Gerald McCoy is staying in the NFC South.
There’s definitely some shade involved in the NFC South carousel of DTs triggered by the Buccaneers cutting McCoy, a six-time Pro Bowler and three-time All Pro. It moved up a notch when they replaced McCoy with Ndamukong Suh – and Suh took his #93 jersey. Clearly unimpressed McCoy got his revenge, deciding to stay in the NFC South and sign with the Carolina Panthers over the Browns or Ravens, going up against his former employees twice a season and saying “I’m home, baby” as he was introduced. The one cherry missing on top is that McCoy won’t be returning to Raymond James Stadium in a Panthers uniform in 2019, as that game will be played in Tottenham.
Vendettas aside, it is a one year deal, worth up to $10.25M, with a $4M signing bonus and a $3M salary. The Panthers have more cap room ($16.4M prior to McCoy signing) to play with than their division rival Bucs and McCoy adds some strength in depth on the defensive line. McCoy joins a more competitive team, leaving a team who averaged less than six games a year and never made the playoffs for one right on the bubble of the playoff race. The Panthers also run a similar 4-3 scheme that McCoy has thrived in at the Bucs (who are moving to a 3-4).
One concern is that as his numbers have declined, McCoy has been known in recent years to ‘cheat’ and rush up the field to get a jump on the pass rush while not taking full account of the rush. Alongside a talented line, with the experience of Bruce Irvin, Dontari Poe and Kawann Short, McCoy will feel less need to improvise and go against Eric Washington’s play calling.
While the Panthers do need to be wary of McCoy improvising, he is still a talented, athletic specimen. Pass rush was the biggest weakness of the Panthers last year, with just 35 sacks, sixth worst in the league. They have addressed this strongly, replacing the retired Julius Peppers with Bruce Irvin, drafting Brian Burns and Christian Miller, as well as adding McCoy. Burns and Miller have some great veteran pass rushers to learn from in Carolina, if they don’t develop into top pass rushers in the league over the next two years, it will be on them.
From a British perspective, there is good news and bad, as we will get to see the McCoy Bucs feud on our shores on October 13th. That said, it will offer fewer opportunities to Efe Obada, potentially putting him on the roster bubble.
The Panthers were average across the board of defensive statistics, ranking between 12th and 18th in key categories, being particularly strong in rush defence and interceptions, though ranking 27th in sacks was a problem, though an outlier. Adding McCoy, as well as their draft and other offseason work, will help to move the Panthers up towards the top end of the rankings, making the Panthers harder to penetrate, as they have been in the past under Ron Rivera.
Adding Gerald McCoy may not be the key piece that helps them make the playoffs, but their offseason defensive additions as whole may just put them over the edge.