Timing is everything in life and in football.
Shaquil Barrett had good timing last season. After signing a one-year, $4 million contract with the Bucs as a free agent, the outside linebacker led the NFL with 191/2 sacks, forced six fumbles and earned his first appearance in the Pro Bowl.
That prompted the Bucs to designate Barrett as their franchise player, guaranteeing him a one-year contract worth $15.88 million.
But Barrett had lousy timing when it came to his attempts to negotiate a long-term deal, one that would give him and his family financial security for life.
The COVID-19 pandemic — which will force teams to begin the season with reduced fan capacity, or no fans at all — likely will cause the salary cap to be reduced significantly for 2021. And that played a big factor in Barrett’s talks to lock up his future in Tampa Bay.
Unable to reach an agreement on an extension by the 4 p.m. deadline Wednesday, Barrett signed his franchise-player deal.
Barrett is among 11 franchise players who failed get longer deals before the deadline. The others: Bengals receiver A.J. Green, Chargers tight end Hunter Henry, Washington guard Brandon Scherff, Patriots guard Joe Thuney, Ravens linebacker Matt Judon, Jaguars defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, Jets defensive end Leonard Williams, Steelers linebacker Bud Dupree, Broncos safety Justin Simmons and Vikings safety Anthony Harris.
Barrett has filed a grievance, arguing that he should have been considered a defensive end rather than an outside linebacker in Bucs coordinator Todd Bowles’ 3-4 scheme. The franchise-player value for a defensive end is $17.788 million for 2020.
Barrett told the NFL Network on Tuesday that he expected to play this year under the franchise-player tag.
“I would love to get a deal done,” he said. “I know (the Bucs) would love to get a deal done. But just the situation of the world right now is making it hard to get a deal done. So if we get one done, I’m going to be happy; it’s a blessing. But if not, I’m still happy to be down here for another year and potentially to get a deal done in the future once we do figure out how the season’s going to go and how next year possibly will be.”
Agent Drew Rosenhaus told ESPN he was hopeful Barrett would remain with the Bucs for a long time.
“There will not be a long-term deal at this time, but I’m optimistic about Shaq’s future in Tampa long term,” Rosenhaus said.
The Bucs may ultimately benefit from the inability to lock up Barrett this year. If a normal season is played, they’ll get to see whether he can come close to matching the kind of production he had last season before committing to him beyond 2020.
In five previous seasons with the Broncos, playing as a backup, Barrett had a total of 14 career sacks and never more than 5½ in a season. But he learned his craft from pass rushers Von Miller, Demarcus Ware and Bradley Chubb.
Last season, with Jason Pierre-Paul sidelined for the first six Bucs games with a cervical fracture, Barrett burst onto the scene. He racked up nine sacks in his first four games, including three in a win at the Panthers and four in a loss to the Giants.
In Week 5, the Saints committed two and sometimes three blockers to his side, and Barrett was shut out for the first that season. He had only one sack over a three-game stretch, but when Pierre-Paul returned, Barrett got hot again.
His three sacks in the season finale, an overtime loss to the Falcons, gave Barrett the sack title by one-half over the Cardinals’ Chandler Jones.
The Bucs can use the franchise-player tag again on Barrett for 2021 while attempting to negotiate a longer-term deal before next July. They also have expressed interest in extending the contracts for receiver Chris Godwin and linebacker Lavonte David.
Barrett still is one of the biggest long-shot stories in the NFL. Undrafted out of Colorado State, he now is among the highest-paid players at his position.
Contact Rick Stroud at email@example.com or (727) 709-5982. Follow @NFLSTROUD.