We’re reminded from time to time of the importance of a great pass rusher, often in the Super Bowl when, for example, a team like the Giants repeatedly harasses Tom Brady (twice) or a team like the Broncos repeatedly harasses Cam Newton or, most recently, a team like the Buccaneers repeatedly harasses Patrick Mahomes.
As 2021 free agency approaches, an unprecedented collection of pass rushers will be available, starting with the best pass rusher on the defending champions: Shaq Barrett.
The Bucs didn’t tag Barrett, and they’ve yet to sign him to a new deal. It’s entirely possible that the Bucs have looked around at the many other pass rushers who will be available, and that they’ve decided they can sign either Barrett or several other players instead — especially with the cap dropping and veterans galore likely to be looking for one-year deals.
Beyond Barrett, our Top 100 list of free agents has 13 other edge rushers: Matthew Judon of the Ravens; Carl Lawson of the Bengals; Haason Reddick of the Cardinals; Trey Hendrickson of the Saints; Leonard Floyd of the Rams; Bud Dupree of the Steelers; Yannick Ngakoue of the Ravens; Romeo Okwara of the Lions; Carlos Dunlap, cut by the Seahawks; Justin Houston of the Colts; Olivier Vernon of the Browns; Ryan Kerrigan of Washington; and Denico Autry of the Colts.
Other pass rushers who will be on the market include (but are not limited to) Aldon Smith of the Cowboys, Jadeveon Clowney of the Titans, Melvin Ingram of the Chargers, John Simon of the Patriots, Jeremiah Attaochu of the Broncos, Everson Griffen of the Lions, Markus Golden of the Cardinals, and Bruce Irvin.
Then there’s the looming possibility, if not likelihood, that the Broncos will cut Super Bowl 50 MVP Von Miller.
Two years ago, the Buccaneers signed Barrett to a one-year, $4 million deal after a five-year career in Denver that produced a total of 14 sacks. He then had 19.5 sacks in Todd Bowles’ system. Given the raw number of pass rushers and the reality that the cap is $15.7 million lower than it was last year and more than $25 million below where it was expected to be, the Bucs could decide to sign one of the other available pass rushers to a much more affordable deal than whatever it would take to keep Barrett, who has said he hopes to “break the bank” this time around.