The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are doing their best to keep the gang together.
On Monday, hours after they placed a non-exclusive franchise tag on outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett, the Buccaneers announced that they had re-signed another one of their best pass-rushers, Jason Pierre-Paul, to a multi-year contract. Despite playing in just 10 games with eight starts last year, Pierre-Paul produced 8.5 sacks, second only to Barrett's league-leading 19.5 among Buccaneer defenders.
Pierre-Paul missed the first six games of 2019 due to a neck injury suffered in a spring car accident, but he proved to be as disruptive as ever upon his return. In fact, he recorded a sack against the Tennessee Titans on his very first snap after returning to action. He and Barrett were part of a Buccaneer defensive front that produced 47 sacks, second-most in a season in franchise history, and also led the NFL in rushing defense. In addition to his 8.5 sacks, Pierre-Paul recorded 27 tackles, nine tackles for loss, 16 quarterback hits, two forced fumbles and two passes defense.
Barrett, Pierre-Paul, Ndamukong Suh and Carl Nassib were all key figures in that defensive front, and both Head Coach Bruce Arians and General Manager Jason Licht made it clear that keeping as much of that group together in 2020 was a priority. In one busy day, the Buccaneers have taken a big step towards realizing that goal.
OLB Jason Pierre-Paul signs a multi-year deal to stay with the Buccaneers.
Pierre-Paul first joined the Buccaneers via a trade with the New York Giants in March of 2018. He was an instant hit with his new team, leading the Tampa Bay defense with 12.5 sacks and 20 quarterback hits, and in the process snapping a 13-year drought in which no Tampa defender reached double digits in sacks in a single season. In all, Pierre-Paul has played in 26 games as a Buccaneer and has 21.0 sacks, as well as 36 hits, three forced fumbles and 85 tackles. His 21 sacks over the last two years are tied for 11th-most in that span.
And the former University of South Florida star finished his second season back in his college town with a flourish, racking up five sacks and a forced fumble in the last two games of 2019. At age 31, Pierre-Paul demonstrated that he could still be one of the NFL's most dangerous pass-rushers, and he also proved to be an emotional sparkplug on the field. He and Barrett combined for eight sacks and 11 quarterback hits in those two games, further cementing what the Buccaneers' offseason priority would be in free agency.
Prior to the trade that brought him to Tampa, Pierre-Paul played eight seasons in New York and racked up 58.5 sacks for the Giants. His 79.5 sacks overall rank 13th among active players in the NFL. Pierre-Paul's most productive sack season came in 2011, when he recorded 16.5 QB takedowns and 28 QB hits and was rewarded with Pro Bowl and first-team AP All-Pro honors. He was also voted into the Pro Bowl in 2012 and recorded 12.5 sacks in 2014.
Pierre-Paul struck his new deal with the Buccaneers two days before he would have become an unrestricted free agent at the start of the 2020 league year. Now the team can turn its attention to other key free agents it wants to retain, a list that possibly include Suh, Nassib, quarterback Jameis Winston, wide receiver Breshad Perriman, running back Peyton Barber and tackle Demar Dotson.