As they began a rebuild on defense, the Buccaneers had some degree of hope that Shaquil Barrett could help them.
They could have never imagined to what degree.
Barrett broke Hall-of-Famer Warren Sapp’s franchise record, and led the NFL with 19.5 sacks this year.
He also had six forced fumbles and interceptions, and helped make a thing which was bad much better.
That kind of transformation has led PFT to name Barrett our defensive player of the year for 2019.
Barrett had just 14.0 sacks in five seasons with the Broncos, so there was little reason to believe he was capable of anything like this.
He’s also set himself up for a handsome payday, winning big on a one-year bet on himself in a new defense. The Bucs have already admitted they want to do what it takes to keep him, and coach Bruce Arians said Barrett “ain’t going anywhere.” But with just one franchise tag at their disposal and a tricky situation with quarterback Jameis Winston ahead as well. it figures to be a fascinating offseason there.
Gilmore tied for the league lead with six interceptions, and his ability to shut down most threats helped make the Patriots the league’s top-ranked defense this year.
Watt had 14.5 sacks for a team that nearly made the playoffs without a quarterback, and tied for the league lead with eight forced fumbles, showing the kind of game-changing plays he made all year.
Jones was only a half-sack behind Barrett for the league sack lead, and tied with Watt for the league lead in forced fumbles with eight.
But those guys had at least shown indications this was possible previously.