- The free agency of Shaquil Barrett is bound to attract attention
- Barrett is one of the premier linebackers on the market this offseason
- Which teams make sense as a landing spot?
After winning the Super Bowl, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will have an interesting offseason agenda in hopes of remaining competitive to defend their crown in 2021. The team has a myriad of important players reaching the free agent market, including linebacker Shaquil Barrett.
Barrett has had one of the more interesting career arcs in recent NFL history. He’s been fortunate enough to play with two of the greatest quarterbacks in NFL history in Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, and has won Super Bowl championships as teammates of each. In 2015 with the Denver Broncos, Barrett had a solid season in his second year in the league, recording 5.5 sacks en route to a ring.
However, his career kind of stagnated in the ensuing seasons with Denver, and was in danger of becoming just another replacement level NFL linebacker. Barrett latched on with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in advance of the 2019 season, and had the best year of his career. The former Colorado State standout posted 19.5 sacks that season, and was a major defensive contributor to the 2020 Super Bowl champions as well.
Barrett will be a hot name to keep an eye on when free agency starts in March, so let’s take a look at three teams who will likely be interested in his services.
The Buccaneers are as much of a win-now team as we’ve seen in recent history, so the goal for them will be to retain/add players to keep their championship window open.
The Bucs can’t afford too many defections, so they’ll likely do the best they can to bring back all of these key pieces.
As it relates to Barrett, he signed the franchise tag ahead of the 2020 season, and is likely seeking more long term security in 2021. If Barrett did sign the franchise tag for a second consecutive season, he would project to earn about $19 million, but may not be willing to accept another stopgap measure by the franchise. However, both sides have many reasons to agree to a reunion.
It’s truly remarkable what a big difference a year can make in the NFL. During the 2018 and 2019 seasons, the Cowboys were thought to have one of, if not the best linebacker group in the NFL.
Jaylon Smith had bounced back from injury in a remarkable way, Leighton Vander Esch was on his way to becoming one of league’s premier defensive stars, and Sean Lee was a talented veteran who could still contribute.
Fast forward to the present, and none of those narratives are really holding strong anymore for Dallas. As a result, they could use an infusion at that position, and Barrett could be the perfect fit. If Vander Esch can return to being the tackling machine he was in 2018, it could leave Barrett available to put pressure on the edge and make opposing quarterbacks extremely uncomfortable.
Long gone are the days where Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith terrorized opposing defenses and forced teams to play in third and long for the majority of the game. Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll still remains one of the best motivators and communicators in the NFL, but his defense struggled to get stops last season.
Bringing Barrett to the Pacific Northwest in the prime of his career can help jumpstart a team that is not that far away from contending once again. The Seahawks brought in Carlos Dunlap midway through last season to help get after the quarterback, and having another double team worthy player would only help them get back to becoming a destructive force in the NFC.