“I know [there] ain’t no other place I’d rather be."
Shaquil Barrett currently doesn't have a place to be for the 2021 season. The Super Bowl champion, Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker is set to be a free agent come March and will have suitors aplenty after posting 27.5 sacks over the last two years.
Barrett might not even want to hear those suitors out. He wants to remain in Tampa Bay and help the Buccaneers in their pursuit of back-to-back championships, after defeating the Kansas City Chiefs by a score of 31-9 on Sunday night on the biggest stage in sports.
"I’m pretty sure my agent will get talking to [the Buccaneers]. They’re gonna talk, and we’ll find a quick solution to this,” Barrett said. “I know I’ve found a home here."
Tampa Bay signed Barrett as a free agent before the 2019 season, on a one-year, $4 million deal after he spent five years with the Denver Broncos as a rotational edge rusher and former undrafted free agent. Collecting 14 sacks with the Broncos, Barrett was viewed as a depth piece upon his signing who could boost the Buccaneers edge rush within a rotation, at that time paired with former second-round pick and starter Noah Spence.
Unseating Spence as a starter at outside linebacker before the season began, Barrett would proceed to open the 2019 season with nine sacks over the first four games, including seven combined against the Carolina Panthers and New York Giants in Weeks 2 and 3. Barrett finished the year with 19.5 sacks, leading the NFL in that category and setting the Buccaneers single-season record.
"They gave me a shot. I earned a starting spot here," Barrett proclaimed after the Super Bowl. "They gave me the freedom to play the way I wanted to play. And it’s just been working out. It’s been a perfect match since Day 1. I love it here and I want to just keep proving them right."
Barrett's production would dip in 2020, as he tallied eight sacks in 15 games compared to his 2019 campaign - although he never should have been expected to replicate those numbers in the first place. He still managed to rattle quarterbacks by recording 77 pressures throughout the regular season, according to Pro Football Focus.
If there were any legitimate doubts as to the presence that Barrett provides the Buccaneers on the edge, they were thrown away after his performance this postseason. Barrett had three sacks in the NFC Championship, another one in the Super Bowl, and 19 pressures throughout the entire playoff run, including eight on Sunday night.
Playing an instrumental part in Tampa Bay's pass rush all season long, and when it mattered most, there is little doubt that the Buccaneers will attempt to extend Barrett on a long-term deal. With a projected cap space of about $38 million and 31 total pending free agents - including stars such as Barrett, inside linebacker Lavonte David, and wide receiver Chris Godwin - it won't be easy to hold onto all three and simultaneously continue to add talent and maintain depth.
However, Barrett has made it clear that Tampa Bay is where he wants to be. Head coach Bruce Arians, although he is not involved with contracts, stated in December that the Buccaneers "don’t plan on Shaq getting going anywhere," as well.