Gerald McCoy could be ideal pickup for Kansas City Chiefs

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 24: Gerald McCoy #93 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reacts after scaking Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 24, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 24: Gerald McCoy #93 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers reacts after scaking Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers during their game at Bank of America Stadium on December 24, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /

The Kansas City Chiefs can afford a patient approach, but they’d be wise to target Gerald McCoy as a defensive addition for the 2019 season.

The latest reports out of Tampa Bay only embolden a long-held belief about the 2019 Buccaneers roster: longtime defensive tackle Gerald McCoy has no place on it.

In a perfect world, perhaps new head coach Bruce Arians would certainly welcome the franchise’s star defender on Todd Bowles’ newly installed defense. However, the fit is not only odd (or at least new to McCoy), but the six-time Pro Bowler’s declining production and $13 million price tag tip the scales of the argument to seeing what the team can get for him.

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Michael Lombardi is reporting the Bucs are “shopping him hard” but getting nowhere. For a still effective lineman with fringe Hall of Fame credentials, it might be surprising that McCoy isn’t drawing as expected, but the market is frozen. Ndamukong Suh remains available several weeks after free agency opened. Danny Shelton is also available, as is Tim Jernigan, Corey Liuget, and Muhammad Wilkerson.

When you add in the absolutely loaded draft class filled with young, cost-controlled, talented defensive line options, it’s not surprising that teams have pressed pause on any further acquisitions until they see how the draft board falls their way. For a team holding onto a potential trade asset, like McCoy, it means further patience is required. Why give up a draft pick when so many vets are already on the market?

The Player

For a team like the Chiefs, such an acquisition makes a lot of sense, however. Brett Veach, the team’s general manager, can afford to be patient if he so desires, but for a new team with the money available, McCoy is a solid veteran addition. For the Chiefs he would also come at a point of need.

At this point, McCoy is not the game-changing force he was when he went to six consecutive Pro Bowls from 2012 to 2017, but Arians even recently noted that teams continue to have to game plan around McCoy’s presence. The evidence backs him up.

McCoy has averaged six sacks per year over the last two seasons for the Bucs, and has helped draw offensive attention away from Jason Pierre-Paul and Vita Vea. He’s also averaged 15 starts per season for the last seven years, which means interested teams can feel good about McCoy’s ability to provide a season’s worth of influence. Pro Football Focus ranked McCoy as a top 30 defensive interior lineman last year and graded him as above average to good in both run defense and pass rushing. Basically, McCoy remains a very good, all-around player who comes with a wealth of experience.

The Fit

For the Chiefs, the defensive line has been a major focus as they remake the front, a unit anchored by Chris Jones with newly installed parts like Alex Okafor and Emmanuel Ogbah around him. Along the interior, Xavier Williams remains under contract for one year and Derrick Nnadi is an impressive rookie who should develop well in his second season. Together with Justin Hamilton, the Chiefs defensive interior is likely solid enough to start the season now.

That said, there’s plenty of room for improvement here, even if it forces some tough decisions around Williams and/or Hamilton. McCoy is a major improvement above either on the field, and the idea of putting young players like Jones, Nnadi, Tanoh Kpassagnon and Breeland Speaks next to McCoy for a year or more sounds like a nice influence.

The Chiefs have a lot of situating to do across the defensive line, but McCoy is versatile enough to help in any capacity. Last year he slid out to play end 141 total snaps, but he’s adept at playing either interior slot in a four-man front. Picture the ability to play Jones, McCoy, Speaks and Okafor with rotating options like Williams, Nnadi, Ogbah and Kpassagnon. That’s a nice, deep line that can withstand the rigors of a long playoff run.

The Money

Financially, the move also works, but this is true of any veteran defensive lineman the Chiefs might want to add. On the Chiefs side, the team currently has over $23 million in cap room and that’s before another $9.5 million in cap savings hits on June 2 (thanks to the Eric Berry release). McCoy’s salary fits right in and still gives the Chiefs plenty of room for the regular season cushion of $10M or so along with money for the draft class.

On the flip side, McCoy’s contract is structured pretty nicely for a team to take him in on a trial basis. Any team, Bucs included, can drop McCoy’s $13M cap hit for zero penalty. There’s no guaranteed money left, which means next year’s total of $12.5M or 2021’s total of $12.9M are entirely on McCoy to prove he’s still worth that amount of money. It’s pricey, yes, but with the ascending salary cap, McCoy could be a renewable asset completely in the Chiefs control.

The Hunger

Here’s the intangible side that simply has to be in play for McCoy: the postseason.

It’s hard to believe but McCoy has never played in a single playoff game in his stellar career. The Bucs have been the NFC’s version of the Cleveland Browns over the last decade or more, rotating head coaches like reality show cast members. Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano, Lovie Smith, Dirk Koetter and now Bruce Arians. Gerald McCoy has seen a lot of men come and go who promised success in the NFC South.

Here’s how bad McCoy has had it in the NFL: he’s only finished out of last place twice in his NFL career. McCoy, a fixture among the NFL’s best defenders of his generation, has also been a fixture in the division’s basement. During his rookie year, the Bucs finished 3rd (out of four), and three years ago, Dirk Koetter finished 9-7 to claim a second place finish in a weak year for the division.

McCoy has a lot on his resume to speak of, and perhaps he could even find himself in the conversation for Canton, if he were to add a strong late career burst. Imagine the thrill of jumping from a basement-dwelling franchise to the league’s most exciting offense and a Super Bowl contender. Imagine the move from a coaching carousel to a future Hall of Famer in Andy Reid.

If McCoy naturally has quite a bit left for a team like the Bucs, is it not feasible that he could reach for something more for the chance to carve out some postseason glory? It would be an amazing story for both the Chiefs and McCoy if he were to become a building block that helped put this team over the top.