Bucs general manager Jason Licht and new head coach Bruce Arians appear to have some real commitment issues.
The two men atop the Bucs power structure at AdventHealth Training Center at One Buccaneer Place seem to have a hard time committing to defensive tackle Gerald McCoy suiting up in red and pewter for a 10th year.
Could it be that they are trying to trade McCoy in the coming weeks, as they did with DeSean Jackson after suggesting at the NFL Scouting Combine that the Bucs wanted to keep him around this season too – only to ship him off to Philadelphia a week later for a sixth-round pick?
Sure seems like it.
When asked about McCoy’s future in Tampa Bay at the NFL Scouting Combine nearly a month ago, Licht and Arians spoke in generalities about the six-time Pro Bowler. They want McCoy, who is under contract through 2021, to come back, but the stop short in saying that definitively.
“It’s just hard to say that about any player right now,” Licht said. “It’s just we have so much between now and free agency, the draft, OTA’s, offseason, I can’t just say definitively on anyone. I can tell you he’s a great player, and ideally we would love to have him back.
“I can say ideally we want Gerald McCoy here. He’s under contract and I want him to be back.”
At the Coaches Breakfast at the NFL Owners Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona on Tuesday, Arians didn’t sound so sure
“He is on our team,” said Arians. “He plays three-technique and we have a three technique that penetrates. He did it as well – whenever that was – four years ago … Would I like to see him more disruptive? Yeah. We can use him. If he is here, he is going to be used a bunch. It is just a matter of what happens.
“He is not as disruptive as he was four year ago, but he is still tough. He is still a good player. If he is there, he is there. He is our starting three-technique. There is no doubt about that.”
Guess who has the final say in McCoy playing for the Buccaneers in 2019?
Licht and Arians.
So why can’t they commit to McCoy?
Licht and Arians can end all of this drama by coming right out and saying that McCoy, who has recorded six sacks in each of the last two years in Tampa Bay, will be a Buccaneer this season, lining up at the three-technique defensive tackle spot once again as he has for the last decade.
But they aren’t.
So what’s the hold up? It goes back to the premise that the Bucs are attempting to trade him.
It’s obvious that the Bucs are weighing their options with McCoy around two things – finding an eventual replacement and his $13 million base salary he’s due to make this year.
Tampa Bay doesn’t have an ideal replacement for McCoy on the roster right now unless the team wants to move Vita Vea, last year’s first-round pick, to three-tech and start Beau Allen at nose tackle. However, this year’s draft is flush with talent at defensive tackle from first-rounders like Alabama’s Quinnen Williams, Houston’s Ed Oliver, Clemson’s Christian Wilkins and Mississippi State’s Jeffrey Simmons to second-rounders like Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence and Notre Dame’s Jerry Tillery to mid-rounders like Western Illinois’ Khalen Saunders, Ohio State’s Dre’Mont Jones and Texas A&M’s Daylon Mack and Kingsley Keke.
So unless the yet-to-be-revealed plan is to move Vea to three-tech, the Bucs can’t get rid of McCoy until they have found their replacement in the draft, which means that McCoy could be dealt on draft day or shortly thereafter if Tampa Bay chose to go that route. If the Bucs don’t get a player they feel could adequately replace McCoy from this year’s draft the team might hold on to him for another year.
If Tampa Bay got the right draft pick compensation before the draft, you might see Licht pull the trigger between now and April 25.
As it pertains to McCoy’s high salary – he’s the fourth-highest-paid Buccaneer this year behind quarterback Jameis Winston, wide receiver Mike Evans and weakside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul – Tampa Bay is tight against the salary cap and could use having $13 million freed up to add another free agent or two at a position of need and have money to sign their draft picks this summer. The team will need over $7 million worth of cap space to accomplish that when the time comes.
“The financial is a big part of it,” Arians said. “I have got to evaluate him. [The] guy is up in age. It is different. Now it is usually the age where they get paid the most. And production and price don’t match. So we have to find that out. It is very hard because we can’t get in pads, but you can still see it. And you can still see his enthusiasm for the game.
“If he still has all that, then I am fine. As a coach, I coach who I got. I coach the guys that are there. Now if guys don’t show up, then don’t ask me about them. I ain’t talking about them. I talk about the guys that show up. We will see how that goes.”
If you recall, Arians and Licht said they wanted Jackson back in Tampa Bay this year, too.
What happened? It was all posturing, as Licht was working behind the scenes to trade Jackson and his $10 million salary to Philadelphia for a sixth-round pick.
This smells like posturing too, and no one should be shocked if McCoy winds up being traded within the next couple of months. There are currently seven teams with over $30 million in cap space, and a few of those teams, including the Indianapolis Colts, which have $74.5 million, could use a proven three-tech tackle who is still productive.
One thing is clear, the drama surrounding McCoy’s future in Tampa Bay is far from over.