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FAB 1. McCoy Refused Bucs’ Pay Cut Offer
Former Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy made a controversial appearance on FoxSports’ Skip And Shannon: Undisputed show with hosts Shannon Sharpe, Skip Bayless and Jenny Taft where he talked about the lack of respect he was shown by Tampa Bay on the way out the door.
McCoy made a big deal about not getting a phone call from anyone in the organization and the fact that the team gave Ndamukong Suh his No. 93 jersey right away. But there was a much bigger quote that isn’t receiving the attention it deserves.
This quote is actually tied to the catalyst for everything that happened.
That catalyst being the fact that McCoy was offered a chance to remain a Buccaneer, but that he had to take a pay cut in order to do so.
“Did they offer you a restructure or did they just want to part ways?” Sharpe asked McCoy.
“It was a little bit of both,” McCoy said. “It wasn’t technically a restructure. We tried to come to a decision of what we could do … and we just had to … nah.”
McCoy is right. It was a little bit of both, and he admits that it wasn’t a restructure. That means it was an offer to take a pay cut.
The Bucs wanted to keep McCoy – but at the right price. He was offered the chance to stay, but refused to take a pay cut. That led to the team parting ways with him this offseason.
I texted McCoy about this revelation on Thursday: “When you were asked by Shannon if you were asked to restructure why didn’t you say, ‘The Bucs asked me to take a pay cut but I refused?’”
McCoy replied back to my text: “Where are you getting your info? You’re obviously mistaken with the info you’ve been given. If you had facts you would know why I didn’t say that.”
I replied, “So you were not asked to take a pay cut by the Buccaneers?”
“Ask them,” McCoy said in his reply to me, refusing to answer the question directly.
I told McCoy I was asking him, and at the end of our text chat, I asked him one more time: “So you are saying the Bucs did NOT ask you to take a pay cut?”
McCoy replied to me: “My decision WAS NOT based off money. You and your colleagues stop writing it was about money. I have plenty of money. Y’all thinking everything is about money proves y’all never knew me. Goodbye Scott!! I’m done.”
McCoy’s decision not to take a pay cut was not about money in his mind. I believe the reason why he didn’t take a pay cut wasn’t over dollars and cents, rather it was about his perceived value to the team. I’m guessing McCoy believed he was worth $13 million in principle, and due to his importance within the organization and his longevity with the franchise, he shouldn’t have to take a pay cut.
To the Bucs, it was about dollars and cents. They needed to create some salary cap room and believed his value had gone down and that McCoy was not worth $13 million anymore.
Another important fact that PewterReport.com previously reported is that the Bucs were trying to trade him during the offseason. In the end they couldn’t get a deal done, largely because of his $13 million salary, and were forced to release him once the team had ramped up negotiations with Suh and had McCoy’s replacement lined up, which was the smart business move to make.
In essence, McCoy brought this all on himself.
Had he taken the pay cut, and I don’t know how much of a cut the team offered – $3 million? $5 million? – McCoy would be a Buccaneer and not a Panther today. And he would be wearing the No. 93 jersey – not Suh.
New Bucs head coach Bruce Arians stated it plainly at the NFL Owners Meeting in Arizona when he said that the 31-year old McCoy had reached an age were salary and production didn’t coincide as his sack numbers had dipped to six over the past two seasons.
“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.”
I’ve previously reported that Bucs general manager Jason Licht has been enamored with Suh for quite some time, dating back to 2014 when he was tempted to land Suh in free agency during the 2015 offseason. But coming off a very unexpected 2-14 season in Lovie Smith’s first year as head coach, trying to land Suh would have meant breaking the bank for him in free agency and there wouldn’t have been any guarantee that Suh would have chosen Tampa Bay over Miami.
So Licht did what he thought was best, which was to re-sign McCoy to a contract extension during the 2014 season rather than risk losing him in free agency and failing to land Suh as a replacement. Losing McCoy and not signing Suh would have crippled Smith’s defense and could have cost Licht his job. McCoy ended up re-signing with Tampa Bay for far less than what Suh received in Miami.
Fast forward to 2019 and Licht had the chance to possibly get Suh again. When McCoy refused a pay cut, that made Licht’s decision a rather easy one. He could sign Suh, who he, Arians and defensive coordinator Todd Bowles believed would be a better fit in Bowles’ defense due to his experience in the Rams’ similar 3-4 scheme, and still achieve the objective of saving some salary cap space. Suh signed for $9.25 million per year, which was $3.75 million less than what McCoy was supposed to make.
So knowing this, let’s examine all of the somewhat controversial statements McCoy made on Skip And Shannon: Undisputed and review them through this lens.
“As far as signing him (Suh), organizations have to do what they have to do when you let a player of my caliber go, so I understand that,” McCoy said. “But as far as giving a way my number, in the history of (the) Bucs they have a Ring of Honor and all of the greatest players in the organization usually get their numbers retired. When Sapp left – Sapp was one of a kind – but John Lynch, Brooksy (Derrick Brooks) – all these guys left – Lee Roy Selmon, Ronde Barber. When all these guys left, nobody wore their number. They didn’t give their number away, and it was a sign of respect.”
That’s a true statement. However, what no one is mentioning is the fact that the Bucs did not have a player with the credentials rivaling that of a Sapp, Lynch, Brooks, Selmon or Barber immediately join the team and request any of those numbers at the time.
Suh is a five-time Pro Bowler, and a five-time All-Pro, including a three-time first-teamer, in addition to being the NFL 2010 Defensive Rookie of the Year. He’s worn No. 90, which is currently worn by Bucs outside linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul, and also No. 93, which became vacant following McCoy’s departure.
Was it disrespectful to give Suh McCoy’s No. 93 jersey? It was in McCoy’s eyes.
But wouldn’t it be just as disrespectful to tell Suh, “Hey, Ndamukong, we know you’ve branded yourself as No. 93 and created that identity for yourself throughout the last four years, but pick a new number?”
Of course McCoy has all those Pro Bowls and was a first-team All-Pro once, while Suh has yet to play a down in red and pewter. I could see why McCoy would feel disrespected, but guess who is in charge of the Bucs Ring of Honor and making jersey numbers off limits?
It’s not Licht, and it’s certainly not Arians.
That’s the Glazers’ territory, and ultimately they okayed giving away No. 93 to Suh right away.
“Well, six Pro Bowls, All-Pro four times – this is Tampa Bay, and I’m one of the best players to ever play in the organization. I’m going to say it. Usually I wouldn’t, so what? It kind of shows the respect and how they feel about me. I think it does. Them giving the number away, that’s their prerogative, but the respect they showed … it would be different if it was a guy who came in and he signed for four or five years. This was a one-year deal, and you said because he caused a problem or he really asked for the number and we gave it to him. It may seem just like a number, but it’s bigger than that. It’s respect. That was a big part of the separation between me and Tampa – period. It was the respect that they showed me all offseason. It wasn’t there.”
Ultimately, the Glazers and the Bucs organization don’t believe McCoy is in the same realm as Sapp, Brooks, Selmon, Lynch, Barber and others. Those players were legends.
McCoy was merely a great player in Tampa Bay, just like Simeon Rice and Hardy Nickerson were. And that’s not a slight on McCoy at all, as being one of the greatest players in a franchise is quite a feat. He just wasn’t a legend.
That’s not to say that McCoy may not be in the Bucs Ring of Honor one day. But in order for that to occur, the Glazers will have to change some of their selection criteria. Every inductee from late owner Malcolm Glazer to coaches John McKay, Jon Gruden and Tony Dungy to all of the players has one thing in common – they’ve all been a part of at least one playoff team in Tampa Bay.
Unfortunately, McCoy can’t make that claim.
The other criteria from the likes of left tackle Paul Gruber to tight end Jimmie Giles to fullback Mike Alstott and others is the fact that the current Bucs Ring of Honor inductees made their mark on the franchise’s record books. McCoy is the fourth-leading sacker in team history but doesn’t own a single Bucs record.
All McCoy has is his six Pro Bowls, which is a great individual accomplishment, but it’s still a bit hollow in the fact that he was not a part of a Bucs playoff team or that he made his mark on the franchise’s record books.
“One thing I’ll never is slander or disrespect the organization that changed my life, so I won’t do that,” McCoy said on Undisputed.
Yet McCoy spent most of the interview calling out the Bucs organization over the way he was treated and how he felt disrespected, so he was really talking out of both sides of his mouth.
“But what I will speak on is the truth,” McCoy continued. “The truth is, I did not speak to any of the coaches besides Bruce Arians without running into them while I was in the building working out. Nobody called my phone. I didn’t speak to my D-line coach. I didn’t speak to Todd Bowles. I didn’t speak to anybody. I didn’t speak to Jason Licht. I didn’t speak to nobody. If I’m supposed to be one of the staples, and have been one of the staples in this organization since I’ve been there … it would be different if they weren’t calling other people, but they were calling other people. You mean to tell me you can’t just pick up the phone? Hey, we’re here and I just wanted to introduce myself – none of that. I spoke to Todd Bowles and he’s a great man. This is not about the men. This is about what happened from the organization, period.”
Breakups aren’t easy – in love relationships or work relationships. Breakups are hard, and oftentimes awkward for any organization that is dealing with an iconic player.
Lord knows there have been some bad breakups in Tampa Bay throughout the years.
Cornerback Donnie Abraham, who was the Bucs’ all-time leading interceptor with 31 picks from 1996-2001, wasn’t even offered a contract extension by former general manager Rich McKay, and like McCoy, didn’t receive a phone call. Neither did running back Warrick Dunn, who was forced to sign with Atlanta in the 2002 offseason when he wasn’t given a contract extension.
Hall of Fame defensive tackle Warren Sapp never got a meeting with new general manager Bruce Allen in the 2004 offseason as the team opted to extend the contract of Booger McFarland rather than Sapp. That same offseason, legendary safety John Lynch offered to take a pay cut, but the team had concerns about his surgically-repaired neck and released him in a salary cap move.
Legendary defensive end Simeon Rice didn’t pass a physical on the first day of the 2007 training camp in Orlando and was cut later that night.
Former Bucs general manager Mark Dominik ushered in a youth movement in the 2009 offseason by parting ways with Hall of Fame linebacker Derrick Brooks, Dunn and veteran wide receivers Joey Galloway and Ike Hilliard and veteran linebacker Cato June all on the same day.
Should McCoy have gotten a phone call from Licht or Arians? What was there to say at that point – that McCoy was no longer in their plans, or that the team was now trying to trade him because he refused to take a pay cut?
How would McCoy have reacted to that news? Would he have taken to social media and bashed the team for taking that approach? He’s recently ripped ESPN’s Jenna Laine on Twitter and did the same to me last year before blocking our @PewterReport Twitter account.
In reality, McCoy’s first grievance with the Bucs and the supposed lack of respect he received from the team had nothing to do with phone calls or jersey numbers. It had to do with the fact that he was asked to take a pay cut in the first place. I believe McCoy felt devalued by being asked to take a pay cut.
McCoy believed he was worth $13 million. The market said otherwise, and Carolina ultimately said he was worth just $8 million. McCoy is actually the third-highest paid defensive tackle in Carolina now behind Kawann Short, who averages $16.1 million per year, and Dontari Poe, who averages $9.33 million per year.
“Nobody called me – not once,” McCoy continued. “I never spoke on that, but nobody picked up the phone. Not one time – to call me, to speak to me. I think that speaks volumes. Silence speaks volumes. A statement was made about me from our G.M., which is fine – everybody is entitled to (his) opinion. But when you go silent, especially when the media is slandering me, making up stories about, ‘Oh it’s a contract issue’ and all this. It’s easy. Just pick up the phone and say, ‘Hey listen, we’re not worried about none of that. We want to welcome you. We want to introduce ourselves as a new staff.’ None of that happened.”
How exactly was the media slandering McCoy? Which members of the media were making false and damaging statements about him?
McCoy’s departure was contract-related. He even admitted that to Sharpe when asked about “restructuring.”
“We met, but that’s all it was – a meet,” McCoy said about his meeting with Arians. “We didn’t meet. We didn’t sit down and talk for an hour. We didn’t talk about the plan moving forward. We didn’t say any of this. All that was said in the media was ‘We had to evaluate his play, and we evaluated him and he’s going to be our three-technique.’ Then it goes from ‘He’s going to be our three-technique’ to ‘He’s not enough and he hasn’t been the same over …’”
Arians was pretty clear with the media. If McCoy remained in Tampa Bay he would be the three-technique. But his remaining in Tampa was contingent on taking a pay cut, which McCoy refused to do.
“I have no hard feelings towards Tampa at all, but there comes a point in time where you have to show some respect, and I didn’t feel like they showed me the respect I deserved – that I earned. I’m not saying you give me respect for something I didn’t earn. I earned that respect. Tampa hasn’t been a winning team and we all know it’s hard – you know it’s hard to be considered a Pro Bowl, All-Pro person on a losing team. I did it six years straight. That’s hard to do. For the respect I received after doing that – they showed none. I don’t know why? That’s my thing. It’s not that I’m bad-mouthing them, I just don’t understand what happened. I don’t know why.”
Again, it’s pretty clear looking through the lens of McCoy not wanting to take a pay cut. His perceived value of himself was higher than that of the team’s value of McCoy. That’s okay because value is often a subjective measure. The two sides were at an impasse and they parted ways.
But remember that McCoy had an option to stay, and ultimately turned that down.
Sharpe asked McCoy if he believed if Arians or Licht was behind his release.
“Yeah, I know him,” McCoy said about Licht. “Bruce Arians doesn’t know me, but Jason Licht does. But overall, and you know how this goes, staffs and coaches talk to the G.M. and they have this meeting about what’s going to happen moving forward. I don’t know if it was a statement of, ‘Well, let’s not talk to him’ or ‘Let’s not do this’ – I don’t know. I wasn’t in the conversation.”
Once McCoy declined a pay cut, which was believed to be in late January or early February, he was really no longer in the Bucs’ plans. There was no need for Arians, Bowles or defensive line coach Kacy Rodgers to communicate with McCoy. What were they supposed to say?
Licht was under no obligation to look out for McCoy’s best interests by releasing him in early March so he could cash in on free agency. Licht’s obligation as the team’s general manager is to look out for the best interests of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. And that meant trying to trade McCoy to get something of value for him, such as a player or a draft pick.
When potential pre-draft and post-draft trade talks evaporated, and discussions with Suh began to heat up, Licht pulled the trigger and parted ways with McCoy, who ultimately had a hand in his own departure from Tampa Bay.