TAMPA — Not long after Shaquil Barrett had finished his record-setting season, he was already thinking about the future.
Barrett’s breakout year — in which he set a new Bucs single-season sack record with 19.5 — will make him the most coveted pass rusher on the free-agent market, but Barrett said he would prefer to remain with the Bucs.
“I don’t have plans on leaving Tampa,” Barrett said after the Bucs’ 28-22 loss to Atlanta Falcons. “I don’t think Tampa has plans on me leaving so I don’t think I’m going to be anywhere.”
Barrett entered Sunday sharing the record with Warren Sapp, who had 16.5 sacks in 2000. He talked to Sapp on the sideline before the game and received his congratulations afterward.
“Sapp’s a Hall of Famer and he had it for a while. ...," Barrett said. "I’m just happy to be able to have the opportunity to come down here and play. They gave me the opportunity to play and just to be able to take that record down means a lot."
Barrett split a double team for a second-quarter sack to give him the record. Barrett had logged two more sacks in a three-play stretch late in the fourth quarter. He ended the season as the NFL’s sack leader, passing Arizona’s Chandler Jones, who finished with 19.
Not bad for a player who was in his first season as an every-down player.
“I wanted to try and finish with a boom, with a bang and it ended up working out that way,” he said.
Jason Pierre-Paul added two sacks of his own to finish with 8.5 this season. Pierre-Paul, who missed the first seven weeks of the season with a neck injury, is also a free agent, but the Bucs will try to retain both.
"As (an edge rusher), you always want to have a guy next to you who you want to play with," Pierre-Paul said. "Obviously, you see what me and Shaq do on that line. (Edge rushers) are hard to come by. So when you've got them you better keep them."
Barrett is already talking about next season.
“Play with nothing to lose, but still play smart,” Barrett said. “That’s all we’ve got to do. Just do that, and keep doing our job and don’t be scared to make big plays. I think we can have a big year if we bring guys back and stick with the same mindset.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieintheYard