TAMPA — It’s time for the Bucs to make a decision. Rip the Band-Aid off. Frozen molasses doesn’t move this slow.
Does Gerald McCoy stay or does he go?
A couple weeks ago after the NFL draft, coach Bruce Arians began to call out of the names of the Bucs returning players on defense like Santa’s reindeer: Now Stewart and Davis and Hargreaves and Vea. On Allen and Evans, Pierre-Paul and David. But do you recall the most famous Pro Bowler of all?
Nope. Not one mention of McCoy.
But this week, the situation is likely to come to a head.
That’s because all the talk about McCoy not being worthy of his $13 million salary, all the Twitter trolls insisting he should be participating on the off-season workout program, well, it finally got to him.
McCoy took to his Instagram account to post a video of him working out Sunday, his children in tow.
“Cinco de Mayo,’’ McCoy said in the video. “Everybody out, probably getting ready to drink, probably drinking right now. No matter. You want to question me? See what I do on Cinco de Mayo. I work. I work.
“And I’ve got my kids with me. How many people doing that? All-Pro on and off the field. Want to question me? ‘Is he going to be ready? Does he love football?’ What? Y’all crazy. Lost y’all mind. I work. Don’t you ever question me!”
Surely this gets decided long before the quarto de Julio.
If the Bucs thought a trade for McCoy would materialize during the draft, it didn’t happen.
Really, they have nobody to blame but themselves.
Wasn’t it at the league meetings in Arizona at the end of March when Arians all but said McCoy was no longer worth what they are on the hook to pay him in 2019?
“I got to evaluate him,” Arians said. “I mean, guys at a certain age, it’s different. Usually, the age they get paid the most and production (doesn’t) match. We’ve got to find that out.”
When asked what the film said, Arians also didn’t help McCoy’s value.
“He’s not as disruptive as he was four years ago. He’s still a good player,” Arians said. “If he’s here, he’s our starting three-(technique). No doubt about that. Would I like to see him more disruptive? Yeah. We can use him. If he’s here, he’s going to be used a bunch. It’s just a matter of what happens.”
Finally, and this may be what McCoy referred to about people questioning if he loves football, Arians seemed to wonder if the six-time Pro Bowl player still had a passion for the game.
“You still see his enthusiasm for the game. If he still has all that, I’m fine,’’ Arians said.
Seems like McCoy answered that one himself on Instagram Monday.
It’s a shame, really. No matter whether you disliked him because he wasn’t Warren Sapp or blamed him for all the losing seasons, McCoy will be remembered as one of the best players to wear a Bucs uniform. His name will be in the Ring of Honor. They won’t be handing out No. 93 when his career is done in Tampa Bay.
But for some reason, McCoy still dangles.
The Bucs have only about $1.8 million under the salary cap, meaning they don’t have enough room to sign their draft picks.
They don’t need to sign them until the end of July, so time is on their side. And there are other players they could release to get the $8 million or so they need to sign draft picks.
Maybe the Bucs believe if they sit tight, some team will give them a low-round draft pick for McCoy.
But is that enough compensation to hold McCoy hostage?
If the Bucs do plan to part with McCoy, you have to assume they would like to try and prevent him from going to an NFC South team. Bucs lore is full of former players who have come back to haunt them.
Know this about McCoy: he’s in tremendous shape. He looks as lean as he did when he was selected No. 3 from Oklahoma in 2010. He also is motivated. McCoy rarely plays angry, but that’s the way he will start 2019.
McCoy believes he can play another 3-4 years. He’s made well north of $100 million, so money won’t be the main motivator. He wants to win a Super Bowl ring.
But will it be playing for the Bucs?
I don’t think the Bucs have tried to offer McCoy a chance to stay for less money. As soon as you suggest to a player he take a salary cut, the rest of the league will know you plan to release him.
If the Bucs plan to move on from McCoy, the one thing that would be helpful to them is if he didn’t sign with an NFC South team. Inasmuch as they can control his next landing spot, you would think they would want to do that.
It’s a crazy thought, but what if the Bucs believe they would be better off keeping McCoy? He did have six sacks and 21 quarterback hits last season. What if Vea gets hurt?
We’re almost through the looking glass now. If the Bucs have any notion of McCoy returning for 2019, they better start building a bridge for him to return to the AdventHealth Training Center.
Right now, it’s on fire.
Contact Rick Stroud at email@example.com. Follow @NFLStroud