There were segments of the Tampa Bay fan base and the media that cover the Bucs that felt the team didn’t show enough respect to former All-Pro defensive tackle Gerald McCoy by hanging onto him until earlier this week when he was released. Critics of McCoy’s late offseason release claimed the Bucs hurt McCoy’s chances of cashing in on a big unrestricted free agent pay day.
According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, that isn’t necessarily the case. Stroud reported on Friday that McCoy is scheduled to meet with the Browns on today, and there are also a number of other teams who have interest in the six-time Pro Bowler.
Gerald McCoy has been overwhelmed by the amount of interest he’s received. Ten teams are involved with offers as high as $11-million per year. Glazers could’ve dragged this process out but his release by the Bucs is appreciated by McCoy. He will visit the Browns Fri.
— Rick Stroud (@NFLSTROUD) May 24, 2019
Yet there was a reason why the Bucs chose to hang on to McCoy into late May.
A league source told PewterReport.com that Tampa Bay and an undisclosed team were very close to a trade deal that would have sent McCoy to that team for a draft pick or picks, but the deal fell through in the 11th hour. The Cleveland Browns, which are hosting McCoy on his first free agent visit, had been most the most linked team to McCoy this offseason in terms of interest, but PewterReport.com can also confirm it was not the Browns that the Bucs were dealing with in regards to a possible trade.
While McCoy could have possibly earned even more had he had been released prior to free agency beginning in March, Jason Licht’s first priority as the Bucs general manager is to the franchise – not McCoy.
The Buccaneers have paid McCoy nearly $114 million since making him a first-round draft pick in 2010, including a contract extension in 2014 that included $51.5 million in guaranteed money.
In hindsight, perhaps the Buccaneers could have handled McCoy’s release differently because ultimately they were not able to deal him, but in the end, attempting to get anything in return for the six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle was the right move for the team that paid him handsomely over the past nine seasons.
It appears both sides are pleased with the conclusion of the parting of ways, as the Buccaneers have since signed Ndamukong Suh and will save close to $4 million in salary cap space, and McCoy himself thanked the Buccaneer organization and said he appreciated his release. McCoy also stated he would return one day to retire as a Buccaneer.