The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been talking to Gerald McCoy's agent to reach an agreement for a contract extension. They've been talking since at least the start of this offseason, and probably a little longer than that. Talks like that tend to happen in spurts and things don't tend to come together until they hit deadlines, so a lack of an agreement is not surprising.
Part of that delay was caused by both sides wanting to wait on Ndamukong Suh. They can stop waiting: Detroit Lions president Tom Lewand told the media yesterday that they've given up on trying to extend Suh. That means the Bucs are going to have to set the market, and that's going to be very expensive.
DT's Suh/McCoy due to old rookie contract system won't be franchised. Clubs at mercy to pay whatever they ask or risk them going free agency— Mark Dominik (@MarkdominikESPN) July 29, 2014
Don't worry about the disaster scenario of Gerald McCoy leaving in free agency. That's not going to happen. But franchising the massive defensive tackle in 2015 will be an issue. Per Joel Corry, that would cost the Bucs a whopping $18.39 million (via Greg Auman) because they would need to pay him 20% more than his current cap number. That's nearly as much as Ndamukong Suh's current cap hit of $22.4 million. Detroit kind of messed up that contract situation.
Despite that massive cap hit, the Bucs are likely to take that if that's the only way to keep McCoy in Tampa. He's too important to their scheme and too good of a player to run the risk of him leaving. The Bucs are more likely to sign him to a long-term contract before they're forced to use the franchise tag on him. But that contract is not going to be cheap, and McCoy's not about to cut friendly deals for Jason Licht and company.
"When an opportunity presents itself for you to get paid, you need to get as much as you can," McCoy said prior to signing his rookie contract in 2010, according to ESPN. Nothing wrong with that attitude: teams will screw over players at every opportunity they get, so returning the favor is only fair. These players aren't risking their health and future earnings for charity, after all. But it does mean that he's not going to be cheap for the Buccaneers.
At least Gerald McCoy has consistently noted that he won't hold out. Not that he has any reason to hold out, given his $15.6 million cap hit this year. The Bucs will have to set the market with McCoy, however. He's on a contract worth $11 million per year, and the only other defensive tackle not named Suh who even approaches that number is Geno Atkins at $10,5 million per year. But when Geno Atkins signed his contract extension he was on a much cheaper rookie deal, which significantly lowered his leverage.
Ultimately, I wouldn't be surprised to see McCoy approach as much as $14-$15 million per year. As much as any defensive lineman has managed on the open market, with the exception of the absurd contract gifted to Mario Williams in 2012. McCoy already counts for nearly $16 million against this year's cap, and with over $10 million in cap space this year they have plenty of room to increase McCoy's cap hit as necessary (it's not). Cap space won't be the issue.
But McCoy holds all the leverage in these negotiations. Using the franchise tag on him is much too expensive. He's an All-Pro player who would comment a giant contract on the open market. The Bucs have made him into the focal point of their entire team: he's the face of the franchise. The coaches and front office have not been shy in praising him, and neither has anyone else. McCoy's camp knows the Bucs will do anything to keep him -- and they're going to use that to get as much money out of the front office as they can.