This team is clearly lacking something. Two losses where we were outscored by 73 total points show that. While we’re not there yet, the results of the coming weeks’ games may find us calling this season a wash and looking forward to next season. Where will we be, personnel-wise, at that point? What positions will we be looking to fill? Right now, it looks like any and every position with no one immune to the chopping block, including self-proclaimed team leader DT Gerald McCoy (#93).
With earnings from television figuring into the cap for the 2015 season, the cap is expected to jump to about $140 million. The Buccaneers have roughly $94.5 million of that already tied up, leaving us with $40 million. This should leave us with enough room to pay our “best defensive player,” right? But should we?
If we want to rebuild this team, no. The $94.5 million that is already tied up only accounts for 35 players’ contracts. That means 18 players are up for contracts next year (not including members of the practice squad). Hypothetically, we could sign all 18 players to league-minimum $510,000 with a total combined cap hit of $10 million. That’s not to say we will be paying all 18 at league minimum–many of our linebackers, including LB Mason Foster (#59), are up for free agency, as well as several veteran members of our secondary. But best case scenario, we would have $30 million leftover to spend in free agency and on draft picks.
Forget what paying 18 players league minimum while you give one player a fat $15+ million contract would do for team morale. If this season has taught us anything it is that spending big in free agency is not the silver bullet to a winning season. This offseason saw the Buccaneers forking out a lot of money to high-dollar players. And we’re now 1-5. Not much better than last season. We spent $9 million for the promise of a dominant edge rusher that would hound the quarterback. $3.5 million went toward another defensive tackle that was supposed to bring winning experience and help McCoy strengthen the middle of the line. Roughly $10 million paid for that secondary that is currently more reminiscent of a wet paper bag than a competent professional unit. And you don’t even want to know what our abysmal offensive line cost.
Our defensive line as a whole cost $34 million in 2014, more than half of the total money spent on the entire defense. We were promised a team to win now, which justified the big contracts. But it is clear throwing money at the team is not working. At this point we should be looking forward to the draft to build the team instead of counting on big names to bring us a championship, or hell, even a winning record.
And McCoy is probably the biggest name we have. He is currently being talked about in the same breath as DE JJ Watt (#99) and DE Robert Quinn (#94). “Defensive Player of the Year” and “Gerald McCoy” have been mentioned together on occasion. He is coming off his best season statistically. Now is the time that his value is highest, which means two things: he will want a big contract; and his trade value will be at its peak.
DT Ndamukong Suh (#90) is in the last year of his rookie contract and made $22 million this year. Watt just signed a 6-year $100 million contract, the largest ever doled out to a defensive player. While Watt’s cap hit is only $4 million this year, he also received a $10 million signing bonus. Next year he will rake in about $22 million.
McCoy’s rookie contract averaged to $11 million a year. With his fellow defensive linemen bringing in record contracts this year there is no doubt McCoy will expect comparable or elect to test the market in free agency. If he does the latter, the Buccaneers will gain nothing from his departure. Trading him prior to the October 28 trade deadline could reap the Buccaneers some much-needed draft picks next year, as we are already down one pick due to the Mankins trade, and an opportunity to begin rebuilding.
And let’s face it: how much could his absence hurt the team? Quite frankly it can’t get worse. We need all the help we can get and one player just isn’t going to do it.