The Tampa Bay Buccaneers made some excellent progress in shaping the roster for 2021 last week, with wide receiver Chris Godwin getting the franchise tag and inside linebacker Lavonte David signing a new deal. Even Tom Brady's extension, which added to a contract that already covered 2021, helped in the overall pursuit by significantly reducing his cap hit for this year.
There is, however, still a lot of work to be done if the Buccaneers, as David put it after inking his contract, want to "get everybody back and go do this thing again." That 'thing,' of course, was winning the Super Bowl, giving the Buccaneers their first championship in 18 years. Godwin, David and Brady were big reasons the Bucs made it to the top in 2020, but so were several other players on the Bucs' list of potential unrestricted free agents, which is still quite long.
Any other players the Buccaneers don't re-sign by 4:00 p.m. on Wednesday will go from being potential free agents to actual navigators of the free agent market. As of Monday morning, that group still includes the player who ranks second in the NFL in sacks over the past two seasons.
As free agency approaches, we're looking at 10 of those potential free agents, all of whom played a significant part in the team's 2020 success or filled role that might be difficult to duplicate:
February 23: RB Leonard Fournette
February 26: K Ryan Succop
March 2: DL Rakeem Nunez-Roches
March 5: QB Blaine Gabbert
March 9: WR Antonio Brown
March 12: TE Rob Gronkowski
March 15: OLB Shaquil Barrett
March 16: DL Ndamukong Suh
This list is subject to change based on potential roster moves before Wednesday. Today our focus is on one of the best free agency values the Buccaneers have ever landed and the fifth Buc ever to get the franchise tag:
Player: Shaquil Barrett
Position: Outside Linebacker
Experience: Entering 8th NFL Season
How Acquired: The Buccaneers signed Barrett to a one-year deal as an unrestricted free agent on March 18, 2019, then retained him for the 2020 season using the franchise tag.
Previous Contract(s): As a undrafted free agent in 2014, Barrett got a three-year contract from the Broncos in 2014. He then re-signed with Denver for one more year as a restricted free agent in 2017 and then again as an unrestricted free agent in 2018.
Rank in Pro Football Focus Top 200 NFL Free Agents for 2021: 14th. PFF Comment: "One of the more efficient pass-rushers in the league over the past few years, Barrett has put up solid production whether in a part-time or full-time role. He's graded "in the green" as both a run defender and as a pass-rusher in all five years of his career, as he sets a hard edge in the run game and wins with good hands and a variety of moves when attacking the pocket."
2020 Performance: After leading the NFL with 19.5 sacks in his first season as a Buccaneer and shattering Warren Sapp's previous team record of 16.5, Barrett added another 8.0 sacks in 2020. Despite that very predictable drop in his sack total, Barrett was still one of the NFL's best pass rushers last season. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, he finished third in the NFL with 59 quarterback pressures, the same spot he occupied in the league's 2020 rankings. Overall, he recorded 57 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 16 quarterback hits, three passes defensed and two forced fumbles to go with his eight sacks.
Barrett won NFC Defensive Player of the Week Honors for his three-sack performance against his former team in Denver in Week Three. He also had 2.0 sacks in a Week 14 win over Minnesota and then another 3.0 in the NFC Championship Game victory in Green Bay, giving him seven multi-sack games in just two seasons in Tampa. Barrett led the Buccaneers with 4.0 sacks during their postseason run to the championship, including one in Super Bowl LV. He was also credited with eight quarterback hits over the last two games and a massive eight QB pressures in the Super Bowl.
Career Accomplishments: After a 2014 rookie season spent mostly on the Broncos' practice squad, Barrett became part of the team's edge rush rotation alongside such players as Von Miller, Demarcus Ware and Bradley Chubb. His playing time fluctuated during that time based on Denver's defensive personnel, and by the time he hit free agency for a second time in 2019 it was clear he was going to have to look elsewhere for a chance to compete for a starting job.
He got that opportunity in Tampa on a one-year deal in 2019 and beat out Noah Spence for the starting job. By the end of his first quarter-season with the Buccaneers he had already racked up 10.0 sacks and won the NFC Defensive Player of the Month award for that September. He then capped his season with a three-sack game against Atlanta, allowing to break Sapp's record and edge out Arizona's Chandler Jones for the NFL sack crown. Barrett was rewarded with his first trip to the Pro Bowl. In all, he has played in 92 games with 46 starts, recording 266 tackles, 55 tackles for loss, 41.5 sacks, 88 quarterback hits, one interception, 12 passes defensed, 15 forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. His 27.5 sacks over the 2019-20 seasons combined was only topped by Pittsburgh's T.J. Watt (29.5).
Other Potential Free Agent Edge Rushers: Carl Lawson (Cincinnati), Bud Dupree (Pittsburgh), Trey Hendrickson (New Orleans), Jadeveon Clowney (Tennessee), Yannick Ngakoue (Baltimore), Matthew Judon (Baltimore), Melvin Ingram (L.A. Chargers), Leonard Floyd (L.A. Rams), Aldon Smith (Dallas), Haason Reddick (Arizona), Romeo Okwara (Detroit), Ryan Kerrigan (Washington)
Top Edge Rush Prospects in 2021 NFL Draft: Gregory Rousseau (Miami), Jaelan Phillips (Miami), Kwity Paye (Michigan), Azeez Ojulari (Georgia), Jayson Oweh (Penn State), Joseph Ossai (Texas), Joe Tryon (Washington), Ronnie Perkins (Oklahoma)