Before I begin, I want it to be known that I am a big Gerald McCoy supporter and a fan of what he does both on and off the field. I hope that he and the organization can work out their differences and that he stays in Tampa to finish his career as a Buc. That being said, I wanted to take an unbiased, realistic look into the situation between him and the team to try and figure out what the possible outcome might be in the end.
When someone says “Gerald McCoy“, it invokes one of two emotions from Buccaneers fans. They either love him or they hate him. There is no in between. The debate is always that he’s either “overpaid” and “underperforming” or he’s “handcuffed by a bad system” and “doesn’t have enough help around him”. Whatever your opinion might be, the truth is that McCoy was doomed from the moment he was drafted by Tampa Bay because he was supposed to be the “second coming” of Warren Sapp. The problem for him is that there was only one Sapp, who is arguably the greatest 3-tech defensive tackle to ever play in the NFL. He transformed the position for God’s sake. And McCoy was supposed to follow that up and impress Buccaneers fans? I don’t think so. Like I said, he was doomed from the start.
Gerald McCoy has been a leader and a staple of the Buccaneers defense since he was drafted in 2010. He has played under four different head coaches with Bruce Arians being the fifth. He’s also played under four different defensive coordinators and in multiple systems during that time. Over his 9 year career, he’s played in 123 games while missing 21 games due to various injuries. He has totaled 296 tackles, 79 tackles for loss, 54.5 sacks, 140 QB hits, 22 passes defensed and 6 forced fumbles while being named to 6 Pro Bowls and one All-Pro team. Not a bad career, right? That is until Bucs fans compare his numbers to Sapp’s, who finished his 9 seasons in Tampa with 400 tackles, 64 tackles for loss and 77 sacks while missing just 4 games in that span.
That’s the good. Now, here’s the bad.
He hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013. According to ProFootballFocus.com, he hasn’t graded out as a top 10 interior defender since 2014. He ranks 21st in sacks among defensive lineman since 2010 with 54.5 sacks. The #1 player on that list is Cameron Wake with 92.5 sacks. Calais Campbell ranks 1st among interior d-linemen with 74.5 sacks. McCoy is 5th on that list behind Campbell, Geno Atkins (71), Aaron Donald (59.5 since 2014) and Ndamukong Suh (56). He ranks 37th among defensive linemen and 18th among defensive tackles in total tackles since 2010. To put his 296 tackles into perspective, Calais Campbell who leads that list of defensive tackles has 567 tackles. When you combine the “underachieving” stats with the fact that a McCoy led Buccaneers team has never seen the postseason, it doesn’t paint a very flattering picture.
Which brings us to this 2019 offseason where McCoy’s future with this team has remained in limbo. From new head coach Bruce Arians saying that “he’s just not as disruptive as he was four years ago” to Jason Licht dodging questions about the team’s plans for him to him being uncharacteristically absent from “voluntary” mini camp and now OTA’s, this hasn’t been a good offseason for the 31-year old veteran. From the end of the 2018 season, it seemed as though McCoy’s time in Tampa was coming to an end. Even he was expecting to be traded or even released at some point this offseason. He still could be. There’s been rumors that the Browns are “very interested” in trading for him, but that has yet to manifest into anything factual. Even his wife has made statements on social media hinting that Gerald is done with Tampa.
The facts are that Gerald McCoy is 31-years old, his sack numbers have decreased every season since 2013, he had the lowest number of tackles (28) since his second season last year and he’s due $13 million this season. With the Buccaneers possessing the least amount of salary cap space in the league at just over $1 million according to OverTheCap.com (which isn’t even enough to sign all of their 2019 draft picks) it poses a big financial problem for them. That’s of course the reason why his future in Tampa has been in question. The Bucs have to clear some cap space somehow, and freeing up McCoy’s $13M appears to be the easiest way to do it. They were probably hoping to trade him, but there hasn’t seemed to be much interest from any teams so far. It’s likely that nobody wants to give up a decent draft pick AND pay him the $13M that’s owed to him for this season. There may be teams who are interested, but they would rather wait to see if the Bucs release him instead so that they can sign him for a much cheaper price. Arians even made a comment about players reaching a point in their careers where the salary doesn’t match the production when talking about McCoy. That doesn’t sound too promising.
To complicate the situation even more, it appears as though Jason Pierre-Paul will be missing the first two months of the season at least with his neck injury. If the Bucs do get rid of McCoy, that means that they’ll be losing their two best defensive linemen going into the 2019 season and I’m not so sure that’s what the team wants. It certainly wouldn’t be a smart move on their part.
In my opinion the Bucs would prefer to keep Gerald McCoy, but they don’t think he’s worth that $13 million. If they could convince him to restructure his contract somehow, maybe sign an extension with more guaranteed money later on and convert some of his salary into a signing bonus that would free up some cap space then I think that’s their best option. That’s IF they can talk him into it. Gerald seems to be pissed off at the world right now after sending out a video on Instagram aimed at his doubters on Cinco de Mayo. Whether it was meant for some Bucs fans or his new head coach is unclear. But one thing is certain, he’s not happy. Maybe that was Bruce Arians plan all along. Maybe he just said those things to light a fire under McCoy’s ass. Maybe Arians thinks that a pissed off version of McCoy with a chip on his shoulder is better than the “aw shucks” Mr. Nice Guy version that we’ve been seeing in Tampa for the last 9 years. Bruce Arians is notorious for playing mind games with some of his best players. Maybe that’s what he’s doing with McCoy. Maybe it’ll work. Maybe it won’t. We should find out soon enough. The Buccaneers mandatory mini-camp begins on June 4th, which means Gerald McCoy will have to make his first appearance at One Buc or he’ll be fined by the team. It will be interesting to see if he shows up.
Until then, as always…