No Hedge On The Edge

February 26th, 2021

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There’s one aspect of Tampa Bay’s murky free-agent scenario that’s easy to decipher — above all, Shaq Barrett needs to be a Buccaneer this fall.

If Barrett is allowed to test the market, shame on Tampa Bay’s brain trust. More than a few suitors will be falling out of their money trees to sign Barrett if the Bucs are foolish enough to let him see what’s out there.

What;’s out there for a 28-year-old pass rushing terror is a 4-year deal worth well north of $80 million. And if that happens, Barrett will take the money and his skills to South Beach or another NFL destination and the Bucs will regret his departure for a long time.

There are many other considerations for Jason Licht and Bruce Arians to mull over in the next few weeks as they begin to shape the 2021 roster. Chris Godwin, Lavonte David, Ndamukong Suh, Ryan Succop, Rob Gronkowski, Leonard Fournette and Antonio Brown all contributed to a championship run, but in this case, Barrett stands alone atop the priority list.

Shaq breathing fire in Green Bay

Pay the man his money, or tag him again. Whatever you do, Shaq Barrett cannot be allowed to hit the market and sack Tampa Bay’s hopes for a repeat title.

Letting him go is simply not an option.

We’re talking about a prime pass rusher in his prime who has missed only one game since you stole him as a free agent from Denver in 2019.

Barrett made $4 million that season and promptly led the league in sacks. If Tom Brady is the best free-agent addition in franchise history, Barrett ranks No. 2.

“He’s a special football player,” says Chris Simms. “There’s no way you let him hit free agency.”

Simms has been known to frolic in left field with some of his NFL observations, but he couldn’t be more correct regarding Barrett’s value. In two seasons, Barrett has posted 27.5 sacks, 30 tackles for loss, 53 QB hits and 8 forced fumbles. Those are big-time numbers, the kind that win football games and save jobs in the front office.

Jason Pierre-Paul is justifiably considered a solid defender against the run, yet Barrett is no slouch in that regard. Last season, he had two more tackles than JPP. He’s a major reason why the Bucs led the NFC with 68 QB knockdowns, finished fourth in NFL sacks (48) and ranked No. 2 to Pittsburgh with 213 QB pressures.

Every team is looking for the next Shaq Barrett, a stud who can line up on either side and relentlessly collapse the pocket.

Don’t be fooled by the eight sacks in 2020. Opposing teams committed extra resources trying to block him — wouldn’t you? — yet Barrett remained very disruptive.

And in the most important games of the season, Barrett showed up huge, especially in the NFC title game at Lambeau, where he dropped Aaron Rodgers three times.

Modern Reality

Placing Barrett at the top of Tampa Bay’s priority list is no knock on Chris Godwin or Lavonte David. It’s simply an acknowledgement that pass rushers are at a premium in this league. They were important when the Bucs began play in 1976 and they’re far more important now in a pass-happy era — with rules designed to drive defensive backs crazy.

How do you neutralize Patrick Mahomes, Rodgers or Russell Wilson? Pressure, pressure, pressure. You get in their face and you get in their head. That’s the only way to survive in today’s NFL.

Shaq’s agent, oily Drew Rosenhaus, was a frequent visitor to Tampa last season.

With or without Godwin, Tom Brady won’t lack for targets this fall. If Godwin leaves, the Bucs can find a cheaper replacement who won’t be as good but will be adequate. If David departs, Licht can land an inside linebacker who will work well with budding star Devin White.

Players like Barrett don’t hit free agency very often for good reason — you don’t let those guys leave. A sack-hungry team like the Falcons would slobber all over Barrett if he’s available.

The Bucs can’t let that happen … and they won’t. Barrett’s too good a player at too important a position. Long term, short term, that’s to be determined.

The Bucs kicked the can down the road a year ago by placing the franchise tag on Barrett, but the road doesn’t go on forever.

This time around, the same label would ensure that Barrett earns 120 percent of the 2020 tag number for his position. That’s not ideal from a salary-cap perspective, but it’s the right move for the franchise if a long-term contract can’t be worked out.

When it comes to the edge, you don’t hedge.

Shaq Barrett isn’t going anywhere.

Ira!  … Ira’s good friend Sean Sullivan, the Bill Currie Ford general manager, is ready to help you personally. Just call, email or stop in, one mile north of Raymond James Stadium.

Enjoy Friday’s new Ira Kaufman Podcast episode, presented by Bill Currie Ford.

11 Responses to “No Hedge On The Edge”

  1. D-Rome Says:

    Don’t be fooled by the eight sacks in 2020. Opposing teams committed extra resources trying to block him — wouldn’t you? — yet Barrett remained very disruptive.

    How this is even a debate is mind-boggling to me. I look at various Bucs discussion boards and people want Godwin over Shaq Barrett or even Ryan Succop over Shaq Barrett. You’re 100% correct about the sack numbers. Shaq had an excellent season and was highly productive. He proved his worth on the biggest stage of the playoffs.

  2. Bird Says:

    Saw one poster call shaq a one hit wonder
    Wonder if that poster watches games with a crack pipe burning and both eyes closed ?

  3. Coburn Says:

    Shaw had second most pressure in the league didn’t he? Less sacks because qb was looking right at him tbis year. Gave JPP the blindside, who had more sacks, but way less pressures. If I recall he got some lucky ones where he was unblocked

  4. Darin Says:

    Depends on how much. That’s why Licht makes the big bucks. Saying there’s no way Barrett can leave without knowing who his replacement would be is pointless. Gota factor both players and both salaries. Welcome to the post trophy dilemma. What a beautiful problem to have. If you think they cant win it all again without shaq you’re doubting the wrong qb. Go Bucs

  5. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    Seeing Shaq chasing Mahomes around his backfield was a very rare thing of beauty…..I 1000% agree with IRA…..Shaq is #1 priority….I think we won’t have to franchise him…..long term deal Shaq & Jason!!!

  6. Dick LeBeau Jr. Says:

    I don’t know. I think we’re holding him in too high of a regard. If that’s how you would phrase that. I believe with the force of Suh and Vea, any of the other free agent LBs could possible give you 6 to 8 sacks. I don’t think we’re completely screwed if we don’t resign Barret as long as we grab one of these other decent LBs in free agency. Sure I’d love to keep him, but I don’t think it’s that serious.

  7. Joe Says:

    I don’t know. I think we’re holding him in too high of a regard. If that’s how you would phrase that. I believe with the force of Suh and Vea, any of the other free agent LBs could possible give you 6 to 8 sacks.

    Joe keeps reading similar stuff like this (that Shaq sucks without Vea) but it is a fallacy. Shaq was second in the NFL in quarterback pressures this year and Vea missed the last 11 regular season games. Shaq had five of his eight regular season sacks with Vea out of the lineup.

    Was Shaq better with Vea? Of course, who wouldn’t be? Joe just does not understand the mentality of, “Oh, they can find someone else… ” Really? The Bucs thought the same thing with Michael Bennett and never did replace him. Why experiment and hope someone can replace him? Keep him.

    If a team is really serious about repeating, the disgusting word “hope” should never be used by the front office! How about “know?” You “hope” you can replace Shaq. You “know” what Shaq can do.

    Stick with “know.”

    Have people forgot what Shaq did in the NFC Championship and Super Bowl? The biggest games of his life and he dominated. Why toss that aside? Proven. Joe just does not understand.

  8. #1bucsfan Says:

    Shaq showed up at the perfect time in the playoffs. He rose to the accusation that’s what you want from great players. Last year he went off the rails with 19 sacks this year he go more attention but still was able to produce and then he showed out in the playoffs where the lights are the brightest. Pretty sure you gotta pay the man

  9. 0-26 survivor Says:

    Also why did Shaq and jpp switch sides at the beginning of the season? Seemed kind of crazy with Shaq coming off a 19 sack year. Never really heard why that was done , pressure on qb imo is the number 1 reason
    For a successful defense, also leads to
    Turnovers and just flusters the offense in
    All kinds of ways. SHAQ MUST STAY A BUC.

  10. Señor Harry in Costa Rica Says:

    The Bucs D held Patrick Friggin Mahomes to NO TDs for the first time in his career. Shag was a huge part of that; can you still see Shaq chasing Mahomes all over the backfield?!

    PAY. THE. MAN.

  11. SlyPirate Says:

    I still think Shaq is replaceable. The Bucs can grab a stud FA (ie. Von Miller – Shaq’s mentor) and a draft selection.

    Remember Shaq was a scrub in Denver. Bowles, Vea, Suh made Shaq. LVD is the more important defensive player. Let Shaq get his $ and keep the rest of the team together.