TAMPA — Bucs fans who thought Gerald McCoy had too much squeak in his clean are going to love the way Ndamukong Suh leaves a trail of muddy footprints wherever he plays.
Suh was voted the NFL’s Dirtiest Player in a poll of 103 players from 31 teams in 2012.
He has stomped on quarterbacks and offensive linemen alike. He has been fined and suspended and soiled his own reputation.
Whereas McCoy is a real people person with the gift for gab, Suh can be aloof and has carried an enigmatic personality on and off the field.
Make no mistake, both McCoy and Suh are accomplished NFL stars nearing the end of their careers.
McCoy has gone to six Pro Bowls, Suh to five. Suh was the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Overall, McCoy is a better pass rusher. Suh is a better run stuffer.
Suh will come cheaper than the $13 million McCoy was supposed to earn in 2019. But the cheap shots may come with him.
And when you boil it down, the reason the Bucs have essentially taken a do-over of the 2010 draft is because they hope Suh is not past his grime.
Why else would the Bucs have reached an agreement, according to ESPN, on a one-year deal with Suh on Tuesday, less than 24 hours after releasing McCoy?
The timing is not coincidental.
The Bucs didn’t cut ties with McCoy until they had his replacement all but signed, sealed and hoping he will deliver.
We are still getting to know new Bucs coach Bruce Arians, but a couple of tendencies have come into focus. He wants his players to be angry workers. If they don’t have an edge, he will manufacture one for them like he did by telling the media last week that Vernon Hargreaves wasn’t “mentally” ready to practice when in reality the Bucs’ cornerback said he chose to sit out due to a “lingering injury."
On Tuesday, before multiple reports confirmed the agreement, Arians didn’t want to talk any more about McCoy.
“We’ve already moved on," Arians said. “Simple as that. I’ve been through this so many times."
When asked about Suh, Arians said, “I can’t talk about him. He’s not on my team. "When reminded Suh is a free agent, he said, “He’s a hell of a player so we’ll see.”
Say this for Suh, he is durable. He has missed only two games in his career, and that’s when he was suspended for stomping on Packers guard Evan Smith on Thanksgiving in 2011. Smith now plays for the Bucs.
The next Thanksgiving, the league fined Suh fined $30,000 for kicking Houston quarterback Matt Schaub. After Suh was taken to the ground, his foot swung toward Schaub and hit him in the groin area.
In the 2013 season opener, Suh erased an INT with an illegal block on Vikings center John Sullivan and the league fined him $100,000.
The NFL suspended Suh for the NFC wildcard game for stepping on Aaron Rodgers leg during the fourth quarter of a 30-20 loss in the final game of 2014, which clinched the NFC North for Green Bay.
Shortly after signing a six-year, $114 million contract with the Dolphins before the 2015 season, he reportedly disregarded play calls from defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle and “freelanced” at times in a Week 2 loss to the Jaguars.
Of course, Suh would argue that he has cleaned up his act and played just to the echo of the whistle these last few years. But did the Bucs really get any better with this move?
Bucs fans complained about McCoy’s dwindling sack numbers. He had six in each of the last two seasons and led the team with 21 quarterback hits in 2018.
But Suh isn’t going to make any quarterbacks nervous until after the whistle. He had 4.5 sacks in each of the past two seasons. That includes last year when he played next to the Rams’ Aaron Donald, the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year who led the league with an astounding 20.5 sacks.
Vita Vea is no Aaron Donald, not yet anyway, but you have to expect opponents to slide protection to Vea’s side this season.
It’s beyond ironic how McCoy and Suh have crossed paths. They were rivals in college. McCoy at Oklahoma, Suh at Nebraska. Suh went No. 2 overall to the Detroit Lions. McCoy went No. 3 to the Bucs in 2010.
Both wear No. 93.
You wonder if the Bucs’ will allow Suh to take McCoy’s number.
Hey, the Rams are believed to have an interest in signing McCoy along with the Chargers and Patriots, to name a few.
Suh has been available since March with no real nibbles. McCoy should be snatched up in a matter of hours.
But Arians and general manager Jason Licht may just want the Bucs to be tougher. To be grittier. That’s what they said when they signed center Ryan Jensen last season, and his 120 penalty yards were the sixth-most in the NFL.
Unfortunately for Suh, his reputation, fair or unfair, won’t afford him the one thing every new player deserves: a clean slate.
Contact Rick Stroud at [email protected]. Follow @NFLStroud.