The Bucs front office has made it no secret that their entire focus this offseason rests on one objective: re-signing all of their key free agents to keep the band together for another Super Bowl run. Of course, this objective has many critical sub-objectives, highlighted by the desire to retain wide receiver Chris Godwin, linebacker Lavonte David and outside linebacker Shaq Barrett.

Two down, one to go.

On Tuesday, the Bucs franchise-tagged Godwin at a cost of just under $16 million for the 2021 season, ensuring that he will be back in Tampa Bay for another run at a title this year. Godwin had 65 catches for 840 yards and seven touchdowns in less than 12 full games of action last season. With a season closer to his 2019 campaign (86-1,333-9), Godwin could look to reset the market at wide receiver next offseason.

In addition to tagging Godwin yesterday, the Bucs re-signed David to a two-year deal for $25 million, including $20 million guaranteed. The team added three void years to the deal, helping to lower David’s cap hit for the 2021 season to just $3.5 million. The contract might allow David to finish his career as a Buc, considering he’ll be 33 when he’s set to hit free agency again.

So with David and Godwin counting for close to a combined $20 million against the Bucs cap in 2021, what does that mean for Barrett’s pending free agent status?

Currently the Bucs are about $5.5 million over the cap, but that number won’t mean much after the team makes some additional contract moves to clear more space in the coming days. There are several paths to more cap space that the Bucs can take, as they are among the league leaders in cap space for the 2022 and 2023 seasons. This allows them a lot of flexibility to push money into future years, something they haven’t really done under GM Jason Licht, largely because they haven’t had much reason to do so.

So yes, the way the team structured David’s contract to include three void years and lower his cap number significantly for the 2021 season indicates they are preparing to go all in on an offer to Barrett that would compete with the best deals he’ll get on the open market. The Bucs have said every step of the way how serious they are about retaining Barrett, and Barrett has said he wants to be back in Tampa Bay. Having that synergy going into free agency certainly elevates the chances of the team and player working out an agreement, even after the bullets start flying.

Evaluating Free Agency Options For Barrett

Now, will that be enough to ensure Barrett’s return? Not necessarily. While the Bucs will definitely be in position to make Barrett a highly competitive offer, he could still opt to explore free agency and evaluate his options. Remember, Barrett has never really received the big pay day, and at 28 years old, he knows this is his last and best chance to collect the big, long-term contract. Teams like the Jaguars, Jets and Colts are in desperate need of pass rush help and have a ton of cap space this offseason, which could entice them to throw crazy money at Barrett to get him to leave Tampa Bay.

Of course, Barrett could still take any offer he gets back to the Bucs to see if they will match it. For what it is worth, I don’t think even the best offers Barrett receives will approach the average-per-year cap hits or the overall guaranteed money of the three highest-paid edge defenders in the NFL:

Joey Bosa – $27M per year, $102M guaranteed
Myles Garrett – $25M per year, $100M guaranteed
Khalil Mack – $23.5M per year, $90M guaranteed

But Barrett could come in just under that, and $22 million per year would put him over the fourth-highest paid edge defender in the NFL in Demarcus Lawrence. That’s a lot of money, but I don’t think it’s far-fetched that one of the three aforementioned teams would offer him that. Pass rushers are coveted assets, and Barrett is just 28 with two years and one terrific playoff run of excellent production as a starter.

If Barrett is given a high-end offer in the $21-22 million per year range, the Bucs could match it outright or offer more in guarantees. If they don’t do either of those things, they’d probably be at the mercy of Barrett deciding if he values a couple million more to play in Jacksonville or New York for rebuilding franchises over trying to win a second straight Super Bowl on one of the best rosters in the league in Tampa Bay. Barrett is entitled to either decision, but it’s unlikely he’ll walk into a better spot for him professionally than Tampa Bay, even if there is a spot out there that is a little better for him financially.

For now, the Bucs will focus on extending/restructuring Tom Brady’s contract and other moves to clear cap space, including possible restructures for WR Mike Evans and OG Ali Marpet, short-term extensions for C Ryan Jensen and OLB Jason Pierre-Paul or perhaps long-term, bigger deals for OT Donovan Smith or CB Carlton Davis. The possibility of pay cuts or outright cuts for TE Cam Brate and DL Will Gholston also exists, with Brate and his $6.5 million cap hit far more likely to be released than Gholston ($5.5M).

Remember, Barrett is the biggest name left in free agency, but the Bucs want to return as many of fellow free agents TE Rob Gronkowski, DT Ndamukong Suh, WR Antonio Brown, K Ryan Succop and RB Leonard Fournette as possible. That will require some creativity with the cap that Tampa Bay’s front office has never had to do before.

So there are still lots of avenues for the Bucs to get the band back together for 2021 and beyond. The question is how far the front office is willing to go to ensure it happens. The legal tampering period for free agency opens on March 15, and free agency officially gets underway on March 17 at 4pm EST.

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About the Author: Jon Ledyard

Jon Ledyard is PewterReport.com's newest Bucs beat writer and has experience covering the Pittsburgh Steelers as a beat writer and analyzing the NFL Draft for several draft websites, including The Draft Network. Follow Ledyard on Twitter at @LedyardNFLDraft
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Buc76
4 months ago

Get it back together if it’s what it takes to win it all next year. Probably the right move but we need to have the right Team to compete as the defending champ with another 20 games ahead. We need depth. Brady and Gronk know how to play as the champ so that will help our team on the field. Hopefully Licht can use what he learned in New England to build the right roster to defend the title.

drdneast
4 months ago

Sorry, but none of those players are worth the money the teams are shelling out for them, least of all Bosa and Mack. In fact, knowing the Bears, if his sack totals don’t get better this year the team will probably dump him if he doesn’t account for to much dead cap money. $23.5 mill for 9 sacks. That’s 2.5 mill per sack. Bosa is even worse but I think he was out for a few games. His salary right now is just about right and even then with 8 sacks the Bucs were paying him $2 million per sack… Read more »

toofamiliar17
Reply to  drdneast
4 months ago

I think it’s an oversimplification to break it down to dollars per sack. I understand the instinct to do that, but pressuring the QB, forcing him into quicker decisions than he wants to make, creating incompletions and interceptions with consistent pressure, is just as if not more important than sacks themselves. Barrett has, I believe, led the league in QB pressures over the past two seasons. His 19.5 sacks from 2019 was never sustainable. Long term, I’d expect him to be in the 10-12 range yearly while also being among the leaders in the league at generating pressure and hitting… Read more »

Horse
Reply to  toofamiliar17
4 months ago

toofamiliar27; don’t get me wrong, I want Barrett to be on this team! My concern is this still is a team game. Even though all players want the best for each player, but you got to believe it creates antimacity for some players on the DL.
I know timing is everything and Barrett hit a home run at the right time. I would think 14-16 million a year for 3 years would be more appropriate.

Spitfire
Reply to  Horse
4 months ago

$14-$16mil is exactly what he should be getting. They will probably be willing to give him a few more million but he is basically a solid pass rusher that benefits greatly from the system he’s in and the players around him. He fits well into our system so he deserves decent pay but I still say he would only get 4-6 sacks next year if he ran off to the Jets chasing money.

toofamiliar17
Reply to  Spitfire
4 months ago

That opinion isn’t based on any actual analysis of Shaq as a player snap to snap. The common narrative has more or less become that Shaq produces because Vea makes it easy for him to do so. But Shaq led the NFL in hurries (that is, either forcing the QB to throw the ball early or chasing him out of the pocket) last year. He had 24. Second place on the list put up 19. He was 7th in total pressures. And he did all that while Vea sat on the sideline for 2/3 of his games. Shaq beats opponents… Read more »

Spitfire
Reply to  toofamiliar17
4 months ago

At that money, Barrett is far from the most important guy. Yes we are thin at Edge but with how many Edge guys are on the market and having at least project options in the Draft, honestly we can easily find someone to get 8 sacks or more. JPP is the leader on that line, in mic’ed up games videos in the Super Bowl you can hear JPP directing Barrett on what to do while he does something. JPP and Vea are the reason that Barrett gets his pressures and sacks. I want him to stay at the right price… Read more »

Horse
Reply to  drdneast
4 months ago

dry east,we are on the same wave length.

toofamiliar17
4 months ago

I could be reading too much into Lavonte’s deal, but the eye popping three voidable years and the substantial signing bonus indicate to me that we are absolutely going 100% all-in on this season and next season, that we’re going to literally everything we can to keep this team together this year, maybe unless Barrett really can command something in the low-mid $20M per year range. I know it’s leaked that Brady is negotiating an extension to help lower his number this year, but have you guys at PR heard of any other specific similar discussions between us and players… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by toofamiliar17
Horse
4 months ago

Come on! Barrett is not even close to these guys talent. Where’s the consistency? This kind a pay forBarrett is a big reach.

bucballer
Reply to  Horse
4 months ago

I agree Horse! While we all respect his game and want him back, it might be time to face the inevitable. Another team may overreach in terms of salary for his services. We have too many needs to exceed our slot for him. I think if we go for a young stud pass rusher with our number one, we might get be fine if we resign Suh. With Suh and Vea making the push in the middle it might be able to work and we get a little younger. If this allows us to resign Gronk, Suh, Succop, and keep… Read more »

gcolerick
Reply to  bucballer
4 months ago

Problem is this is not a deep draft for pass rushers. You can’t draft a young stud pass rusher if there isn’t one available. PR has been stating this for a couple of weeks now.

bucballer
Reply to  gcolerick
4 months ago

So ur telling me that in the entire country that there is not a player at 32 that the Bucs can draft that can man the DE position and be productive for the Bucs? Not in free agency either? So u r will to match an outrageous offer of say 22-24 mil per for Shaw’s service even if this means we may lose a Suh, Brate, Succop or Gholston?

toofamiliar17
Reply to  bucballer
4 months ago

I’m obviously an enormous Shaq believer, but of course there has to be a limit placed on what we’re willing to pay him. If it was a one year deal, yes, I’d make the decision to forego any of those others to pay Shaq that $22-24M to be here this year. Easily. But he’s obviously not going to take a one year deal, and I can’t justify tying up THAT much of future salary caps for any non-QB. For me, the highest I’d go on Shaq is $20M per year for three years with $40M guaranteed – $25M in a… Read more »

toofamiliar17
Reply to  Horse
4 months ago

I don’t understand how Barrett has become painfully underrated by Bucs fans. Not saying he’s worth $22M+, because virtually no edge rusher is, IMO. But he’s one of the best edge defenders in football. It blows my mind that Bucs fans don’t know this.

Take a look at his 2019 production here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7hdzcZtBrY

You can skip through the multiple replays and the commentary on each play and watch every play on the clip in 5 minutes or less. It’s worth your and everyone’s time.

Spitfire
Reply to  toofamiliar17
4 months ago

Nobody needs to be reminded of his 2019 production, but he was exposed last year with his 8 sacks all year while missing Vea after Week 5. Nobody is underrating him, he fits great in OUR Defense and it’s best if he stays but just because say the Jets would pay him $25mil doesn’t mean that’s what he’s worth. He’s get 4 sacks in NY. He benefits greatly from JPP directing him and coming from one side while Vea and Suh push up the middle, he is not the best in the league all by himself. He deserves to make… Read more »

toofamiliar17
Reply to  Spitfire
4 months ago

I agree he’s not worth $25M per year. No edge rusher is. But your assertion that he’d be just another guy elsewhere reveals plainly that you just don’t know what you’re talking about with him. Sorry to be so blunt, but you clearly haven’t put in the time or effort to be informed here.

Your overall argument doesn’t even make sense. If you think he’d be a 4-sack producer anywhere else, then how in the world do you think he’s worth what he made last year, which was $16M?! That doesn’t add up at all.

RW
RW
Reply to  toofamiliar17
4 months ago

He’s not a top 5 guy at his position but in the top 10. So if a team wants to pay him $22 million for 4 years then you replace him because that will cost you other guys ( maybe a Suh or Gholston and a Gronk or Brate) and the net result will be negative for the team.

toofamiliar17
Reply to  RW
4 months ago

You might be right in that idea about his relative ranking, but I don’t think either of us is actually informed enough on the specific play of ALL other great edge rushers in the league to intelligently differentiate between him being top 5 and top 10. I know I’m not, and I watch a pretty considerable amount of film. I mean, he led the league in both sacks and pressures in 2020, then led the league in hurries and placed 7th in pressures in 2021. Those are just the stats without getting into his tape, which is superb. Wherever he… Read more »

bucballer
Reply to  toofamiliar17
4 months ago

I don’t think anyone is underrating Shaq. Nearly 99% of Buc fans want him back! But it has to be a salary that will allow the Bucs to make the moves they need to make to keep this thing going while the Brady window is open. If Shaq leaves the Bucs it’s because he wants to leave, not that the Bucs don’t want or need his services anymore. No one player on this team ( except maybe Brady) is worth losing some of core players. It’s business, not emotions in dealing with the Shaq issue.

toofamiliar17
Reply to  bucballer
4 months ago

I mean, almost every player on this team is worth more than some other players. If signing Suh meant losing Shaq, and signing Shaq meant losing Suh, then it’s an easy choice – I’ll take Shaq. Actually, if I had to choose between Shaq and any TWO of Suh, Succop, Gronk, and AB, then Shaq is the pick, easily. There’s a reason Shaq is seen as a premier player in what is already a strong free agent class, and why none of those guys has any chance of signing a deal worth 8 figures per year.

bucballer
Reply to  toofamiliar17
4 months ago

U could lose multiple players if Shaq signs for north of 20 mil. I wouldn’t do it! For instance, if signing Shaq means we lose Suh, Succop, and maybe a Brate, I don’t make that deal. Because when Vea was out and they double teamed Shaq he was not nearly effective. Part of the reason Shaq has had the successful he has is because of Suh being in the middle and he demands attention because he causes havoc in the middle. Quite often it is Suh who gets doubled teamed. If Suh leaves, then they will just double team Shaq… Read more »

toofamiliar17
Reply to  bucballer
4 months ago

I agree that over $20M would be too much. You’re flat out wrong that Shaq wasn’t effective with Vea off the field. The guy led the league in hurries, finished 7th in pressures, still accrued 8 sacks (5 of which came with Vea out), and killed it against the run with Vea being out 10 games last year. So many Bucs fans think this crap about Shaq disappearing with Vea out, and it’s just incorrect. But yes, of course there has to be a limit of what we’ll pay Shaq. That’s true of any and every player, bar none. I… Read more »

bucballer
Reply to  toofamiliar17
4 months ago

Less effective with Vea out… not ineffective. Like I said, Shaqs success is directly related to those dogs in the middle! Without them, he is, indeed, less effective!

bucballer
Reply to  toofamiliar17
4 months ago

U seem to underestimate the effect that Suh has on that front line. He still strikes fear in the opposing offensive linemen. It is crucial that we resign him for at least one more year. He is very valuable to Shaq’s effectiveness!

Billy
4 months ago

I know the salary cap will be at 210 Million in 2022 let’s say and the going rate for a premium DE/OLB is 22.5 million in 5 years. 20 Million is my ceiling still for Shaq. Still hasn’t proven Top Dollar like Bosa or even Mack yet. Already 28. These guys were stars right away. And their team will suffer talent wise. The market can’t be equal. I say if we sign him for 19 it’s a bargain. Simply because he fits in this system we know what he brings and the cap will go up. 22 should be too… Read more »

toofamiliar17
Reply to  Billy
4 months ago

I disagree that he hasn’t proven he’s worth “top dollar”, but you and I have virtually the exact same idea of what he’s worth. In short, I don’t think Bosa and Mack are worth their money. No non-QB could be worth what they’re getting paid, in my personal opinion. But yea, for me, $20M is my ceiling for Shaq, and anything less is cake. I’d be pushing him hard to sign on for an average of $18M per with a big signing bonus up front to sweeten the deal, but I’d go as high as $20M average.

Spitfire
4 months ago

No, I hope they don’t offer them some ridiculous amount that will match the offer from some other garbage team that doesn’t spend money and has a ton to blow. They better only offer him what he’s worth for us, not what some other team would pay him.

Alldaway 2.0
4 months ago

There are going to be several edge rushers hitting FA coming off double digit sack seasons. That may work in the Bucs favor to sign a deal with Shaq.

seat26
4 months ago

I think they seriously need to get Fournette signed, and Succop too. (Just so Licht doesn’t get tempted to draft a kicker.) This is going to be tricky. But if you want to repeat, that is what it will take.

Captain Sly
4 months ago

Lavonte did the Bucs a huge solid with the contract that he signed. Took millions less than what his actual market value was to remain a Buc. $25 mil guaranteed whether he plays another down or not takes trust from the organization in the player but more importantly the person. That being said, Shaq Barrett is still some what of an unknown when it comes to guaranteed money. Jason Licht got burned signing a similar unknown in Michael Johnson $43mil who once he got paid laid a big fat egg and was released after one season. Shaq Barrett seems like… Read more »

toofamiliar17
Reply to  Captain Sly
4 months ago

I don’t follow the Michael Johnson comparison at all. Just on a basic level statistically, MJ had fewer sacks in his entire first five seasons in Cincinnati (after which we signed him) than Shaq has had in his two seasons here. And he’s done it HERE, whereas MJ was an outside free agent signing, which is always riskier than resigning a guy whose personality and worth ethic you KNOW from firsthand experience. How does that make him “unknown”? They’re also totally different types of players. Weird comparison. As for the guaranteed money, if I’m the Bucs, I’d actually be willing… Read more »

Last edited 4 months ago by toofamiliar17
Captain Sly
Reply to  toofamiliar17
4 months ago

Michael Johnson’s stats were inflated in Cincinnati because of Gino Atkins. Nobody could block him. Pre injury he was the best DT in the league….Shaq’s stats are inflated because of Vea and it’s not debatable, simply look at his production with Vea out of the lineup. Mind Blowing! Don’t get me wrong I like Shaq and was hoping we tagged him but IMO Shaq is classic example of being a Product of the System. Most of these Free Agents edge rushers are system guys: Yannick Ngakoue, Matt Judon, Leonard Floyd, Hassan Riddick and on and on. The Bucs are playing… Read more »

toofamiliar17
Reply to  Captain Sly
4 months ago

I am looking at his production with Vea out. I appear to the be the only one here actually doing so, lol. Vea was out 10 of the 15 games Shaq played last season, and he still LED THE LEAGUE in hurries and finished 7th in pressures to go with his 8 sacks (63% of which came without Vea), which is a strong number in and of itself. Of course having multiple good pass rushers in one group helps EVERYONE. If the teammates around a great player are bad enough, literally all excellent rushers can be neutralized. (see: Watt, JJ).… Read more »

plopes808
4 months ago

I’d say anything over $16-18mil is too much. Shaq is a good piece in our system but he’s not the type to take over a game on his own. He should be paid for what he is, a valuable piece. If he gets greedy I believe we will see a sharp dip in his production with one of those weaker teams. Shaq benefits greatly from JPP, Suh, and Vea as seen by his increased production in the playoffs when Vea returned. Luckily we have a lot of guys willing to be team players and adjust their cap hit. Hopefully that… Read more »

Hockey Duckie
4 months ago

I think Barrett is getting the LVD “no respect” feeling from fellow Buc fans. Barrett provides high end pressure the induces more turnovers, incompletions, or sack by another lineman. Signing WR Godwin before OLB Barrett sounds like a GM Licht thing to do as Licht doesn’t address the trenches until it’s dire. We don’t have talent depth at ILB or OLB, but we do have talent depth at WR. And since Brady is here, Brady will distribute the ball well and not have a favorite. Godwin is a WR2. Barrett is an OLB1. I love Godwin, but I addressing the… Read more »

toofamiliar17
Reply to  Hockey Duckie
4 months ago

Ngakoue isn’t half the player Shaq is, unfortunately. But yea, I’m with you on Shaq. Coming into this offseason, Barrett was the most important Bucs free agent on my board. So I get what you’re saying on Godwin. But we were never going to tag Barrett again, and it is a useful tool, so I get tagging him. He’s the #2 WR here, but he’s not “a WR2”. Godwin is one of the most versatile, best WRs in this league. He’s better (IMO) and younger than Allen Robinson. I’m thrilled to have him back. But yes, all of that said,… Read more »

76bucsfan46
4 months ago

Hey I want Shaq back but the reality is his teammates are extremely important to his and JPP success. DID YOU NOTICE how much our pass rush improved when Vita came back in the playoffs.

scubog
4 months ago

I swear sometimes the comments make me think some people don’t actually watch the game and simply, “check the sheet” the next day. Anyone who didn’t see Shaq’s impact, especially in the playoffs, wasn’t paying attention. As far as the acceptable compensation goes; it’s real simple, let the market place determine the player’s worth.

bucballer
Reply to  scubog
4 months ago

Not true. Some Jameis fans were of the believe that he was worth 28-30 mil per because that’s what starting QBs were making. Well the Bucs weren’t interested in paying him that, and apparently neither was anybody else. So he signs for one million with Saints. Again, we all want Shaq back! All of us! But it has to be for our right price. If he chooses to take the money, say 22 mil or so to go play elsewhere, I think the dynamics will change drastically for him. In Tampa, is is part of an ensemble cast where when… Read more »

scubog
Reply to  bucballer
4 months ago

The market always determines a player’s worth. If someone, rightly or wrongly, is willing to pay a player, that’s his worth. Plain and simple. It’s just like real estate. You might think your house is worth a certain amount, but if no one is willing to pay it, your valuation is pointless. Yes, many of us thought Jameis would be able to cash in because we placed a higher value on him than the market ultimately did. Thus, he couldn’t find a single team willing to pay him much more than the league minimum. Your comment reminded me of a… Read more »

toofamiliar17
Reply to  scubog
4 months ago

All of this, 1000%. I’m sure they all watched the games, but it’s impossible to individually scout players while watching games live on TV. It’s clear that 90% of the people here are basing their views on Shaq as a player literally on box scores, which is just mind-numbing to me.

scubog
Reply to  toofamiliar17
4 months ago

I’m pretty sure folks see 8 sacks on the “sheet” and consider that average production, not worthy of a big payday. Me, I go by what I see. Maybe the Bucs will be one of those teams bucballer mentioned who are in dire need of a pass rusher and willing to pay a little more for his services. Goodness knows, I don’t see Plan B being Anthony Nelson or an unproven rookie taking his place. Didn’t see Nelson doing much with that same supporting cast to make me let Shaq walk.

toofamiliar17
Reply to  scubog
4 months ago

For sure. It’s box score scouting, which isn’t scouting at all. It’s ignorance.

If Shaq walks, I have to think that we’ll sign another veteran edge rusher to a sizable deal. But we’re going to be getting a much less impactful player, so matter who that alternative is. Unless Shaq’s deal is going to be REALLY high, and the savings would be tremendous, I’d much rather just pay the premium edge rusher we already have to be a premium edge rusher.

Dman
4 months ago

Barrett is a good, not great player and should command good not great money. The issue is our alternatives, especially with a thin DE draft. After watching him disappear for the better part of the season and then trumpeting that he wants to “break the bank” with Drew Rosehhaus in his corner, I’d really like to go shopping.

Captain Sly
Reply to  Dman
4 months ago

Yep greedy players hire Greedy Agents! See Kwon Alexander

scubog
Reply to  Captain Sly
4 months ago

Captain: Would you consider yourself “greedy” if your co-workers were getting paid more than you, but you were equally or even more productive, and only wanted similar compensation to your peers?