Lost if not completely unknown in the moves the Buccaneers have made since winning Super Bowl LV is that the decision not to apply the franchise tag to linebacker Shaq Barrett should have been less surprising than it was.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Barrett’s franchise tender would have been $20.577 million for 2021.
Barrett’s tender was believed to be $18.99 million, a 20-percent bump over his 2020 salary under the franchise tag. However, the $1.32 million settlement of his grievance regarding the difference between being tagged as a defensive end and a linebacker retroactively increased his 2020 pay from $15.828 million to $17.148 million. Applying the 20-percent increase to $17.148 million, that’s $20.577 million.
This information wasn’t widely known, or known at all, before the Bucs tagged receiver Chris Godwin instead of Barrett. Knowing what Barrett’s franchise-tag salary would have been for 2021, it now makes perfect sense.
“It was a little bit of a chess game deciding what to do there,” G.M. Jason Licht told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Friday regarding the strategy for determining whether to tag Barrett or Godwin. “We wanted to make the move that we felt had the best chance to keep both. Turned out we got it right.”
If they’d tagged Barrett, it would have cost a lot more to keep him than the $17 million per year on a four-year deal that he eventually signed. It would have made far more sense for him to take the $20.577 million in 2021 and become a free agent in 2022, when the Bucs couldn’t have tagged him again. (By rule, a third franchise tender for Barrett would have been at least $29.63 million.)
Also, tagging Barrett would have resulted in Godwin landing on the open market. He presumably would have gotten at least $18 million per year on a long-term deal from another team, and with so much 2021 cap space devoted to Barrett, the Bucs wouldn’t have been able to compete with alternative offers.
Instead, the Bucs now have Godwin under contract at a cash and cap charge of $15.983 million in 2021. Barrett’s cap number under his long-term deal is only $5 million.
So instead of keeping Barrett under the tag at $20.577 million in 2021 cap space, the Bucs kept both Barrett and Godwin at $20.983 million in cap space. That makes their “chess move” something for which they didn’t have to take a few green pills and then stare at the ceiling to figure out.