Buccaneers Notes: McCoy, Smith, Brate

As a fourth new Buccaneers coaching staff this decade continues to gather intel early in a pivotal offseason, here is the latest out of Tampa. It’s looking like Gerald McCoy will be part of Bruce Arians‘ first Bucs squad.

  • Arians and his new staff have evaluated McCoy and view the stalwart interior defender as a good fit, even as the team transitions to a 3-4 defense, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports. McCoy is not in line to be traded or released, per Stroud, who adds the 10th-year defensive lineman was confident he would return to finish out the 2010s with the Bucs. A McCoy move was considered possible, with Jason Licht not guaranteeing the former top-five pick’s status with the 2019 team. McCoy coming back would mean a move to defensive end, but with teams spending so much time in nickel sets, the longtime 4-3 defensive tackle should see plenty of time as an interior presence next season.
  • McCoy will turn 31 on Monday, and after recording at least seven sacks from 2013-16, the former Oklahoma standout has registered six in each of the past two seasons. While McCoy remains an upper-echelon defensive tackle, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com writes his $13MM 2019 salary seems lofty. However, Laine adds that trading McCoy would likely only fetch the Bucs a fourth- or fifth-round pick. There are a few defensive tackles in free agency, even if the Falcons tag Grady Jarrett. Ndamukong Suh and Sheldon Richardson are back in free agency. And this year’s defensive line class being one of the best in many years further weakens McCoy’s value.
  • Another player considered a possible departure candidate could well be staying in Tampa as well. Donovan Smith is three weeks away from free agency, but Laine notes the four-year left tackle starter is not going anywhere. The Bucs will either tag Smith or extend him before free agency’s outset, per Laine. Smith has not graded as a top-tier tackle in the view of Pro Football Focus, but he has been a durable edge blocker, never missing a game. That said, a Smith tag would cost the Bucs approximately $14MM. It is debatable if he would receive that AAV on the open market, even considering how well offensive linemen have fared in recent free agency periods. A long-term Smith deal is expected to be in the $12-$13MM-per-year range, Laine adds.
  • Although Cameron Brate signed an extension to stay in Tampa last year, no dead money remains on the tight end’s deal. Arians, though, intends to keep the Bucs’ TE2 for 2019, Stroud notes. Arians, whose Cardinals teams did not have a consistent receiving threat from the tight end position, is intrigued by having two with the Bucs, per Stroud. Brate will make $7MM this coming season. He underwent hip surgery after this season, however. Both Bucs tight ends are coming off injuries, with foot and ankle maladies ending O.J. Howard‘s season.
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