Bucs place franchise tag on sack leader Shaquil Barrett

The linebacker gets a one-year tender worth about $16 million while quarterback Jameis Winston will hit the negotiating period with other teams.
Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett (58) sacks Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) on Dec. 29 in Tampa. Barrett's sack prowess lands him more time in Tampa Bay.
Buccaneers linebacker Shaquil Barrett (58) sacks Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) on Dec. 29 in Tampa. Barrett's sack prowess lands him more time in Tampa Bay. [ OCTAVIO JONES | Times ]
Published Mar. 16, 2020|Updated Mar. 16, 2020

TAMPA ― Shaquil Barrett, his brother and mother lived in 16 places, by his estimate, while growing up in Baltimore. They were unable to pay the rent and never really had a stable home until he reached eighth grade. Eventually, he was sent to high school at Boys Town in Nebraska.

Undrafted out of Colorado State and following five seasons with the Denver Broncos, Barrett signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the Bucs last season. Then he accomplished the unimaginable.

Barrett led the NFL in sacks with 19.5, forced six fumbles and earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl. On Monday, he learned that he won’t be moving from his football home anytime soon.

The Bucs designated Barrett their franchise player, guaranteeing him a one-year contract worth at least $16 million. The team is expected to continue to negotiate a longer-term deal for their 27-year-old sack leader, who has until July 15 to sign the tender. The Bucs have at least $80 million of salary cap space.

The Bucs used the non-exclusive franchise tag on Barrett, meaning he is free to negotiate with other teams but the Bucs would have the right to match any offer. If they decided not to match, they would receive two first-round picks, making it unlikely Barrett is going anywhere.

The move also buttressed the claim by coach Bruce Arians that Barrett wasn’t “going anywhere." The bigger news, however, for the Bucs may be who wasn’t tagged.

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The Bucs decided to allow quarterback Jameis Winston, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft in 2015, to hit the legal negotiating period for free agents at noon today. That means Winston will be free to negotiate and reach an agreement on a contract with another team, potentially marking the end to a turbulent five seasons in Tampa Bay.

Arians explained why locking up Barrett was a priority over Winston at the NFL scouting combine.

“One is the sack leader, and they’re hard to find," Barrett said. “And I know he wants to be in this defense. The other is an unknown quantity to me, still. You know? Five thousand yards and (33) touchdowns in awesome … 30 interceptions. So, can we win with Jameis? Hell, yeah. But as a coach, a head coach, you have to decide is there a better option? And go see if there is."

The Bucs, meanwhile, are preparing to explore the free-agent quarterback market, beginning with Patriots six-time Super Bowl winner Tom Brady.

From there, Tampa Bay also has an interest in Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, both of whom will become free agents when the new league year begins Wednesday at 4 p.m.

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ESPN’s Adam Schefter, appearing on the Scott Van Pelt Show, said there’s been no indication that Brady is close to a deal with New England.

“Tom Brady does not have anything close to a deal with New England yet," Schefter said. "Now I know people think, well, he’s going back to New England. What makes them think that? ... There haven’t been any substantial contract negotiations, there hasn’t been anything that resembles a deal, why do people think now that all of a sudden, at the 24th hour, something’s gonna get done that hasn’t gotten done in previous weeks and months? I don’t understand that. And all these teams now that have been laying in wait, are all gonna have their crack and chance at Tom Brady. And I know he’s gonna be 43, and I know he’s not as young as he used to be. But he’s still the greatest quarterback of all time, and other teams for the first time in his career are gonna be allowed to talk to him and try to persuade him from leaving New England, and I think there’s a real chance that somebody’s gonna be able to do that.”

It appears that most of the Bucs other unrestricted free agents could reach the negotiating period, a list that includes linebackers Jason Pierre-Paul, Carl Nassib, defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and receiver Breshad Perriman.