The Tennessee Titans are the best fit for Gerald McCoy.
Gerald McCoy is being released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and his next move should be obvious: join the Tennessee Titans.
The 6-time Pro-Bowler and 4-time All-Pro and new Tampa Bay Head Coach Bruce Arians seemed like a bad fit from the get go. Reports as far back as February (go listen to the Locked on NFL Draft podcast from May 21st to hear in more detail) suggest that Arians was never going to keep McCoy on the roster.
After trying to trade him for months, the franchise gave up and decided to “mutually part ways” with one of the best defensive players in Tampa Bay history, and I don’t say that lightly.
Let me systematically break down why McCoy and the Titans are a perfect marriage.
There is a narrative that the Titans run a 3-4 defense, which I guess is technically true? They do have some elements of that in their game, but I would say the defense they run the most is a 4-2-5.
So this idea that they need fatter, space-eating nose tackles is wrong for a lot of reasons. The biggest of those reasons is that it isn’t 1984 and no team “needs” a space eater in the middle.
In the 21st century, you win and lose games based on your ability to pass the ball and your ability to stop the other team from passing the ball. To do that, you need someone who can affect the quarterback with interior pressure, not someone who stands straight up and holds onto a center.
With that in mind, an interior pass rusher who can still hold his own at the point of attack is a fit in any scheme.
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Pass rush upside
I talk a lot about how impressed I am that Ndamukong Suh has never had a season with less than five sacks. Similarly, Gerald McCoy has never had a healthy season where he didn’t hit five sacks and he hasn’t had a season with less than six sacks in the last six seasons.
The biggest weakness with the Titans defense last year was the lack of easy pressure from the front four. This year, Jon Robinson could possible change three of those four players swapping Brian Orakpo, Derrick Morgan and DaQuan Jones for Harold Landry, Sharif Finch/Cam Wake and McCoy/Suh.
Being conservative you can sort of project sacks in that front like this:
-Landry: 8 (had 4.5 last year in roughly half the snaps)
–Jurrell Casey: 6 (had 7 last year)
-*McCoy: 5 (hasn’t had less since 2011)
-Wake: 5 (never had less than 6 in his 10 year career, so this seems fair).
Just in front four starters alone you are adding 15 sacks, which would have been the difference in 16th (where the Titans were ranked last year) to being two ahead of the leader last year.
If this move is the final piece of that puzzle then it absolutely makes sense.
Short term opportunity
I know this isn’t ground breaking information, but the Titans need a DT opposite Jurrell Casey and have for half a decade. That is why they bit the bullet and drafted Jeffery Simmons in the 1st round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
If they are going to capitalize on the good years that Jurrell Casey has left, then they need to give him a chance to get his wind back on the sideline or at least prevent him from constantly getting extra attention.
In 2020 and beyond, the hope is that Simmons will be that dominant force that helps Casey. Still, 2019 is a huge year for this franchise.
For the first time in a decade or more, the team is set to lose above average starters in free agency as Jon Robinson’s first draft class is set to get their second contracts.
This year is crucial to seeing what everyone can be in the right circumstances and evaluating which players are worth the long term gamble of that second contract. The best way to find that out is by putting your best product on the field with competition at every position.
With a DT spot basically open for most of 2019 and an ideal rotational spot right behind Casey waiting if Simmons comes back, this fit is perfect.
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Long term value for McCoy
Teams love to sign veterans from winning teams who were productive. K.J. Wright, Tyrann Mathieu, and Za’Darius Smith are all players who probably benefited from playing on playoff teams in 2018. Having productive seasons or being seen as important in a certain scheme makes you very appealing to others around the NFL.
In most cases, front offices and coaches see a player hit free agency and think that they can get the same or more production out of them. Call it arrogance, ego, hubris, whatever. The point is that a nice stat line on a winning team can set players up for big contracts down the road.
If McCoy joins the Titans, I think he would be joining a 2019 playoff team and I know he would be joining one of the best defenses in the NFL.
If you are going to take a one-year prove it deal, why not do it in Nashville where you will put up good stats and won’t get critically examined if you go dark for a few weeks? No offense, but everyone remembers Derrick Henry‘s big December, but how many people really remember how bad those first eight or nine games were in 2018?
Plus is helps that Tennessee has the perfect tax situation for him and could offer him a lot of money.
Potential compensatory pick for Titans
I said earlier, Tennessee is facing an offseason where they are going to struggle just to keep their own players from hitting the market. If that is the case then we will probably see them lose a few in order to land some compensatory picks.
I am going to end with some team building ideas, so if hypothetical stuff isn’t your thing you can probably skip the rest.
Theoretically, if the Titans lose McCoy, Ryan Tannehill, Ben Jones, Wesley Woodyard, Derrick Henry, Austin Johnson, and Tajae Sharpe they could probably add two starters in free agency and then end up netting five compensatory picks?
The Titans would already have in house replacements for McCoy, Jones, Woodyard, and Sharpe. So imagine they sign a backup QB and draft a DT and RB on Day 2 in 2020, that would leave the team in pretty much the same position they are now with:
-Cap space for two free agent starters/role players
-A 1st round pick for an impact player and something close to eight other picks in the draft.
The more productive and the better McCoy is, the higher that comp pick could be.