Tampa Bay Buccaneers star Jason Pierre-Paul undergoes knee surgery

By Matt Fitzgerald
Nov 2, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul (90) before the game against the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Star pass-rusher Jason Pierre-Paul, who was a huge catalyst for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ 31-9 Super Bowl LV rout of the Kansas City Chiefs, announced Wednesday that he was having surgery on his knee.

Pierre-Paul didn’t miss a single game during the regular season or playoffs despite the knee issue and played at an extremely high level throughout for the Bucs’ championship defense.

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Jason Pierre-Paul has ‘minor cleanup’ procedure on knee

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport provided the specifics on Pierre-Paul’s operation after the 32-year-old veteran posted on social media:

The 2020 campaign was among the best of Pierre-Paul’s career. Although his sack total (9.5) was definitely up to his standard, JPP proved adept at dropping in coverage more than in the past as part of coordinator Todd Bowles’ exotic scheme. JPP managed two interceptions and six pass deflections, as he showed off his versatility and athleticism in space.

It’s been quite a career of overcoming adversity for Pierre-Paul, who suffered finger amputations after a catastrophic fireworks accident. He’s adapted in the years since and continues to be among the NFL’s premier edge defenders. If he can just improve his play versus the run in 2021 — he ranked 84th in that area among 109 qualifiers in Pro Football Focus’ player grades — Tampa Bay’s defense will likely be even better going forward.

With one year still remaining on his contract, Pierre-Paul is locked with Tampa Bay as the Bucs pursue back-to-back Super Bowls, led by legendary quarterback Tom Brady.

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Jason Pierre-Paul will return healthy in 2021 to anchor Bucs defensive front

Jason Pierre-Paul will return healthy in 2021 to anchor Bucs defensive front
Feb 7, 2020; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Buccaneers outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul (90) pressures Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (15) during the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LV at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s scary to think what Pierre-Paul could be capable of when he’s less banged up. Given the stricter NFL salary cap and the fact that Tampa Bay has so many marquee free agents this offseason, it’ll take all of Pierre-Paul’s immense skills and him staying in the lineup to ensure the Bucs are in championship contention again.

Longtime franchise cornerstone Lavonte David has been serving as the heart of Tampa’s defense for many years. However, the stalwart linebacker is hitting the open market, along with Pierre-Paul’s edge-rushing mate Shaquil Barrett, who’s going to command a ton of money on the market.

Since Tampa Bay franchise tagged Barrett last season, it’s unlikely general manager Jason Licht will make that move again. Barrett is likely the top priority, and retaining a leader like David is vital to the Bucs’ continued success, too.

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Also to consider is the fact that playmakers like Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown, Leonard Fournette — all of whom scored touchdowns in Super Bowl LV — and most notably Chris Godwin are all free agents. There can’t be enough room for each of them to return, barring massive pay cuts or backloaded contracts.

Provided Barrett comes back, he and Pierre-Paul should continue to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks. They’re among the most experienced, savvy and downright skill pass-rushing tandems in the entire NFL, and they certainly made life difficult for Chiefs superstar Patrick Mahomes on the biggest of stages in Super Bowl LV.

As long as Brady is under center and has enough weaponry and protection to run the offense, Pierre-Paul will team with linebacker Devin White and nose tackle Vita Vea to hold down the front seven even if Barrett or David aren’t able to come back.

Based on what head coach Bruce Arians has said, though, expect the Bucs to be as close to fully-loaded as they were this past season with everyone working to run it back for another shot at a Lombardi Trophy.

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