Should players be paid for what they’ve done, or what they will do? Well, if you’re Le’Veon Bell, you want to paid for what you’ve done.
If you’re a first-round draft pick, you’d like to be paid for what people think you will do.
The right answer? There isn’t one. It’s a balancing act of rewarding past behavior and securing future contributions. Every situation is unique.
Get it wrong, and a general manager not only puts the future of their franchise at risk, but their own career.
Every year, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers pay their players to perform. Winning is what matters most, but the value of a player lies in a non-specific calculation of value vs expense.
Bottom line, if a player isn’t performing up to his paycheck, then he isn’t worth the money he’s being paid.
This is true of all professions really. But in the NFL, we all know how much each and every one of them is making. And in this series, we’re going to take a look at some of the biggest names on the 2018 roster to find out whether the Buccaneers got ripped-off, got a bargain, or if they got what they paid for.
Since he cost the Bucs the most in salary cap space on the defense this year, we’re starting with...
Defensive Tackle, Gerald McCoy
2018 CAP EXPENSE: $12.75 Million
TEAM COMPARISON: 2ND ON TEAM; 1ST ON DEFENSE
LEAGUE COMPARISON: 57TH
POSITION COMPARISON (DL): 14TH; 6TH AMONG *DTs
As the most expensive player on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ defense for 2018, its no surprise there was a ton of pressure on Gerald McCoy to lead from the front - literally and figuratively - and become the first Bucs defender to notch double-digit sack numbers since Simeon Rice last did it in 2005.
The franchise quarterback was suspended, and his future in doubt. A new defensive tackle had just been drafted, and a veteran defensive end by the name of Jason Pierre-Paul was brought in via trade by general manager, Jason Licht. Finally, the defensive line was going to help carry the load, and they were led by McCoy.
Did the line produce fair value for the investment put in to it by the Bucs? More importantly, today, did McCoy?
McCoy played in fourteen games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2018, missing some time due to injuries. Nothing out of the ordinary in the NFL business unfortunately.
In fact, no other defensive tackle on the roster played more in this battle of attrition. McCoy led all interior defenders with 28 tackles (17 solo, 11 assists), six tackles for losses, and six sacks.
He was also the only defensive tackle listed with a recorded pass deflection.
Expanding the view to the entire defensive line, McCoy finished tied for third in tackles, tackles for losses, sacks and pass deflections.
To answer the question about whether or not he earned his top earnings spot on the team is difficult. Not all positions play the same way, and not all stats are easily compared.
However, when you consider rookie defensive tackle Vita Vea tallied half the sacks in around half the starts (Vea started eight games, McCoy had fourteen), and that both Vea and McCoy had the same amount of tackles - with Vea having more solos - and then add in that Vea had just two fewer tackles for losses, it’s hard to justify McCoy’s top spot on the team.
It’s hard to be king. Just ask Simba. Or any other king, fictional or not.
Where McCoy gains back much of his value though, is in pressures. He may not have become the first double-digit sack guy since 2005, but he led the team in quarterback hits with 12.
Only he and Jason Pierre-Paul had 20 or more. Nobody else had more than fourteen.
Solid tackling is a thing of beauty. Quick, tell me the NFL record for tackles in a single season.....
If you’re a Bucs fan, you might know it off the top of your head. Because it belongs to Hardy Nickerson who tallied 214 in 1993. Since 1993, no single player has even come close to breaking the record. Ray Lewis has the most since ‘93 with his 156 tackles in 1997.
So, safe to say, teams aren’t paying defensive linemen to break tackling records. They’re paying them for sacks and for quarterback pressure. Emphasis is on sacks though.
That single-season record is held by Michael Strahan, who recorded 22.5 - kind of - in 2001. Since then, six other players have had twenty or more sacks in a single season. Four of them being defensive lineman, including Aaron Donald who had 20.5 just this year.
No surprise then, that Donald also led the NFL in sacks this season.
McCoy on the other hand, finished 37th in the league in the same category, and tied for eighth among defensive tackles, with his six sacks in 2018.
Here’s a final stat people seem to love. McCoy was paid over $2 Million per sack this season. Donald made less than $500,000 for each of his.
Grain of salt: this is cap cost, not bonus, incentives, etc.
Stats don’t tell the whole story. They never have. What they offer is just one lens to view a multi-layered picture through.
The value of a player extends beyond the field of play. Which is why it was news when the team didn’t vote McCoy in as a captain for the 2018 season.
Prior to this season, McCoy had been a captain on the team for six straight years. Every year since 2012.
McCoy played it off. He had to. But if you don’t believe it wounded his ego just a bit, I doubt you’ve ever been in a locker room.
In January of 2018, McCoy was a Pro Bowler and a Pro Bowl captain at that. One year later, he’s not a Pro Bowler, not a captain on any team, and is on the lips of just about every Bucs fan, media member or casual observer wondering if and how the team might open up some more cap space for 2019.
Pro Football Reference founder, Doug Drinen, has developed his own equations to measure what he calls, Approximate Value (AV). In it, Drinen tries to put a number value to players for their holistic contributions to the team.
For 2018, McCoy - the leagues fourteenth most expensive defensive lineman and Tampa Bay’s second-highest cap investment - tied for 343rd with a value of six.
So, how did the Bucs make out with this investment for 2018?
Tampa Bay didn’t get ripped off, by any means. McCoy’s 38 quarterback pressures tallied by Pro Football Focus consisted of his six sacks, twelve hits, and 20 hurries.
Those are solid numbers and places him 19th among interior defensive linemen. However, he was paid to be Top-10 on the interior and Top-15 on the defensive line among his NFL counterparts. Which he simply wasn’t.
What does it mean for the soon to be 31-year old and his future in Tampa Bay? Well, that decision is Jason Licht’s. The vote is yours. So, what do you think?
What are your thoughts on Gerald McCoy?
This poll is closed
He was overpaid but the Bucs still need him
He was overpaid and needs to go somewehere else
He wasn’t overpaid and needs to stay
He wasn’t overpaid, but I still want him to be traded or released
The Bucs got a bargain with McCoy in 2018
The Bucs got ripped off by McCoy in 2018