Shaquil Barrett

Buccaneers To Tag Shaquil Barrett

The Buccaneers will follow through on their plan to use their franchise tag on Shaquil Barrett, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets.

Rumors for weeks have placed Barrett atop Tampa Bay’s free agent hierarchy, and this decision means Jameis Winston is less than three hours away from de facto free agency. The legal tampering period begins at 10:59am CT, and Bucs’ five-year starting quarterback will double as one of the more interesting free agents in recent memory.

After serving as one of Von Miller‘s supporting-casters in Denver for four seasons, and not producing too much statistically, Barrett only received offers from two teams in 2019 free agency. He then shattered the Bucs’ single-season sack record, posting an NFL-high 19.5 to go along with 37 quarterback hits.

This tag would give Barrett $15.8MM (the linebacker price) or $17.8MM (should he win a potential grievance to be tagged as a defensive end).

The sides will have until July 15 to finalize an extension. Barrett, 27, said recently he would play the 2020 season on the tag. Bruce Arians has also indicated he would like to keep Barrett, Jason Pierre-Paul and Ndamukong Suh. The Bucs made the first step Monday morning. They might have to outwork outside competition to hang onto Suh and JPP.

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Shaq Barrett Willing To Play Under Tag

The Buccaneers are widely expected to use the franchise tag on breakout pass rusher Shaq Barrett, and while Barrett obviously wants the security of a long-term deal, he is open to playing out the 2020 season under the tag.

“I’m gonna play off the tag [if] I got to but I do want that long-term deal,” Barrett said (via Jelani Scott of NFL.com). “It’s all about security for me and my family; that’s all I’ve been fighting for my whole time in the NFL. Even a franchise tag, I’m still getting the security too but I just want a long contract and long-term security.”

Indeed, even one year of franchise tag money (about $16MM for a linebacker like Barrett) would dwarf the roughly $10MM he has earned in six professional seasons to date. And maybe the Bucs, who are flush with cap space and who can therefore afford to carry Barrett under the tag, would like to see if his breakout 2019 season was sustainable before committing to a long-term pact.

But one way or another, both sides have made it clear that they plan to continue their relationship through at least the 2020 season. And if the Bucs are successful in their pursuit of QB Tom Brady, things could get very interesting in Tampa this year.

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Buccaneers Determining QB Path, Preparing To Tag Shaquil Barrett

The prospect of teams using both franchise and transition tags remains in play, though there is a better-than-average chance of the owners’ CBA proposal being ratified and preventing such a path. This would impact the Buccaneers considerably.

Having said for months they plan to keep Shaquil Barrett, the Bucs are preparing to use their franchise tag on the 2019 breakout pass rusher, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports notes. Bruce Arians pointed to this path, unless an extension can be agreed upon, Greg Auman of The Athletic writes (subscription required).

Barrett registered a Bucs-record (by a considerable margin) 19.5 sacks last season, topping his total from four Broncos campaigns. Nevertheless, the 27-year-old sack artist — who is open to giving the Bucs a discount, based on Florida’s lack of a state income tax — will not hit the market. This complicates Jameis Winston‘s status, as he appears behind Barrett on the Bucs’ priority list.

Tampa Bay remains uncertain about its future at quarterback, but the team may well view Philip Rivers as an upgrade on the interception-prone passer. The Bucs are interested in the 16-year Charger/new Florida resident, with La Canfora adding execs around the league believe the team will get aggressive on Winston if a clear sense emerges that Rivers will not sign there. The Colts have surfaced as key players for Rivers, who worked with Frank Reich and Indianapolis OC Nick Sirianni with the Chargers. But Rivers would be an interesting fit for Arians’ deep-passing attack in Tampa as well.

If teams are permitted to use two tags (and not have one of them vacated by a new CBA passing), Winston appears a strong candidate to receive the transition tag. That price will come in north of $25MM, which is at least $2MM lower than the franchise tag value for QBs.

It could also be down to Rivers or Winston for the Bucs, whom Auman tabs as unlikely to draft a quarterback this year. Tampa Bay holds the No. 14 overall pick.

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Latest On Bucs’ Plans For Jameis Winston, Shaquil Barrett

One of many key players on this offseason’s unusually large quarterback market, Jameis Winston has not been connected to another team just yet. The Buccaneers have said the former No. 1 overall pick is in their plans, but the team appears to still be determining the structure of Winston’s second NFL contract.

The Bucs are considering a two-year deal for Winston, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter), with said contract being guaranteed at a franchise tag-level rate (of approximately $27MM) for the first year and the second being a team option. This would not be an optimal arrangement for most quarterbacks with Winston’s experience as a starter, but given his inconsistency, a prove-it contract of this sort would make sense for the team.

NFL executives are torn on Winston, but Jeremy Fowler of ESPN notes (via ESPN+) the expectation is the Bucs will place their franchise or transition tag on their quarterback during the Feb. 25-March 10 tag window. Even that strategy is complicated.

A new CBA being agreed to next week would prevent teams from using both their franchise and transition tags. If no deal is agreed to next week, the 2011 CBA will permit teams to use both tags, as the league would shift into final-CBA-year rules. That would help the Bucs, who have Shaquil Barrett looming as a UFA as well.

Tampa Bay brass and Barrett’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, are expected to accelerate talks next week at the Combine, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times notes, adding the goal will be to reach an extension agreement by March 10. That would open the door for a Winston tag.

Bruce Arians has said the new Bucs single-season sack record holder “ain’t going anywhere,” and Stroud places Barrett above Winston as the team’s top candidate for the franchise tag. A Barrett tag would be considerably cheaper than one for Winston, with the non-exclusive linebacker tag projected to cost just less than $16MM. Barrett would be worth more than that annually on the open market, despite his lack of sack production going into 2019.

The Bucs hold more than $79MM in cap space — fourth-most in the league — and also have Ndamukong Suh, Jason Pierre-Paul and Breshad Perriman as UFAs-to-be. But Winston and Barrett are the key players here. A Winston transition tag would cost more than $25MM and open the door to the possibility of the Bucs losing him for nothing, but the Bucs may be eyeing one of the other available quarterbacks — a group that includes Philip Rivers, Teddy Bridgewater and trade chips Cam Newton and Andy Dalton — as well.

Extending Barrett or Winston before March 10 would be optimal for the Bucs, but when factoring in the CBA’s role in these negotiations, this is one of the stranger situations a team has encountered in years

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Bruce Arians Talks Buccaneers’ Offseason Priorities

While impending free agent quarterback Jameis Winston may be stealing headlines, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians is more focused on retaining his team’s top defenders.

“Oh, yeah. To me, it’s the whole defense,” Arians told ESPN’s Jenna Laine. “You can’t get ’em all, but … those young guys grew. We can’t let that go. I don’t care who’s my quarterback. We’ve gotta have a defense.”

Outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett is the most notable defender hitting free agency, and he should be in line for a lucrative payday after compiling an NFL-high 19.5 sacks last season. Many of Barrett’s defensive teammates are also set to hit the open market, including players Jason Pierre-PaulCarl NassibNdamukong SuhBeau Allen and Rakeem Nunez-Roches.

On the offensive side of the ball, it doesn’t sound like Arians is all that concerned about who’s under center. The head coach did admit that it’s tough to have any clarity on the quarterbacks position considering the uncertainty of free agency.

“You don’t know who’s available,” Arians said. “You just sit there and wait to see, is there someone available. If not, is this a better option. That’s the problem. You get about two days to decide in the legal tampering period.”

One of the team’s options will naturally be Winston, who spent the first five seasons of his career in Tampa Bay. Winston set career-highs in passing yards (5,109) and touchdowns (33) in 2019, but he also set a career-high (and led the NFL) with 30 interceptions.

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Shaq Barrett Willing To Give Bucs Hometown Discount?

If he were to hit the open market, Buccaneers pass rusher Shaq Barrett would be one of the most sought-after players in the league. However, Tampa head coach Bruce Arians recently indicated the team would not let Barrett get away, and Barrett himself expressed his desire to remain with the Bucs.

In fact, Barrett may be willing to give Tampa a hometown discount in order to facilitate a deal. In a recent interview with SiriusXM Mad Dog Radio (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk), Barrett said, “If [other teams] offer me more than Tampa…I’m going to look at what their taxes is compared to Tampa’s. Because I ain’t going to live in L.A. and get taxed crazy. I’m not going to take drastically less but I am open to doing what I think is best for my career, and I think that would be staying in Tampa.”

Barrett understandably likes the fact that Florida does not have a state income tax, and he talked about how much he dislikes moving, which could also play a role in his decision. And though the Bucs have enough cap space to accommodate him while addressing other areas of need, they surely wouldn’t complain if Barrett gives them a discount.

Obviously, Tampa would like to get something done before other teams get a chance to whisper sweet nothings in Barrett’s ear. His 2019 effort with the Bucs was a stunning improvement over his output during his five years in Denver, but he did show enough flashes with the Broncos to suggest that his performance last season was not a fluke, so he stands to get paid like a premium pass rusher.

Last season, which culminated with Barrett’s first Pro Bowl bid, the 27-year-old posted a league-leading 19.5 sacks to go along with an interception and six forced fumbles.

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Latest On Bucs, Shaq Barrett

The Buccaneers are still up in the air as to what they want to do with Jameis Winston, but pass rusher Shaq Barrett is another story. Tampa Bay gave Barrett a one-year, $4MM deal shortly after free agency opened last March, but it’s fair to say he’s going to make a lot more than that in 2020 and beyond.

Barrett exploded with an incredible 19.5 sacks in 2019, dwarfing his previous career-high of 5.5, set in 2015. The former UDFA out of Colorado State displayed flashes of pass rushing talent during his five-year tenure in Denver, but only the Bengals and Bucs extended him a contract offer last offseason. Bucs head coach Bruce Arians was obviously thrilled with Barrett’s performance, and Arians recently indicated the team would not let Barrett get away.

Speaking at Pro Bowl practice on Wednesday, Barrett echoed Arians’ sentiments. “I don’t know where it’s going to end up at but I’m confident that I’m going to be where I should be, which I think is Tampa,” Barrett told reporters, including Scott Smith of the team’s official website (Twitter link).

Of course, it’s going to take a highly-lucrative deal to keep Barrett around. He’s in line for a contract paying him upwards of $15MM per season with $30MM or so in full guarantees, though the Bucs could buy themselves some more negotiation time by hitting Barrett with the franchise tag (depending, perhaps, on what the club elects to do with Winston). The fact that Barrett is also no slouch against the run could drive his price up even further.

Luckily, Tampa Bay will have plenty of cap space to work with, so it would be a shock to see Barrett hit the open market.

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Bucs Intend To Bring Back Jameis Winston

Jameis Winston will likely remain in Tampa Bay for the 2020 season. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports that the Buccaneers are expected to bring back the quarterback next season.

However, it’s uncertain how the organization will go about retaining the former first-overall pick. “Barring an unlikely early contract,” Rapoport notes that the Buccaneers will have the option of using either the franchise tag or the transition tag (this is thanks to it being the final offseason of the current CBA). If an opposing team signs a franchised player to an offer sheet, they have to surrender a pair of first-rounders. An opposing team doesn’t need to send compensation if they sign a transition-tagged player to an offer sheet.

This is especially relevant for the Buccaneers, as sack-leader Shaquil Barrett is also set to hit free agency this offseason. As Rapoport notes, the projected franchise tag for quarterbacks is $27MM vs. $25MM for the transition tag. Meanwhile, the franchise tag for linebackers (and, presumably, Barrett) is $16MM vs. the $14MM transition tag.

Earlier this month, coach Bruce Arians refused to commit to Winston beyond this season. And, when asked about the above report, Arians said no determinations have been made.

There’s been no decision on any player. We don’t make those decisions until the end of the season,” Arians said.

However, a bit has changed over the past few weeks. The quarterback has thrown for more than 400 yards in back-to-back games, and Tampa Bay can extend their winning streak to five against the Texans today. Winston has already set career-highs in passing yards (4,573) and touchdowns (30), but he’s also set a new mark in interceptions (24).

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NFC Notes: Floyd, Bears, Buccaneers, Barrett, Vikings, Rhodes

The Bears have obviously been having a disappointing season. A year after being one of the toasts of the league and winning the NFC North, they’ve officially been eliminated from playoff contention following their loss to the Packers. With the postseason out of reach, all eyes will now turn toward the offseason. The elephant in the room is what Chicago will do with Mitchell Trubisky and the quarterback situation, but they have some other big decisions to make as well. Linebacker Leonard Floyd is set to make $13.2MM under the fifth-year option in 2020, but that’s entirely non-guaranteed money. They can cut him this offseason with no financial penalty, and Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune seems to think that’s a real possibility.

In an interesting column Biggs explores Floyd’s situation, noting all the dynamics at play. Floyd is the second first-round pick that GM Ryan Pace made since taking over the front office, and the first was megabust Kevin White. As such, Pace could be motivated to keep Floyd on the team to try and validate the pick. Floyd certainly hasn’t been bad and he’s been a full-time starter for the Bears since entering the league, but it’s fair to wonder if he’s lived up to the billing of a ninth overall pick. As Biggs points out, the option would make him the tenth highest-paid outside linebacker in the NFL. Floyd had seven sacks as a rookie, but only 4.5 two years ago and four last year. In 14 games this season, he has three. His money becomes guaranteed on March 18th, so the Bears will have to make a decision by then.

Here’s more from the NFC:

  • Speaking of NFC pass-rushers, the Buccaneers’ Shaq Barrett has been having a breakout season. He just picked up his 16.5th sack of the year this past weekend, tying the legendary Warren Sapp for the all-time single season franchise record. He’s been a bright spot all year long for this Bucs defense, and they aren’t planning on letting him get away even as he prepares to enter unrestricted free agency this spring. “He ain’t going anywhere,” head coach Bruce Arians said of Barrett, who signed a one-year, $4MM deal this offseason, via Jenna Laine of ESPN.com. Barrett will likely be in line for a massive payday this offseason, and it sounds like the Buccaneers are ready to pay up. Barrett originally signed with the Broncos as an UDFA back in 2014, and was eventually able to get on the field as a situational rusher. He was slept on this offseason, and as we heard earlier this year, only one team other than Tampa even offered him a contract.
  • Vikings cornerback Xavier Rhodes played only 14 snaps against the Chargers this past weekend, but it wasn’t because of an injury. Head coach Mike Zimmer said after the game that Rhodes was healthy, and that his limited action was the plan going in, per Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com. In other words, Rhodes got benched. The 2013 first-round pick quickly became a star and one of the league’s better corners, but he’s declined rapidly. He’s still started every game this season but his snaps have declined each of the past couple weeks, as he’s been burned repeatedly. A first-team All-Pro in 2017, Rhodes is under contract through the 2022 season as part of a five-year, $70MM extension he signed with the Vikings. There’s been a lot of talk that Minnesota will move on after this season, and it’ll be very interesting to see what happens to the 29-year-old.

AFC North Notes: Browns, Bengals, Steelers

David Njoku currently resides on the Browns‘ IR list, but for the time being, the third-year tight end has a chance to return in 2019. Njoku has opted not to have surgery on his broken wrist, Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reports. The earliest Njoku could return would be for the Browns’ Week 12 game against the Dolphins. Cleveland has 2019 additions Demetrius Harris and Ricky Seals-Jones in place atop its tight end depth chart. The Browns must decide on Njoku’s fifth-year option by May of 2020.

Here is the latest out of Cleveland, along with other AFC North cities:

  • The Browns’ defense is facing more pressing matters. Both Denzel Ward and Greedy Williams pulled hamstrings during practice Thursday, per Cabot. They missed the Rams game. Interestingly, reserve safety Sheldrick Redwine pulled a hamstring that day as well. The Browns played without their four secondary starters — Ward, Williams, Damarious Randall (concussion) and Morgan Burnett (quadriceps). However, Cabot adds that Randall is out of concussion protocol. Burnett was questionable last week. Hamstring injuries are obviously tricky for skill players and those charged with covering them, but Cleveland’s safeties seem in line to return for Week 4 against the Ravens.
  • While no one obviously expected Shaquil Barrett‘s virtuoso start, only two teams even submitted contract offers this offseason. In addition to the Bucs’ one-year, $4MM deal, the Bengals also offered Barrett a contract, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com notes. Barrett visited the Bengals but did not meet with the Bucs before his agreement. A four-year backup in Denver, Barrett sought a starting role in free agency. He’s found one, and his eight sacks through three games match an NFL record. It’s early, but the former UDFA who began his career at a now-defunct Division II program is putting himself in position for a major payday — either via Bucs extension or as a 2020 free agent.
  • The Bengals worked out some defensive backs on Tuesday. Cornerbacks Greg Mabin, Picasso Nelson and Deatrick Nichols joined corner/safety Briean Boddy-Calhoun in auditioning for the team, per the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson (on Twitter).
  • The Steelers auditioned tight end Alize Mack, according to Howard Balzer of BalzerFootball.com (on Twitter). Vance McDonald was present Tuesday with his arm in a sling, pointing to Pittsburgh suddenly needing help at this position.