Waiting on a top free agent is nothing new for the Saints who took just about twelve days to sign arguably their biggest catch of the offseason in Jared Cook. Now, the Saints can turn their attention to another player we have all waited to have a his fate with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers determined. With the release Gerald McCoy being announced today by Rick Stroud on Twitter, the Saints simultaneously see a consistent threat in their division disappear, but also have a shot to bring him to New Orleans to line up with what would become one of the league’s most talented defensive lines.
The Saints added veterans Malcom Brown and Mario Edwards jr. earlier during the free agency period, so why would they need to grab another DT? It’s simple and you might have heard me discuss this several times on the ASC and Locked on Saints podcasts. Brown is a Nose Tackle and Edwards is more of a rotational piece. The Saints lack a 3-technique presence aside from David Onyemata to start the season. Of course, that is if Onyemata is not suspended to open 2019 play due to his offseason Marijuana possession arrest. While there has been no indication from the league at this time in regards to Onyemata being suspended, if that were to change come training camp, the Saints would be in a tight bind with Sheldon Rankins already expected to miss at least half of the season.
With that, McCoy has a clear and decisive role in the Saints defense before Rankins returns and can be a huge upgrade from Onyemata. Not to diminish Onyemata’s excellent growth and production in 2018. But McCoy is simply an upgrade over just about any other defensive tackle in the league.
So how do they do it? The Bucs cut McCoy in the interested of not paying him $13M in 2019 in addition to the rest of the three years remaining on his deal. Could the Saints afford to pay McCoy that price tag? of course they can. The Saints currently have $8.8M to spend in free agency without having extended or restructured one of the multiple options the Saints have including Cameron Jordan and Terron Armstead. What would be better than signing Gerald McCoy and extending Cameron Jordan all in a single series of corresponding roster moves? As for the money that’s owed to McCoy, if the Saints wanted to sign him to a 3-year $39M contract they could pull it off like so:
3-year $39M with $26M Guaranteed ($9M Signing Bonus paid over three years)
Year 1: $9M signing bonus | $4M base salary | 2019 Cap Hit: $7M (Payout: $13M)
Year 2: $13M base and bonuses | $3M of the signing bonus | 2020 Cap Hit: $16M (Payout: $13M)
Year 3: $13M base and bonuses | $3M of the signing bonus | 2021 Cap Hit: $16M (Payout: $13M)
New Orleans could then move on from McCoy after two years with only $3M in dead cap space should they choose to route some of his funds elsewhere. Now, that’s rudimentary math to make it through and Loomis can do a lot more sophisticated things to keep the signing both team- and player-friendly, but this is certainly an attainable player in terms of money. That is assuming that he actually commands that much. Remember, he was released because the Bucs were not willing to pay that amount, that could potentially cap his market right there. Also consider that he has not played a full season for the past two years.
The big test for the Saints will be beating out the competition. Adam Schefter tweeted out a few playoff contenders, kindly leaving the Saints out of the equation because they are clearly more immediate Super Bowl contenders anyway.
Certainly these other teams have a clear attraction for their expected success, except for the Jags I would say. The Browns and Patriots seem to be the most logical destinations for McCoy, but if the release did not end as amicably as we have been led to believe, the temptation to strike back at his old club might be too good to pass up. It is also clear that the Saints are the team to beat in the NFC whereas the AFC might be a tougher road to success. All of that, coupled with McCoy’s friendship with QB Drew Brees could be enough to sell him on coming to New Orleans. Check out John Sigler’s article from back in February on their relationship and other factors that might lead the DT to the Big easy.
Let us also not forget that the Saints had another defensive resurgence last season particularly following the trade for CB Eli Apple that caught a lot of eyes around the league. McCoy has the opportunity to join that band of brothers almost in its entirety as the Saints did a great job holding on to talent in the offseason. With the addition of McCoy, its hard not to expect to actually end up looking better in both rush and pass defense right off the bat. The six-time Pro Bowler is a terror in the passing game with 54.5 career sacks and 140 QB Hits but has also shown a strong acumen against the run as well grading an 81.1 run defense grade per PFF in 2018.
McCoy and the Saints could be a match made in heaven. He hits the market at 4pm eastern time on Tuesday. At which time, he is sure to be courted by 31 teams in the league. We can only hope that he goes the same route Jared Cook did and already has his mind made up. We have been waiting long enough already, haven’t we?
Follow Ross on Twitter @RossJacksonASC
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