Bucs need to think about Barrett’s contract, too

by Gary Shelton on March 7, 2020

in general

Barrett will be more costly to lose than to re-sign./Photo By:© Joe Mestas

Saturday, 4 a.m.

Lest you think of Jason Licht as a man with a single mission, rest assured that there are probably large collections of seconds in each day when he thinks about things other than his quarterback.

Six seconds here. Four seconds there. Sixteen while he's eating his lunch.

There are issues, of course. A draft is coming up. There are unsigned players. There are free agents to consider. Oh, yeah. And there are quarterbacks to evaluate.

But sometime during the day, maybe around mid-afternoon or so, Licht thinks about other things that are spinning through his head.

You know, like Shaq Barrett.

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You think Barrett was relentless on the pass rush? Wait until you get a load of him at the bargaining table. He's going to come hard, and he's going to be there all day. He'll get off the line quick, and he'll make a nifty little move, and then he'll burst to the target.

Granted, there are some who question the inflated value of a pass rusher. Late Giants' general manager George Young used to say that a guy could make one play a week and end up with 16 sacks. True, it isn't the end-all of playing defensive end, but quarterbacks are at such a premium these days that anyone who can hurry them along, who can disrupt them, is going to make a nice paycheck.

And why not Barrett? Barrett had an historic year in 2019 with 19.5 sacks. Think about it. Only 12 players (J.J. Watt did it twice) have had more sacks in a season. That's worth some jingle-jangle, as they say.

Ah, Licht might counteroffer. But all of those guys (except for Watt) had given a glimpse of their big sack year. Every other player had at least one double-digit sack season before, and every one had at least one afterward.

So can you expect enough production out of Barrett to make him a rich man?

Well, you don't have a choice if you want him to play here, do you?

Look, it's inevitable that Barrett will have some slippage. Every player who has had at least 19.5 sacks in a season has fallen off. All of them. The question is how much Licht thinks the Bucs can stand to lose from Barrett's career year.

Michael Strahan, thanks to Brett Favre's surrender sack at the end of 2001, has the record with 22 1/2 sack in a single season. But the next year, he fell to 11. Jared Allen of Minnesota had 22 in 2011; he fell to 12 the next season. Mark Gastineau had 22 sacks in 1984 (and 41 in two seasons in 1983 and 1984). But in 1985, he fell to 13.5, and after that, he never was in double figures again.

How about Watt? He exploded with 20.5 in his second year (after getting only 5 1/2 as a rookie) and slipped to 10.5. But in his fourth year, he was back up to 20.5.

Next year, teams will be more dedicated to giving help to the guy blocking Barrett. Injuries are always a factor.

By and large, however, a good pass rusher is a good pass rusher. You don't fight that battle every play without being one. If I'm Licht, I'm willing to gamble that Barrett will have between 12-15 sacks next season, too. That's nothing to sneeze at.

If you follow the Bucs, you should know that they've had their problems getting to the opposing quarterback. Simeon Rice had 67 sacks in a five-year period, including 30.5 over two years. Don't underestimate what a weapon that was for the great Bucs' teams. Warren Sapp had 29 over two years, but it was six seasons before he hit double-figures again.

I know this: Football these days is about playing quarterback, and limiting what the other team's quarterback can do. That's enough to adpd a few gray hairs to Licht's scalp.

Still, it would nice if the Bucs would re-sign Barrett.

In a rush.

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