CINCINNATI — The Bengals' pass rush has struggled in each of the past two seasons. It's one of their biggest needs going into the 2021 campaign.
That might not have been the case if the organization decided to sign Shaq Barrett in free agency during the 2019 offseason.
The Bengals brought him in for a visit on March 14, 2019.
The Tampa Bay edge rusher was close to signing a two-year deal with the Bengals, but the medical team flagged Barrett and the team didn't sign him.
The Pro Bowler was asked about the situation on Monday by Paul Dehner Jr. of The Athletic.
“They said I had something with my shoulder or something that—I don’t have anything with my shoulder,” Barrett said on during his Super Bowl LV media availability. “That’s when they pulled off, which had me pretty upset because I was putting all my eggs into that basket. I thought Cincinnati would have been the right move for me and they offered me [a] two-year contract and then my agent was sure he could get me up a little bit more than what they offered, so it would have been the most money I’d ever made with the most security. And that’s all I wanted was security and stability for my family. It was a gut shot once they pulled the contract offer, but I didn’t hear from anybody else about anything from the teams I visited about any shoulder injury because I never had a shoulder injury.”
The Buccaneers benefited from the Bengals' gaffe. Barrett has been one of the most disruptive edge rushers in the NFL over the past two seasons. He had 19.5 sacks in 2019 and was named to the Pro Bowl.
Barrett followed that up with eight more sacks in 2020 and is a big reason why Tampa Bay is playing in Super Bowl LV. He had three sacks in the Bucs' 31-26 win over the Packers in the NFC Championship Game.
The Bengals were last in the NFL with 17 sacks this season. Over the past two years they have just 48 total sacks, which is also last in the league.
Signing Barrett to a two-year, $14 million deal, which was the reported amount, would've been a steal.
Tampa Bay brought him in on a one-year, $4 million contract in 2019. He made $15.8 million on the franchise tag this season and is hoping to sign a long-term deal in March.
Adding Barrett would've boosted a poor pass rush and it might've allowed the Bengals to move off of Carlos Dunlap much sooner. They received a seventh-round pick for Dunlap, but would've gotten a lot more in a trade last offseason.
A deal of that magnitude would've been much easier to swallow if Barrett was on the roster.
This a huge miss for a team that's 6-25-1 over the past two seasons. The Bengals need an infusion of talent in the trenches. They can't let another player like Barrett slip through their fingers if they're going to turn things around next season.
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