Coming off an amazing first season with the Bucs, defensive end Shaq Barrett is in line for a huge payday. And, a respected NFL analyst says Tampa Bay better be ready to pay, because he believes Barrett is the top free agent upcoming for the entire NFL.
Brian Baldinger, a former 12 year player and now analyst with the NFL Network, posted on social media Saturday evening what he loves about Barrett’s pass-rushing skills and then made his declaration:
.@Buccaneers @ShaquilBarrett lead the @NFL in sacks in 2019 and I will show up in an in depth video breakdown coming your way why #SackBarrett is no fluke. I think he is the #1 player in this Free Agent class. #BaldysBreakdowns pic.twitter.com/MdPcsMg9H6
— Brian Baldinger (@BaldyNFL) February 16, 2020
There is no exaggerating that Barrett surpassed anyone’s expectations off of a one-year, modest free agent signing from the Broncos by Bucs GM Jason Licht. His four sack game in week 2 against Carolina put the entire NFL on notice.
And, Barrett continued to be a dominant pass rush force for defensive coordinator Todd Bowles the entire season. He ultimately broke Tampa Bay’s single season sack record held by Hall of Famer Warren Sapp in the final game of the season. Barrett finished with 19.5 sacks, which led the NFL.
Now, the Bucs and Licht have to decide whether they’re going to give Barrett a massive contract or perhaps, entertained putting the “franchise tag” on him to ensure that he’s one of the top five paid defensive ends in football. If Licht and the Bucs choose to do that, Barrett will be making in the neighborhood of $18-20 million per year.
One concern for the Buccaneers is that Barrett’s breakout 2019 with the 19.5 sacks is more than he had in his previous five years in Denver combined. So, naturally, there is some skepticism that he will be able to produce at that high of a level for multiple years.
Still, it’s going to take that kind average per year deal to keep him from being available via free agency for someone else to sign. And, a further benefit to the franchise tag is at the Buccaneers could always reach a long-term agreement later this off season after tagging Barrett, too.
Now, we wait to see what Tampa Bay can get done.