NFL sacks leader Shaq Barrett has been franchise tagged by the Tampa Bay Bucs.
The move allows the Bucs to resign the former Colorado State man and give him a year to prove he wasn’t simply a one-hit-wonder. His projected salary in 2020 will be $15.829 million, and the Bucs have $66.085 million in cap space, according to Spotrac.com.
The former Denver Bronco joins a list of franchise tagged players including defensive tackle Chris Jones from the Chiefs, running back Derrick Henry from the Titans, and quarterback Dak Prescott from the Cowboys.
The pass rusher looked dominant this past year, and the Bucs getting him for another year without having to back up the Brinks truck is a steal. If Barrett can stay healthy there’s no reason to think he can’t at least get to double digits again in sacks.
This leads to the next question: What do you do with the rest of the defensive line?
The only other guy under contract for next year is former first-rounder Vita Vea. Do the Bucs re-sign Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul (JPP)? With that $66 million in cap, they could upgrade other positions, such as quarterback (Tom Brady to Tampa would make my brain explode), offensive line, and maybe even the secondary (the running back position isn’t listed because going to free agency and paying big bucks for running backs typically doesn’t end well).
Now, JPP posted a mysterious message on Instagram in February, a photo of himself in a Bucs uniform captioned “All I did was try my best. 90PC.” If this means Pierre-Paul is on his way out, the Bucs would have to replace his 8.5 sacks in 10 games. Not an easy thing to do.
Resigning Pierre-Paul to pair him and Barrett up at outside linebacker would be a pretty dynamic pass rush, and Pierre-Paul won’t be nearly as expensive as Barrett. If they could get JPP on a one-year, $7 million deal, that would be tight. Or maybe they try to get younger and sign former Florida Gator Dante Fowler Jr.
Another option is swinging for the fences and trying to grab former first-overall-pick and top free agent pass rusher Jadeveon Clowney. Both would be pricey and would probably limit their flexibility in other free agency ventures (as the quarterback position is going to cost a pretty penny), so it’s a fat chance they do this.
Which brings us to the interior line. If the Bucs don’t want to bring back Suh (which would be a little strange; the former Nebraska Husker was a great leader in the locker room and would be great for Vea’s continued development), they could look at younger options such as Steeler Javon Hargrave or Texan D.J. Reader. Both would be upgrades on paper, but Suh might be a better fit to line up alongside the young Vea, plus due to Suh’s age he might be a bit cheaper.
The good news is the Bucs have options, and with the cap situation being the way it is, they could have a very different roster for this year.
Or maybe they pull their usual crap and do something stupid.