Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has been the face of the franchise for almost a decade. This relationship, however, is spiraling towards a hostile break-up.
Heading into the 2010 NFL Draft, most Buccaneer fans and draft pundits pegged Tampa Bay to select one of the top two defensive linemen. Those two defensive tackles were Ndamukong Suh from the University of Nebraska, and Gerald McCoy from the University of Oklahoma. With the 3rd overall selection, the Buccaneers drafted McCoy after Suh went one pick earlier to the Detroit Lions.
Since then, McCoy has gone on to play nine seasons, all with Tampa Bay. His tenure included six Pro Bowls and a first-team All-Pro selection. McCoy has been a staple of the organization, and was the so-called “face of the franchise,” until Jameis Winston was drafted 1st overall in 2015. Without a doubt, McCoy has cemented himself as one of the greatest players in Tampa Bay history. His number 93 will one day hang in the Buccaneers Ring of Honor.
Throughout all the success and accolades, however, it has been a roller coaster relationship between the fan base and McCoy. Dating back to the pre-draft evaluations between McCoy and Suh, there has always been a stigma attached to McCoy. From the laid back personality in comparison to other defensive linemen with more angry and violent play to the sack numbers compared to other elite defensive tackles, some fans find lesser value in McCoy.
This fan perception has now seemed to be in the minds of the decision makers inside the organization. This off-season has not been a positive one for McCoy. You would be hard pressed to find anyone inside One Buccaneer Place who has made a case to keep McCoy on the roster. Typically, a player of McCoy’s caliber and reputation across the league garners more respect than that.
With everything that McCoy has brought the community and city of Tampa, the organization’s behavior shows how the business side of the NFL is as ruthless as any. McCoy has seen his production drop and just last year missed his first Pro Bowl selection since 2011. Tampa Bay hired new head coach Bruce Arians in January, and along with general manager Jason Licht, they have since been as non-committal as possible regarding McCoy’s status for the upcoming season. It took a drastic turn during the owners meeting in Arizona just this past week.
Speaking with reporters, Arians called into question how much enthusiasm McCoy has. In addition to stating how he isn’t as disruptive anymore and how his price tag doesn’t match the production. The lack of certainty ultimately prompted McCoy to be a no show for Tampa Bay’s voluntary workouts this week. It is the first time in McCoy’s professional career that he has not shown up for any team workouts.
It is hard to fathom how the organization got into this mess. McCoy was one of the top defensive tackles in the league just a year ago. His trade value was at least decent, and now they are having a hard time getting anything of value in a trade for their star defensive lineman. A plethora of new coaches and defensive schemes throughout his career doesn’t help, on top of the constant losing as well. The Buccaneers are putting together their best staff now at the end of McCoy’s tenure, which is very unfortunate. From the time he was drafted, the Buccaneers have never made the playoffs. McCoy had his prime years wasted with inferior supporting casts and defenses schemes that made back-up quarterbacks look like Hall of Famers.
The Buccaneers currently have the least amount of cap space. It is only a matter of when, not if, the Buccaneers cut ties with their 6-time Pro Bowler. The “deadline” so to speak, would be during the 2019 NFL Draft. Using McCoy as a trade piece to move up in certain rounds may make the most sense to get the most value and also helps ensure they find a replacement for McCoy at the same time.
Tampa Bay could also decide just to cut McCoy after the draft if they couldn’t find any trade partners. With salary cap required to sign their draft picks, this is a move that would be necessary. The Buccaneers were able to trade for defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul last offseason for a 3rd round pick. Pierre-Paul was 29 and didn’t have any off-field issues. McCoy currently has drama with the organization and is older at 31 years old. With that in mind, many imagine the best Tampa Bay could do in a trade for McCoy would be a 4th-5th round pick.
With how everything has played out this off-season, the relationship looks to be coming to an end in an unfortunate way. I want to say thank you. Thank you, Gerald McCoy, for everything you have put into being a Tampa Bay Buccaneer. Not a lot of people get to meet the players, and not everyone gets to see the big picture. Before and after every game, McCoy would stand and wait until he finishes signing for every fan that wanted his autograph. He would have a conversation with anyone and was always joyful in doing so. McCoy made people felt like they were important.
There is not a single person out there that can say anything negative about McCoy, the person. Off the field, McCoy was always a significant influencer in changing people’s lives. It is one of the many reasons why he was a Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee. From helping families in need during the holidays to volunteering with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Social Justice Board, McCoy brought a positive impact that goes far beyond football.
For all of those reasons, in addition to all the hard work and everything accomplished on the field. You will always be one of the best players and people in team history. Everything that you have done is very much appreciated and will not be forgotten. Good luck in the future and whatever it may bring. Just remember, you will always have a home in Tampa Bay and a prayer for you at the 50-yard line.