Bucs bring back their pass rush with new deals

by Gary Shelton on March 17, 2020

in general

Pierre-Paul signed a two-year contract./TIM WIRT

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

We can assume that Shaq Barrett got there with speed. He shot off the line, and he closed in on the deal in a heartbeat. He was always a quick player, that Barrett, so should it be any different when he was rushing Jason Licht's checkbook?

Jason Pierre-Paul, however, was more about guile. He probably twisted and he pushed, the way he always does, and he used his uncanny length to stretch to the finish line.

Just like that, and a lot of millions of dollars, the pass rush returned to the Tampa Bay Bucs.

Barrett and Paul are back. Let quarterbacks break out the gauze.

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Barrett led the NFL in sacks./JEFFREY S. KING

It was a good day for Tampa Bay on Monday. The team hit Barrett with a franchise tag, which will get him about $16 million next year. Then it spent $27 million (over two years) for Pierre-Paul.

The Bucs haven't won nearly enough, but in the seasons they have, the pass rush has been vital. Barrett led the NFL with 19 1/2 sacks in 2019; Pierre-Paul had 8 1/2 in only 10 games.

Granted, a great pass rush isn't a guarantee. But it's an important weapon on the way. Quarterbacks have all the advantages in the NFL. Slowing them down is crucial.

A sack, remember, is usually a drive-stopping play. It robs the opponent of down and distance, and it is usually a signal to the punter to start warming up.

How many can Barrett get this season? He had never had more than 5 1/2 in a year before last year. But he's young, and he's relentless. Pierre-Paul, on the other hand, Pierre-Paul has 79.5 in his career, and he has 21 in his 26 games with the Bucs. You could make a nice wager on which one has the most in 2020.

Hey, there are other problems. The quarterback has to be addressed. The running game need to be better. The offensive line gave up as many sacks as the Bucs got last year (47).

But if you look over the history of the Bucs, it's pretty much a history of the pass rush. The team hasn't had great quarterbacking in most of its seasons, but from time to time (Lee Roy Selmon's years, and Warren Sapp's, and Simeon Rice's) is has been able to heat up the pocket.

The Bucs' first great year was 1979, when it went to the NFL championship game. That year, Bucs had their first 40-sack season. In all, it has had 10 seasons of 40 or more sacks; it has made the playoffs in seven of those.

The logic is simple. The more duress the quarterback is under, the more likely he is to throw a bad ball. The more times he's hit, the faster he gets rid of the ball. Those are good things for a defense.

But saying it is one thing. Handing out million-dollar contracts is something else. You might have understood if the Bucs had brought back either Barrett or Pierre-Paul. But both? That gives the Bucs a chance.

Hey, no one is going to any the playoffs will be achieved. Until the quarterback is settle, no one can know that.

But it's a good step. You have to like the Bucs better with them than without them.

Isn't that a start?

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