A year before the Bengals revamped their defense in free agency, they nearly acquired one of the NFL’s best pass-rushers.
Shaq Barrett was a free agent during the same offseason that Cincinnati hired head coach Zac Taylor. Barrett visited the Bengals soon after free agency began and Barrett’s camp believed he was going to sign with the team.
Barrett would’ve joined the Bengals that offseason if not for an MRI of Barrett’s shoulder. The Bengals’ doctors believed there was an issue there and the front office decided not to officially offer Barrett a contract.
In an interview with The Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr., Barrett confirmed that not only did this happen, but he never even had a shoulder issue in the first place.
“They said I had something with my shoulder or something that — I don’t have anything with my shoulder,” Barrett said. “That’s when they pulled off, which had me pretty upset because I was putting all my eggs into that basket. I thought Cincinnati would have been the right move for me and they offered me a two-year contract and my agent was sure he could get me up a little bit more than what they offered so it would have been the most money I’d ever made with the most security. And that’s all I wanted was security and stability for my family. It was a gut shot once they pulled the contract offer, but I didn’t hear from anybody else about anything from the teams I visited about any shoulder injury because I never had a shoulder injury.”
Since then, Barrett has recorded 27.5 sacks with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 19.5 of them came while Barrett was playing on a one-year, $4 million contract that he accepted after the Bengals decided to pass on him. The Bengals, for the record, have a league-low 48 sacks as a team since the 2019 season.
The Buccaneers placed the franchise tag on Barrett following his breakout 2019 season and the 28-year old edge defender has not disappointed. Just last week, Barrett sacked Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers three times as the Buccaneers punched their ticket to Super Bowl LV.
Reinvigorating their pass rush will be a focal point of the Bengals’ offseason, but opportunities to land a talent like Barrett don’t come around too often. The front office will have to get creative to solve this issue.