After Tampa Bay’s defense amassed 47 sacks last season, including a league-high 19.5 coming from outside linebacker Shaq Barrett on a one-year contract, the Bucs’ front office made it an emphasis to keep their starting front seven together.
General manager Jason Licht and his staff made it happen by re-signing defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to a one-year deal and using the team’s franchise tag on Barrett, paying the veteran edge rusher over $15.8 million for the 2020 season. Suh’s future with the team is unknown, but head coach Bruce Arians made it clear on Monday that he doesn’t plan on Barrett going anywhere else this upcoming offseason.
“[Having Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul] is a luxury and we don’t plan on Shaq going anywhere,” Arians said. “And I don’t think he wants to go anywhere because having [Pierre-Paul] on the other side really helps him out and vice versa. Putting him over the guard this week, they did some different stuff and they’re a heck of a duo, man. When you can get someone [one-on-one], they’re hard to block.”
While Pierre-Paul remains under contract with the team through the 2021 season, Barrett and the Bucs were in discussions about a contract extension last offseason, but Tampa Bay ultimately settled on the franchise tag. With free agents Lavonte David, Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski and Suh to consider this offseason, Barrett’s future in Tampa Bay had seemed cloudy at best, but a vote of confidence in his coach could be a sign the edge rusher might be heading back to the Bucs this offseason.
Barrett spoke on the importance of the Bucs playing their best football in December and how much Pierre-Paul has helped elevate his game over these two seasons together, following the win on Sunday.
“It’s not an option, we have to,” Barrett said. “I mean not ‘we.’ I started slow and I just have to pick it up. I want to do my job as much as possible and be known as one of the best, so in order to do that you have to have the stats, you have to have the numbers to go with it. Having JPP on the other end just helps out a lot. We always talk and are always switching sides now and are trying to figure out what works best for us. It’s working right now, and we’ve just got to stay hot, keep it hot and keep going.”