Ndamukong Suh will bring a reputation and style of play to the Bucs that contrasts greatly with the good-guy image of Gerald McCoy. While Suh has never gotten in trouble off the field, he’s drawn penalties and fines during his career — particularly in his early years — because of an unsparing approach.
He’s unlikely to put himself in a leadership role, but his brand may change the attitude of the defensive unit. How much of the decision to move on from McCoy and finalize a deal with Suh is the result of Coach Bruce Arians wanting to change the culture of the defense? We convene a roundtable to get answers.
A contagious, surly attitude might be welcomed
Rick Stroud, Bucs beat writer @NFLStroud: There was no way the Bucs were going to pay Gerald McCoy $13-million. Forget whether he was worth it. The team’s salary cap situation was so bad, they couldn’t afford it. When McCoy made it clear he wouldn’t take a pay cut to remain in Tampa Bay, there was really no other option. Although agent Ben Dogra was given permission to talk to other teams about a possible trade, the league knew there was a good chance McCoy would become a free agent. But it’s not a coincidence Ndamukong Suh is the player the Bucs chose to replace McCoy. Suh is a stronger, bigger man who will be a better fit in Todd Bowles 3-4 defense. And I think there is some truth to the belief that Bruce Arians wants a new tone setter. Suh has been voted the dirtiest player in the NFL by his peers and fined more than $600,000. Suspended three games. The Bucs don’t want a repeat of that behavior, but they do want the kind of aggressive passion that led to it. He will be playing next to Vita Vea, whose demeanor is much closer to McCoy’s. The Bucs wouldn’t mind a little Suh rubbing off on their second-year defensive tackle.
It’s about the Benjamins
Eduardo A. Encina, Bucs/pro sports enterprise writer, @EddieintheYard: If the Bucs were looking to add some edge to their defensive front, that’s one thing. But the prevailing feeling I get from this is that it’s more about the money. The Bucs needed a cheaper alternative to Gerald McCoy and Suh provided one. A lack of forethought regarding contracts and cap space is what brought us to this awkward point. Suh will be playing for his third team in three years, which speaks to the notion that he’s more of a mercenary than a mentor. A young Bucs defense needs more of the latter from a veteran newcomer. Suh played his best football in the postseason last season, but that also seems to be part of the reason the Rams didn’t retain him, because he reportedly didn’t show the same motor during the regular season. So how will Suh respond playing for a Bucs that often found itself playing from behind last season and doesn’t look overwhelmingly better than last year’s five-win club?
Finances drove this train
Thomas Bassinger, sports data reporter, @tometrics: I’m not sure NFL people think of Suh as a “culture guy.” In fact, that was one of the reasons the Dolphins released him after the 2017 season; they wanted a culture that didn’t include him. To me, releasing Gerald McCoy and signing Ndamukong Suh are financially driven decisions. The Bucs needed to clear salary cap space, and McCoy and his $13 million salary were the casualties. Suh, presumably, will play for less than $13 million. Make no mistake: Suh isn’t coming to Tampa Bay because of the team, the coaches or the beaches. He wants to make money. He has never hidden that. He’s a hired gun.
My kind of guy?
Ernest Hooper, columnist/assistant sports editor, @hoop4you: All the reasons listed above about money and contracts prove valid. And, Suh does appear to be a better fit in a 3-4 scheme and was arguably the best defensive tackle available in the free agent market. Still, I can’t escape this nagging feeling that Bruce Arians wants to instill more of a no-nonsense attitude. Jason Pierre-Paul’s declaration of needing players who “keep it real” echoes in my mind, even though we don’t know if that was aimed at McCoy. The removal of hip-hop music at practice and the much-beloved ping-pong table’s exit from the locker room send another signal. Plus, don’t forget that after one particular Suh suspension in 2012, Arians praised Suh. McCoy may very well contribute to a team’s success in 2019 and even get a Super Bowl ring, but after years of struggle, maybe Arians and the staff decided this unit needed a villainous infusion instead of a guy who loves comic-book heroes and helps opponents up after knocking them down.