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Shaq Barrett: Buccaneers will be ‘mad they let me go’

Shaq Barrett Buccaneers
Former Tampa Bay and current Miami EDGE rusher Shaq Barrett has made it known that he has a chip on his shoulder entering 2024. (Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports)

Shaq Barrett: Buccaneers will be ‘mad they let me go’

Even though his last two seasons were not as strong as his previous three seasons, new Miami Dolphins EDGE rusher Shaq Barrett is still looking to prove people–including the Tampa Bay Buccaneers organization, who released him after five seasons in late February–wrong.

The organization released him as a cap casualty, though they followed by re-signing quarterback Baker Mayfield, Pro Bowl wideout Mike Evans, safety Antoine Winfield and linebacker Lavonte David, among others. Barrett, 31, is one of the few mainstays off their defense that isn’t returning.

He eventually signed with the Dolphins on a one-year deal that could be worth up to $9 million. When he spoke to the media for the first time on Monday, he wanted to let everyone know that he wanted to prove Tampa wrong–while also proving Tampa Bay right.

“I still got a lot to prove,” Barrett said at his introductory news conference Monday. “Especially getting cut from another team. That adds another whole fuel to the fire right there. The Dolphins are going to be happy they signed me. Tampa is going to be mad they let me go because this year that I’m planning on having and the success that we’re about to have as a team is going to be amazing.

“I want to break the (sack) record every year. I want to be the best, one of the best pass rushers to do it and I think getting the sack record would solidify that fact or make you part of the argument for it, so that’s what I be trying to go for every year. But I need to still be happy about not reaching that goal and still having 10 sacks, 12 sacks, or whatever amount of sacks I might have … I always set the goals really lofty.”

This isn’t the first time he’s had a massive chip on his shoulder. After his rookie contract expired in 2018, he signed a one-year prove-it deal ($5 million) with Tampa Bay. He ended up breaking the franchise record in sacks, recording 19.5 in 16 games, tallying 58 combined tackles, 19 tackles-for-loss and 37 quarterback hits; Barrett finished fourth in Defensive Player of the Year voting and earned second-team All-Pro. In reality, Barrett was not necessarily surprised that he was a “cap casualty” in the end.

“…I knew they had to pay people and I was going to be a potential cut, so I was preparing my family for pretty much the whole year, honestly,” Barrett said. “And then like once it happened, it wasn’t a surprise at all because I was making the money I was making then, but then my numbers weren’t supporting the fee that I was being paid, so I understood that part of the business.

“But moving my family, that’s usually the hard part. But only going down the road, we’re going to be able to keep our house in Tampa and then they’re going to come travel down here every other week, so we’re going to make it work.”

Even though he had a remarkably successful prove-it year in 2019, it does not mean those results will repeat; he’s going to be six years older and is two seasons removed from tearing his Achilles, ending his 2022 season after just eight games.

He finished with three sacks that season and logged just 4.5 sacks in 2023, though he played only 62 percent of the team’s snaps, his lowest since 2018. He will help fill in for Andrew Van Ginkel, who signed a two-year deal with the Minnesota Vikings, and could ease the pressure of Bradley Chubb on the opposite side.

“It’s never a seamless move,” Todd Bowles, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach, told NFL Network in late February after news of his release surfaced. “It’s always, you know, from a personal side, you get very close to these guys as well as they do the coaches, and you have a relationship that never goes away.

From a business side, in order for us to get better and bring in new talent and upgrade the team, we have to get some of these things done, and they’re hard decisions, but Shaq has been great for us over the past five years. He came in, he made a heck of a name for himself. He’s one of the best human beings you could ever meet, and he’s still got some great playing abilities left in him.

“These tough decisions have to be made for us to move on … And who knows, we’ll see what happens down the line.”

***

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