NFL Mock Draft Monday: How does Gerald McCoy’s return affect the Buccaneers’ draft plans?

If Quinnen Williams is sitting there when Tampa Bay is on the clock, what will general manager Jason Licht do?
Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is one of seven players who have recorded at least six sacks in every season since 2013 (Cameron Wake, Ryan Kerrigan, Carlos Dunlap, Chandler Jones, Cameron Jordan and Olivier Vernon are the others.) [Associated Press]
Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy is one of seven players who have recorded at least six sacks in every season since 2013 (Cameron Wake, Ryan Kerrigan, Carlos Dunlap, Chandler Jones, Cameron Jordan and Olivier Vernon are the others.) [Associated Press]
Published February 25
Updated February 25

“Either you can play football or you can’t. PERIOD!!” Gerald McCoy tweeted recently.

As it turns out, GMC will be playing football in 2019, and as Rick Stroud reported over the weekend, he’ll be doing so for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, putting to rest speculation that the team might trade or release the veteran defensive tackle to gain salary cap space.

The decision to keep him makes a lot of football and financial sense. One could argue that even though 2018 wasn’t his best season, it was still a very good season and the best among Bucs defenders. Though Jason Pierre-Paul recorded more sacks (12.5 to McCoy’s six), McCoy generated pressure at slightly higher rate. At $13 million, his 2019 cap hit will be one of the highest among interior defenders, but it’s a figure that’s consistent with his production. If Dontari Poe of the Panthers is worth a $9.3 million cap hit in 2019, surely McCoy is worth something in the $11 million to $13 million range.

So how will McCoy’s return affect the Bucs’ plans for the draft, which is exactly two months away?

On the surface, it would seem to eliminate interior defensive lineman as a need, but don’t be so quick to dismiss the possibility, especially if a talent like Quinnen Williams falls to Tampa Bay at No. 5. Williams was an absolute game-wrecker at Alabama, racking up 10 sacks and 26 tackles for loss in 24 games. (McCoy in his final 27 games at Oklahoma: 12.5 sacks and 26.5 tackles for loss.) Plus, the Bucs have shown a willingness to take the best player available. Take, for instance, their selection of O.J. Howard in the first round of the 2017 draft.

Speculation over McCoy’s future will fade for now but will return stronger than ever in 2020 for two key reasons: 1.) He will be 32 next year. 2.) His contract at this point is essentially a year-to-year deal. Tampa Bay can release him next winter and not suffer any salary cap penalties, even though his contract runs through 2021 ($12.5 million cap hit in 2020 and $12.9 million cap hit in 2021).

Retaining McCoy for the 2019 season does, however, give the Bucs the flexibility to focus on holes at edge rusher, cornerback and offensive tackle, which are the positions most mock drafters have them targeting.

Here’s a fresh batch of forecasts:

Charley Casserly, NFL.com: Clelin Ferrell, defensive end, Clemson

“The Bucs need a pass rusher opposite Jason Pierre-Paul.”

Walter Cherepinsky, walterfootball.com: Jonah Williams, offensive tackle/guard, Alabama

(Cherepinsky projects the Bucs will trade the No. 5 pick to Washington and move down to No. 15.) “Jonah Williams had a great freshman year as Alabama’s right tackle. He then took over on the blind side with Cam Robinson gone. Charlie Campbell spoke to sources who believe Williams will be taken in the second half of the opening round.”

Luke Easterling, USA Today’s Draft Wire: Jonah Williams

(Easterling projects the Bucs will trade the No. 5 pick to the Broncos and move down to No. 10.) “After moving back and adding additional picks, the Bucs barely miss out on (Ed) Oliver but end up with another talented prospect at a bigger position of need. Williams would be an immediate upgrade over right tackle Demar Dotson, who isn’t getting any younger and has struggled to stay healthy. Williams could also be the long-term solution at left tackle if Donovan Smith doesn’t get an extension.”

Doug Farrar, USA Today’s Touchdown Wire: Deionte Thompson, safety, Alabama

“Put simply, Tampa Bay’s pass defense is a mess. The Bucs ranked dead last in Football Outsiders’ opponent-adjusted defensive metrics and 30th against the pass. Chief among the team’s issues is a safety situation that needs to be rectified across the board. Thompson, the best and rangiest deep defender in this class, and he has the skills to cover in the slot as well. This is a team in desperate need of a tone-setter in the secondary, and Thompson fits the bill.”

Kalyn Kahler, Sports Illustrated: Jonah Williams

“With Bruce Arians in as head coach, Tampa Bay will continue to rely on the deep passing game, putting a heavy burden on their pass protectors. Williams is a versatile athlete who can succeed at guard or tackle.”

Danny Kelly, The Ringer: Josh Allen, outside linebacker, Kentucky

“The versatile Allen is a perfect fit for the Buccaneers’ new hybrid 3-4/4-3 defense under coordinator Todd Bowles. In the team’s blitz-heavy scheme, Bowles would have no problem deploying Allen in variety of roles, rushing him off the edge at times while dropping him back into coverage to disrupt passing lanes at others. He can do it all.”

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Greedy Williams, cornerback, LSU

“They need to get help at corner to go with some of their younger players from last year. Williams will battle to be the top corner in this class.”

Rob Rang, NFL Draft Scout: Deionte Thompson

“The Bucs were horrific against the pass in 2018, surrendering 34 touchdowns (second worst to Oakland) with just nine interceptions. With multiple investments already made at cornerback, adding an instinctive ballhawk at free safety like Thompson might be the best way to solidify Tampa's secondary.”

Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports: Quinnen Williams, defensive tackle, Alabama

“Had Quinnen Williams been gone, Greedy Williams would be the pick here, and I still think he'll be near the top of the Buccaneers' board when that crystallizes closer to the draft. But the Williams from Alabama would form a stellar interior pass-rushing duo with 2018 first-round pick Vita Vea.”

RELATED STORY: Mel Kiper discusses his surprising Bucs prediction

Mock draft tracker

What will the Bucs do in the first round? A roundup of draft analysts’ predictions:

Will Brinson, CBS Sports: Jonah Williams (last update: Feb. 11)

Bucky Brooks, NFL.com: Devin White, linebacker, LSU (Feb. 11)

Charley Casserly, NFL.com: Clelin Ferrell (Feb. 25)

Walter Cherepinsky, walterfootball.com: Jonah Williams (Feb. 25)

Luke Easterling, USA Today’s Draft Wire: Jonah Williams (Feb. 25)

Doug Farrar, USA Today’s Touchdown Wire: Deionte Thompson (Feb. 25)

Daniel Jeremiah, NFL.com: Josh Jacobs, running back, Alabama (Feb. 11)

Kalyn Kahler, Sports Illustrated: Jonah Williams (Feb. 25)

Danny Kelly, The Ringer: Josh Allen (Feb. 25)

Mel Kiper, ESPN: Montez Sweat, defensive end, Mississippi State (Feb. 18)

Todd McShay, ESPN: Jonah Williams (Feb. 11)

Matt Miller, Bleacher Report: Ed Oliver, defensive tackle, Houston (Feb. 18)

Pete Prisco, CBS Sports: Greedy Williams (Feb. 25)

Rob Rang, NFL Draft Scout: Deionte Thompson (Feb. 25)

Mike Renner, Pro Football Focus: Clelin Ferrell (Feb. 11)

Chad Reuter, NFL.com: Josh Jacobs (Feb. 11)

Chris Trapasso, CBS Sports: Quinnen Williams (Feb. 25)

Ryan Wilson, CBS Sports: Quinnen Williams (Feb. 11)

Lance Zierlein, NFL.com: Quinnen Williams (Feb. 11)

Past Mock Draft Mondays

Feb. 11: A lesson from the Bucs’ 1995 draft

Feb. 18: How the Kyler Murray decision and the Joe Flacco trade shake up the first round

Contact Thomas Bassinger at [email protected]. Follow @tometrics.

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