Advertisement
  1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Bucs

Why Gerald McCoy will return for a 10th season with the Bucs

Stop the speculation: The six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle and his $13 million are a good fit for coach Bruce Arians.
Tampa Bay Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) warms up before a game against the Saints on Dec. 9. (MONICA HERNDON | Times)
Tampa Bay Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) warms up before a game against the Saints on Dec. 9. (MONICA HERNDON | Times)
Published Feb. 22, 2019

TAMPA — Last month, Gerald McCoy sounded like a player either preparing to move on to another team or adapt to his fifth head coach with the Bucs since 2010.

“Embrace change, even when the change slaps you in the face," McCoy tweeted four weeks ago.

Not much will change for the Bucs with McCoy, who will return for his 10th straight season. He also will earn $13 million — which eats up nearly 18 percent of the money spent on the defense — even though his 2019 salary was not guaranteed.

Bucs coach Bruce Arians and his staff have evaluated McCoy’s performance and believe he will be a good fit in the 3-4 scheme under defensive coordinator Todd Bowles.

While McCoy never doubted he would return to the Bucs in 2019 — playing at least one more season in Tampa Bay than Warren Sapp — there has been speculation that the salary cap-strapped team may either opt out of the deal, trade the six-time Pro Bowler or ask him to take a pay cut. None of that will happen, barring something unforeseen.

That’s because McCoy, 31, still is a player teams have to account for. While his sack numbers have plateaued with a total of 12 over the past two seasons, he led the Bucs with 21 quarterback hits in 2018. That’s one more than Jason Pierre-Paul, who led the team with 12.5 sacks.

The Bucs were historically bad on defense last season, allowing 29 points per game. But as Arians knows, you don’t get better by jettisoning one of your best players.

McCoy will be asked to make a transition to sometimes playing defensive end in the 3-4 alignment, much like the Cardinals did with defensive tackle Darnell Dockett. In reality, it often morphs into a four-man front with a stand up pass rusher which puts McCoy in his familiar defensive tackle position.

A year ago, the Bucs used their first-round pick on Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea, who suffered a calf injury the first day in pads and missed the next seven weeks. Vea showed promise after returning to record 3.5 sacks. The Bucs also could use their No. 5 overall pick in the NFL draft to select another pass rusher.

What helps McCoy is that that there is a glut of defensive tackles available in free agency, making a trade more difficult.

The Bucs are about $18 million under the salary cap and have several of their own free agents they want to re-sign, including left tackle Donovan Smith, linebacker Kwon Alexander and receiver Adam Humphries.

But McCoy’s contract is still within market value. Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, for example, earned $14.5 million on a one-year deal with the Rams. He is a free agent along with veteran defensive tackles Grady Jarrett, Sheldon Richardson and Muhammad Wilkerson.

Besides, McCoy still is one of the most productive players as his position in the NFL. His 54.5 sacks rank fourth among NFL defensive tackles.

So G-Mac is back. And it turns out he was right when he tweeted “4-3, 3-4, 5-2, Nose guard, 3-tech, DE, doesn’t matter. Either you can play football or you can’t. PERIOD!!”

That’s no slap in the face.

What about other potential casualties of the salary cap?

Keep in mind, a lot of decisions will be made after the NFL draft in April.

• Tight end Cameron Brate, who will earn $7 million this season, had 30 receptions for 289 yards and six touchdowns, will also return for 2019. He played despite a hip injury, postponing surgery until the end of the season. While Brate he has seen his playing time reduced since the arrival of tight end O.J. Howard two years ago, Arians is intrigued by having two pass-catching tight ends in his offense.

• WR DeSean Jackson, who asked to be traded last Oct., may get his wish if a team is willing to swallow his $10 million, non-guaranteed contract. Arians has talked about re-recruiting Jackson, but the Bucs already own his rights so he can’t play anywhere else at the moment. Who knows if he will attend any of the offseason workouts or OTAs. The Bucs could take this one all the way through the preseason if they want to.

• Defensive tackle William Gholston has a base salary of $3.75 million for 2019. He had only 10 tackles and one sack last season. But again, there is no urgency here except to clear salary cap room.

• DT Mitch Unrein suffered a concussion early in training camp, eventually was placed on injured reserve and never played. He has a $1 million roster bonus and a $2.75 million base salary. The question is whether is unable to pass a physical, in which case some injury protections come into play.

Read more:

Related: Injured LB Kwon Alexander loves ‘everything’ about remaining with the Bucs
Related: Expect Bucs to use franchise tag on Donovan Smith if a long-term deal can’t be reached

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert, who finishes with 220 yards rushing and four TDs, breaks away from the Green Bay Packers during the first half of their NFC Championship Game on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in Santa Clara, Calif. [TONY AVELAR  |  AP]
    Little-known Raheem Mostert, a former skateboarder-turned-surfer-turned-football player out of New Smyrna Beach High, has a historic game, rushing for 220 yards and four touchdowns.
  2. Kansas City Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill catches a touchdown pass in front of Tennessee Titans defensive back Logan Ryan during the first half of the AFC Championship Game on Sunday, Jan. 19, 2020, in Kansas City, Mo. [CHARLIE RIEDEL  |  AP]
    KC falls behind once again, this time 10-0, before rallying in the AFC Championship Game.
  3. East quarterback James Morgan, of Florida International University, (12) during the first half of the East West Shrine football game Saturday. [CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP]
    Morgan, who leads his East team to a pair of touchdowns, raises his draft stock as do a few others the Bucs should keep an eye on.
  4. Jason Garrett had success against the Giants as Cowboys coach. Now he will face Dallas as New York's new offensive coordinator. [RON JENKINS  |  AP]
    The recently fired Dallas Cowboys coach stays in the NFC East.
  5. Steve Young was a supplemental draft pick of the Bucs in 1984 and started 19 games for Tampa Bay in 1985 and 1986 before he was traded to the 49ers for a pair of draft picks in 1987. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS [Tampa Bay Times]
    The Hall of Fame quarterback played two seasons with Tampa Bay before winning a Super Bowl with the 49ers
  6. A Super Bowl matchup involving former Buccaneers great John Lynch, left, and the San Francisco 49ers and Ryan Tannehill, right, and the Tennessee Titans could be tough to stomach for Tampa Bay Buccaneers fans. [Associated Press/DIRK SHADD | Times]
    Rick Stroud | For a lot of reasons, including gifting wins to both teams and GMs who got away, this would be a bad match up for Tampa Bay.
  7. Miami LB Shaquille Quarterman (55) during drills for the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field on Monday. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    “They don’t yet have the mentality of a Miami Hurricane,” the linebacker says during the days leading up to the East-West Shrine Game.
  8. Todd Monken spent two seasons in Tampa Bay, the last as offensive coordinator, before being dismissed along with the rest of head coach Dirk Koetter's staff after the 2018 season.
    Tampa Bay’s former play-caller will be designing game plans for the Bulldogs against the Florida Gators next season.
  9. San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch before an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Minnesota Vikings on Jan. 11. [TONY AVELAR  |  AP]
    The former Bucs and Broncos safety has his team one win from the Super Bowl.
  10. Florida receiver Josh Hammond (18) on the field during practice for the East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field on Monday. [DIRK SHADD  |  Tampa Bay Times]
    Plus Plant High product Jake Fruhmorgen’s journey from Clemson to UF to Baylor to the East-West Shrine Game.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement