SINCE the beginning of their NFL journey’s defensive tackles Gerald McCoy and Ndamukong Suh have been linked to one another. Drafted 2nd and 3rd overall respectively in the 2010 NFL Draft, both players have annually been in the mix for Defensive Player of the Year honours for the past decade and now, both players are linked once again. Quite swiftly in the last week, Tampa Bay opted to cut McCoy and replace him with his former draft peer in Suh. Did they make the right move though?
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AFTER 123 games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it wasn’t a complete shock to see Gerald McCoy part ways with the club. A new head coach in Bruce Arians brings with him defensive coordinator Todd Bowles who will be eager to carve out his own scheme for Tampa Bay, one that doesn’t have room for McCoy. Axing the decorated Buccaneer was a difficult decision, but it’s helped them avoid a $13 million dollar cap hit, opening up the space to pay his replacement in Ndamukong Suh as well.
WHILE McCoy has stayed put during his NFL tenure, Suh’s experience has been rather different. After spending his first five seasons with the Detroit Lions he has spent the last five bouncing between the Dolphins, Rams and now Buccaneers. With him, Suh has taken a reputation for being a dirty player and a potential locker room issue. So why exactly did Tampa Bay make their latest move?
YOU could make the point that McCoy is the ‘better’ pass rusher, despite his career numbers almost mirroring Suh’s. Through their first nine pro seasons, both D-linemen own similar career sack numbers (McCoy – 54.5, Suh – 56.0), Pro-Bowl nods (McCoy – 6, Suh – 5) and All-Pro selections (McCoy – 4, Suh – 5), however, they are not the same player by any means. Suh’s versatility to play multiple positions across the defensive line will give Bowles a reliable tool who can help plug gaps where necessary for the developing Buccaneers outfit.
AS I’ve pointed out though Suh has bounced around to multiple teams and has had his up’s and down’s throughout his pro career. Landing in Tampa Bay gives him yet another chance at a fresh start, but after being in the league for the better part of a decade you have to wonder whether Suh’s attitude and reputation will ever change. Turning McCoy into Suh is a problem the Bucs have forced themselves in to given their current financial strain, for better or worse.
LENGTHY contract commitments to Mike Evans, Cameron Brate and a trio of offensive linemen left Tampa with one of the most expensive payrolls in the league a season ago, with their financial future still under siege. The pending payday for quarterback Jamies Winston will hang over the team for the bulk of the season as well, and while moving on from McCoy for Suh may sting a little, saving every penny they can will help the team in the long run.
Image from buccaneers.com
SUH landing in Florida (again) gives him a chance to finish out his career on a developing pass rush attack while allowing the Bucs the financial flexibility to sign their newly drafted rookies to build the foundation for generation next. On the surface, a versatile defensive lineman in Suh could be a great tool for Bowles to utilise, but things could also go pear-shaped quickly. Taking a one-year $9.25mil gamble on the former Defensive Rookie of the Year is a risk worth taking, even if it seems like a desperate move to cover the hole left in their defense.
MCCOY probably deserved a better send-off by the Bucs, but he’ll get paid his worth in the near future. Recently meeting with AFC North squads Cleveland and Baltimore should see McCoy find a new NFL home in the coming weeks, allowing him a chance to contribute to a winning NFL team. Boasting a winning percentage of just 36.1% during his time with the Buccaneers, McCoy can still play meaningful down in the pro’s and Ndamukong Suh may be able to do the same thing. For a small financial gain though it’s a risky route the Bucs have taken, one that could propel Arians’ time in Tampa, or it could be the start of another ugly chapter in the franchise’s history.