Just like Thanos’ snap. Just like a torrent of dragon fire reducing armies and stone buildings to ash within seconds. Just like the swing of a lightsaber - it’s over.
Within the span of one day, after nine seasons as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Gerald McCoy is no longer a part of the franchise.
The move came as no surprise, really. Tampa Bay has no cap room. They don’t even have enough to sign the number five pick, Devin White.
Scenarios such as this are pretty frequent in nature. Jerry Rice played for two teams after he left the San Francisco 49ers. Peyton Manning joined the Denver Broncos after the Indianapolis Colts. Reggie White went to the Green Bay Packers after playing for the Philadelphia Eagles. These days, it’s basically guaranteed that players will play for more than one team at some point in their careers.
The NFL is a business and once players become expendable, all bets are off.
Now obviously, the definition of expendable is subjective in most of these cases. Paralleled context isn’t always the case and in McCoy’s instance it was mostly about his $13 million cap hit and the lack of cap room held by the Bucs.
But why now? Why make the move after such a delay?
The strategy is questionable at best and the treatment of the situation has been odd in its own right.
We’ll start with the strategy.
Bruce Arians has been fluid when discussing McCoy’s future with them team in 2019. He was noncommital when discussing the three time All-Pro at the owners meetings back in March. A report later surfaced that the Bucs haven’t had any luck in trading McCoy. Then, Arians labeled McCoy as the “three-technique” for the defense as recently as two weeks ago.
McCoy notably schowcased his frustrations on Cinco de Mayo when he posted a video slamming his critics/doubters while also using the video as a platform to show that he is still dedicated to playing the game.
Bucs Gerald McCoy made sure everyone knew he was grinding on Cinco de Mayo: “Lost y’all mind. I work. Don’t you ever question me”— Bleacher Report NFL (@BR_NFL) May 6, 2019
(via @Geraldini93) pic.twitter.com/U0ZfnYJukQ
So why the back and forth over the past few months? One would think that the Bucs did in fact want to keep McCoy due to a lack of depth along the defensive line. But it’s also reasonable to believe the Bucs wanted something in return and shot themselves in the foot holding their cards to the chest.
Even if they couldn’t find a suitor, cutting McCoy before the draft would’ve rendered itself as a forward-thinking move. The Bucs could’ve drafted a potential replacement - fourth round pick Anthony Nelson has been listed as OLB on the most recent depth chart - or used the extra money to sign a player or two in hopes of providing depth - or even start - along the line.
Now, the Bucs are forced to dip into 2019’s free agent-reject pool in hopes of finding someone to take McCoy’s spot, and the options aren’t so great - as expected.
On the bright side, the Bucs can now sign their draft class and sole depth players, but they’ve also backed themselves into a corner.
Whomever they sign is not likely to be on the team next year just based off the available players. Do you really see Ndamukong Suh playing for the Bucs in 2020? What about Muhammad Wilkerson, a player that Todd Bowles himself released?
Nah, me either.
So now the Bucs must look to the future to fill yet another hole on a roster that already has plenty of issues, instead of taking the proactive route and planning ahead.
Really goes against the grain of the “win now” mentality, right?
The strategy also coincides with the treatment of the entire situation. How much did the Bucs and McCoy actually speak with each other throughout all of this? Were both parties as honest and up-front as possible? How does this affect the other players’ mentality?
Well, Lavonte David answered that last question last night on Twitter:
— Lavonte David (@LavonteDavid54) May 20, 2019
Now there’s more to this than just the release/treatment of McCoy. Both players have been with each other since 2012, so there is an obvious bond, but what do the new players think of the situation?
McCoy is a grown man and knows how the NFL works, so he will likely use this as motivation for wherever he goes next, but this could lead to some unintended consequences later on down the road. Especially if the Bucs hold the record for the NFL’s longest playoff drought after 2019.
Where things go from here will be interesting, to say the least.
But by answering this question, the Bucs have arguably created more uncertainty.
There is one certainty, however, and that is the fact that this is the end of an era in Tampa Bay and its one that may hold more weight than originally thought when revisited in the future.
Until then, thanks for your time in Tampa Bay, Gerald and good luck to wherever you go in the future.