TAMPA — Earlier this week, Bucs coach Bruce Arians predicted that NFL sack leader and pending free agent Shaquil Barrett will be back next season. And speaking on Wednesday, Barrett agreed with his coach’s sentiment.
“I don’t think I’m going anywhere,” Barrett said with a smile. “I like the way he thinks and I think the same.”
Barrett leads the league with 16 1/2 sacks, tying Warren Sapp’s single-season team record, in his first stint as an every-down player after a rotational role in Denver for his first five seasons.
On Tuesday, Barrett was named to his first Pro Bowl.
He is going to get paid, but right now, Barrett said he believes he will be back in Tampa next season and hopes the Bucs can keep a defensive front full of pending free agents intact.
“I want to be here,” Barrett said. “I’m still going back home to Colorado to train and stuff there, but ... I plan on being back here to start (organized team activities) and the season. That’s where I’m looking at right now. It’s the Bucs to lose and I don’t think they’re going to lose it.
“I do know we have a lot of guys whose contracts are up, so it’s going to be interesting to see what group of guys we bring back. I want to try to bring everybody back. I love the group of guys we’ve got right now and we’re doing a great job right now. It will be a fun to see how long we can go together.”
Other than Barrett, pending free agents include outside linebackers Jason Pierre-Paul and Carl Nassib as well as defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh and Beau Allen.
“It’ll be tough, but everybody, the front office people have got to know what they got and don’t want to lose them,” Barrett said. “We’ve got to know we don’t have to chase the largest amount of money if we want to work with this group we’ve got together. If you do want to chase the money, then chase the money. It’s just about, I like winning, and I don’t like messing up a good thing for no reason. So if it’s a good thing going let’s keep it going.”
The Bucs could place a franchise tag on Barrett in the offseason to retain him, but teams can only franchise one player and that tag might be used to keep quarterback Jameis Winston in Tampa in 2020.
Barrett said Wednesday that his agent has yet to begin negotiations with the Bucs.
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieInTheYard.