The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have placed the franchise tag on Shaquil Barrett, who was due to become an unrestricted free agent on March 18. Barrett led the NFL with 19.5 sacks in 2019, setting a new single-season franchise record in his first year with the team. The deadline to apply franchise or transition tags was Monday after two previous delays in the schedule.
The Buccaneers used the "non-exclusive" franchise tag on Barrett, meaning he can negotiate with other teams but Tampa Bay retains a right to match any contract offer. If Barrett does sign with another team and the offer is not matched, that team must send two first-round draft picks to the Buccaneers.
The non-exclusive franchise tender offer is a one-year contract that becomes the player's salary for the upcoming season if and when he signs it. The calculation of the tender offer is based mainly on the top five salaries at the player's position from the previous year, though there are other factors, including the salary cap figures of the past five seasons and the projected cap figure for the upcoming season.
The placement of the franchise tag does not mean that Barrett and the Buccaneers must or will stop negotiating on a new long-term contract to keep the prolific pass-rusher in Tampa. In fact, the tag is often utilized as a way for a team to extend its negotiating window with a player it wants to retain with a longer deal. For instance, the Buccaneers last used a franchise tag in 2012 on kicker Connor Barth and eventually came to terms with Barth on a four-year deal later that spring.
Since the NFLPA ratified the new collective bargaining agreement on Sunday, the Buccaneers can only use one of their franchise or transition tags this year, not both. Under the previous CBA, teams were allowed to use both tags in 2020, the last year of that league. The Buccaneers have 18 players who are due to become unrestricted free agents on March 18, including several other members of a strong defensive front plus incumbent starting quarterback Jameis Winston.
However, Barrett was clearly the top priority on that list after he emerged as one of the NFL's best pass-rushers after signing a one-year "prove-it" deal with the Buccaneers in 2019. Barrett has said on several occasions that his top choice is to remain in Tampa, and Head Coach Bruce Arians has likewise made it clear that the team was intent on keeping him around.
Barrett played four seasons in a rotation role in Denver, with his playing time fluctuating significantly due to the presence of Von Miller, Demarcus Ware and Bradley Chubb. He recorded 14.0 sacks in that span, with a high of 5.5 in 2015, when he started six games. The Buccaneers believed he could provide even greater production in a larger role, though even they couldn't have predicted that Barrett would nearly become the just 12th player in NFL history to reach 20 sacks in a season.
Barrett won a starting job in the Bucs' new 3-4 defense under coordinator Todd Bowles and hit the ground running in his first season in Tampa. He had at least one sack in each of his first four games, including a three-sack performance in a Week Two win at Carolina that earned him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. Barrett followed that with four more QB takedowns in Week Three against the New York Giants, just the third four-sack game in franchise history. He was the NFC Defensive Player of the Month for September. Barrett also finished the season strong, with seven sacks in his last five games, including another three-sack game in the season finale against Atlanta that allowed him to pass Arizona's Chandler Jones for the NFL sack title.
In all, Barrett finished his first Buccaneer season with 58 tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 37 quarterback hits, one interception, two passes defensed and six forced fumbles to go with those 19.5 sacks. Those 37 QB hits tied him with Green Bay's Za'Darius Smith for the league lead in that category, too, and his six forced fumbles ranked third. Barrett was selected to play in his first Pro Bowl following the season and also earned second-team Associated Press All-Pro honors.
This is just the fifth time the Buccaneers have utilized a franchise tag since the option was created in the original CBA in 1993. That year, Tampa Bay placed the tag on standout left tackle Paul Gruber, who responded with a five-game holdout but eventually signed a new long-term deal with the team. The Bucs also used the tag in 1999 on defensive end Chidi Ahanotu and in 2009 on wide receiver Antonio Bryant.
The Buccaneers will use their franchise tag in efforts to retain the NFL's 2019 sack leader, Shaquil Barrett.