Bosa is at the top with a whopping $27 million AAV, followed by three other players making at least $20 million.
With Watt receiving such a high annual average, one would assume that this is likely to be the starting point for any talks with Barrett. Although Watt is three years older, he is still a very productive player. According to ESPN, he was the most double-teamed player in all of football the 2020 season. The best-case scenario is that Barrett and the Buccaneers can find some common ground between Mack’s $23 million AAV and Watt’s $15.5 million.
My prediction is that Barrett will sign for somewhere near the $19 million a year mark for three to four years, setting up the coveted “long term security” he desires.
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