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Shaq Barrett deserves a long-term deal and nothing less

This is not a hard decision.

NFL: DEC 21 Texans at Buccaneers
The Bucs should reward Barrett in a big way this offseason.
Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Some things in life are simple, yet people find a way to make them complicated as hell.

In the case of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Shaq Barrett, let’s hope it stays as simple as possible.

This, obviously, is in reference to the upcoming negotiations between the Bucs and Barrett (or his agent, rather) that will concern Barrett’s next contract.

Will he get a long-term deal? Will he get tagged with the franchise/transition designation?

Look, guys. This isn’t hard:

Pay the man and give him a long-term deal. ASAP.

Before we get into the technical stuff, let’s just review the basics.

  1. Barrett snapped Warren Sapp’s 18-year record for the most sacks in franchise history and put together one of the best seasons sack-wise in NFL history.
  2. He performed while Jason Pierre-Paul was recovering from a neck injury and at one point had nine of the team’s 11 total sacks through four games.
  3. His presence elevated the play/production of those around him due to the fact that team’s had to game plan for him as the season went on.
  4. Don’t forget that he’s also a great teammate, locker room presence, yadda yadda yadda.

The basics are great, but they don’t get you p-a-i-d in the NFL. Fortunately for Barrett, he ain’t basic.

The 19.5 sacks carry a lot of weight. I mean, it’s like elephant-heavy type weight. But it’s not just the sacks, it’s how he was able to get to that number.

For starters, he plays mostly on the right side of the defense, which means he will be matched up with a left tackle for the majority of a game. If you aren’t very football-aware, this means he will have to face the best pass protector (usually) on the opposing team.

The dude works, too. He’s not the most athletic guy out there, so he has to rely on technique.

But he has superb technique, which allows him to beat his assignments in a variety of ways.

Exhibit A is against the New York Giants. Just look at the spin move he uses to beat Nate Solder. Shaq is on the left-hand side of the screen wearing No. 58:

Daryl Williams received a huge dose of Barrett on the Thursday night game back in Week 2. Barrett shows off his power here as he drives him into Newton’s lap:

And of course, Barrett has that much-needed “bend” to get around opponents and get to the quarterback.

Remember what I said about facing off against some of the best left tackles in the league? Well, Barrett gets the job done here against Taylor Lewan, one of the better tackles in the league. Granted, the sack on Ryan Tannehill is more Tannehill’s fault than it is Lewan’s, but Barrett still shows off a nice move to get past Lewan at the top of the arc. Barrett shows off some serious strength against Lewan a few players later though (in the second GIF), as he pushes the All-Pro tackle into Tannehill’s throwing lane, which helps cause the incompletion:

He just blows by Jake Matthews - who is a Pro Bowler, himself - in this example to get the strip-sack against the Falcons. Barrett is lined up on the right side of the screen:

It’s not just about sacks, either. Barrett is pretty good in run defense and is a smart, instinctive player as shown in the next few examples.

Barrett gets an excellent jump off the snap, blows by the right tackle and then stands up the pulling tight end while taking down Saquon Barkley for a 1-yard gain. He’s on the left-hand side of the screen:

On this play, he does a good job of shedding Lewan’s block and is able track Henry down behind the LOS, which we all know is not easy to do. Barrett is on the right-hand side of the screen:

He reads this reverse perfectly and is able to hold Sterling Shepard to a 2-yard gain. He’s on the right-hand side of the screen:

Barrett is more than just a pass-rusher. With another year to fine-tune his abilities and get more ground under his feet, there’s no reason to think he can’t continue to improve in the coming years.

But Evan, what about a regression? There’s no way he can hit 19.5 sacks every year.

Of course he can’t and you’d be foolish to think he could. The NFL isn’t designed for players to hit that number on a regular basis. But these 19.5 sacks weren’t a flash in the pan. Barrett went just four games without a sack in 2019 and had two four-game streaks in which he recorded at least a half sack. He was a consistent force that routinely made plays all year long.

History is on his side, too. Look at the names of the guys who hit at least 19 sacks on this list. Pretty impressive company, is it not?

Well, if you like that list, you’re really going to like these upcoming stats.

Of the players on that list, the ones who recorded 19.5 sacks or more would go on to record an average of 11.5 sacks per season over the next 5.5 years of their career. That may not sound great, but when you consider the fact that the same players averaged a peak year of 15 sacks in a season, it becomes pretty clear that Barrett is in very good company.

And it also becomes clear that he would be worth every penny of a large contract.

Put it this way: Michael Strahan recorded an 18.5 sack season after his record-setting 2001 season in which he recorded 22.5 sacks. Mark Gastineau took down quarterbacks 19 times in one season after his 22-sack season in 1984. J.J. Watt is the only player in NFL history to record 20+ sacks in more than one season. To put it in laymen’s terms: just about everyone who recorded a 19.5+ sack season went on to have at least one more great season.

And to make things even better, of these players accomplished their 19.5+ sack season at an average of 27 years old, as well. Barrett was 27 when he played for the Bucs in 2019.

History shows that a regression is unlikely for Barrett. If he were to keep with the company he is currently in, then his floor would be around 11.5 sacks per season, while his ceiling would be at least 15. And he would play for the Bucs for at least five years.

Now of course, there is the chance that Barrett could follow in the footsteps of Tim Harris and Aldon Smith, the two outliers on the list of players with 19.5+ sacks in their career, but if I were the Bucs, I would imagine that Barrett is worth the risk.

For context’s sake, Smith and Harris averaged just five sacks over the next 4.5 years of their career after their 19.5+ sack season. It’s hard to imagine Barrett being limited to that production, but you never know.

A four-year/$65 million contract is both fair and manageable for the Bucs. They could front-load the contract in order to make it easier to navigate in case Barrett doesn’t work out for the long-term. The $16.25/year figure is over his market value, as well, which would be considered a bonus for the Barrett camp.

We’ve come a long way from Shaq the question mark to Shaq the sack master.

Giving Barrett a long-term deal would also give the Bucs the opportunity to franchise Jameis Winston. This is an unusual year in terms of free agency tags in the NFL. Instead of teams only being allowed to use a certain tag on one certain player, they are allowed to use either the “exclusive” or “non-exclusive” AND the “transition” tag on separate players.

Signing Barrett to a LTE would allow the Bucs to franchise Winston with either the “exclusive” or “non-exclusive” tag, which would give the Bucs a major advantage in terms of contract negotiations within the club and/or outside clubs. This would also allow them to transition another free agent that they deemed worth of said price, but didn’t want to overpay when compensating for another team’s offer.

It all makes sense in both the long-term and the short-term for the Bucs, which is why this deal needs to happen sooner rather than later.