Buccaneers to release Shaquil Barrett before new league year

Pat McAfee and crew happy for Baker Mayfield's success (1:49)

"The Pat McAfee Show" crew reacts to a hot-mic moment between Bucs QB Baker Mayfield and Steve Young discussing his future plans. (1:49)

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will release outside linebacker Shaquil Barrett in a move that provides nearly $5 million in salary cap relief.

Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said he informed Barrett of the impending move last Friday. Multiple team sources told ESPN that the decision was difficult for the Bucs.

"Did not want to make that call," Licht said Tuesday. "At the same time I did -- I wanted to give him some time here to look for another team if that's what he wants to do. We can't officially release him until beginning of the league year, but he actually calmed me down on the call."

Barrett, who has a $15.04 million option bonus due next month, said he knew there was a strong possibility that he could be cut due to his hefty cap charge. The nine-year veteran said last month that he wants to remain with the Bucs but acknowledged that he understands "it's a business."

Licht did "leave the door open" for Barrett to return to the Bucs in the future, a possibility confirmed to ESPN by team sources, who reiterated that Barrett is thought of highly as both a player and person.

The Bucs will designate Barrett as a post-June 1 cut, meaning the team can split his $26.7 million dead cap charges over 2024 and 2025 instead of incurring them all at once. Barrett will count $9.3 million against the cap in 2024 and $17.4 million in 2025.

Barrett, 31, was a two-time Pro Bowler during his five seasons with the Bucs and a key contributor on Tampa Bay's championship-winning defense in 2020, recording three sacks against the Packers in the NFC Championship Game and another sack against the Chiefs in Super Bowl LV.

Barrett and his family suffered a tragedy in April 2023 when his 2-year-old daughter, Arrayah, drowned in the family's pool. He returned for the start of the 2023 season and registered 4.5 sacks and 52 combined tackles, including 33 solo.

In the Bucs' Week 2 victory over the Bears, Barrett intercepted quarterback Justin Fields and returned it for a touchdown, blowing a kiss up at the sky and dedicating the performance to his daughter. Then in Week 15, Barrett's half sack of Jordan Love with 4:28 to go helped seal a 34-20 victory over the Packers, arguably the Bucs' biggest win of the season.

An undrafted free agent out of Colorado State in 2015, Barrett has 59 career sacks in nine seasons with the Buccaneers and Broncos. He led the NFL with a franchise-record 19.5 sacks in 2019, his first season with Tampa Bay. Barrett reached double-digit sack totals in just one other season: 2021, with 10.