Welcome to Bucs Report’s “Make-Or-Break” series!
We are going to highlight the players heading into their final contract year and discuss what they need to do on the field in 2021 in order to obtain another contract with the Bucs. One prerequisite that must be checked off in order to qualify: The profiled player(s) have to be in the final year of a multi-year deal. Players who signed one-year deals in 2021 will not be considered.
Jason Pierre-Paul and the Buccaneers so far…
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers were in a transition period when the 2018 season rolled around. The defense needed new blood and a a new attitude – one that could ignite the unit and get it to play to its potential. Tampa Bay filled this gap with a trade for Jason Pierre-Paul. The Giants received a third- (No. 69) and a fourth-round pick (No. 102), while giving up Pierre-Paul and a fourth-round pick (No. 108) of their own.
The impact was immediate. In the 2018 season, Pierre-Paul boosted the defense with 12.5 sacks and 20 quarterback hits. It was the first time since 2014 since he had double-digit sacks. What was even more wild was JPP became the first pass rusher since Simeon Rice in 2006 to record double-digit sacks in a single season.
Furthermore, he added 48 tackles with 16 resulting in a loss of yardage. But his greatest contribution was the fact that became a mentor for the younger players on the squad.
2019 saw his production drop as he missed six games. A neck fracture would keep him off the field for a short period of the season. Even with the missed time, he filled the stat sheet with 8.5 sacks, coupled with 16 tackles for loss. He was very productive for only starting eight games and battling injuries.
Fully healthy for the 2020 season, Pierre-Paul registered 9.5 sacks, 55 tackles, 14 TFLs, two interceptions, and four forced fumbles. JPP was impactful on a consistent basis and his leadership and professional approach were instrumental in the Super Bowl run.
What does he need to do in order to get that second contract?
Paired nicely with Shaq Barrett, Pierre-Paul has remained consistent and productive. At his age, the ability to remain so will be key for him to be brought back on another short contract. At 32-years-old, he is no longer at the peak. Many players start showing signs of the wear and tear they experience during their career.
Pierre-Paul’s stat line at the end of the regular season will need to be to the tune of seven sacks, and double-digit quarterback hits. He will need to contribute over 45 tackles with close to 10 of those being TFLs, themselves. Adding in a few more forced fumbles and pass deflections should show he still has gas left in the tank. Lucky for him the Buccaneers staff believes in giving its older vets days off during the practice week in order to save their body for Sundays.
If regression appears, Pierre-Paul could find himself looking for a new team to play for – if he doesn’t retire. In that case, the Buccaneers would be looking to replace Pierre-Paul with a possible first-round outside linebacker to replace him and continue to pair a high-caliber player with Barrett.
How are his prospects shaping up for 2022?
Pierre-Paul has strung together his most productive and consistent three seasons while with the Buccaneers. For these three seasons, he has had more sacks than any other three-year span. He has also recorded more quarterback hits during this span. With this kind of production, he seems to have found a scheme he excels in and is comfortable with. All this while missing six games.
A healthy Pierre-Paul will be impactful. But even if he doesn’t live up to his normal standards in 2021, he shouldn’t have much of an issue finding work elsewhere in 2022.
Predicting Pierre-Paul’s situation is exceedingly difficult. Frankly, I don’t foresee his production being the reason he may not be back with the Buccaneers in 2021. He prepares very well and takes care of himself. He’s a consummate professional who has the veteran savvy you find in players who play well beyond most others.
Pierre-Paul has three options that may play out at the end of the season. In assuming the Buccaneers can repeat their 2020 success and win the Super Bowl, Pierre-Paul may hang up the cleats and end on a high note. His second option -assuming the same Super Bowl victory- could be chasing one last lucrative contract to finish his career on. The third, of course, is to go for the threepeat if the Bucs in fact do go back-to-back.
If the Buccaneers fall short the same options lay in front of him. Pierre-Paul should earn another contract easily. The choice to remain with the team will be more Pierre-Paul’s at the end of the season than the Buccaneers.
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