Once the third overall selection in the 2010 NFL draft, DT Gerald McCoy found himself without an NFL home this off-season when his Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed DT Ndamukong Suh on May 23. McCoy was released three days earlier in a related move.
This forced McCoy to test the free agent waters. After visits to Cleveland, Baltimore and then Carolina, today McCoy’s representatives announced that he has chosen the Carolina Panthers with a one-year deal worth $8 million ($4 million guaranteed) that could escalate up to $10.25 million with certain escalations reached such as sack totals, Pro Bowl nods and game day appearances. ESPN’s Josina Anderson broke the story.
While the Panthers are not in the Browns division, what is newsworthy about this signing were the facts that Cleveland head coach Freddie Kitchens just last week took numerous questions regarding the possibility of McCoy donning a Browns jersey.
One of the questions asked was if they discussed with McCoy about his playing time if he signed with Cleveland. Kitchens gave this response:
“No, it did no really get that specific. He knows he is going to be playing. I know the more good football players you have, the better you are, the better rotation is, the better you can get after a quarterback in a two minute drive. There is a staggering stat or something like 78 percent of two-minute drives, if you have a sack, give up a sack, anywhere along that way, your chances of scoring goes under 20 percent. He knows when we will want to put pressure on the quarterback. He knows that is what we are going to be about. Hopefully he wants to be a part of it.”
The question was important because of where the Browns currently sit with their defensive line. On the surface, there didn’t appear to be room for McCoy. DC Steve Wilks already has two very talented players at the defensive tackle position in Larry Ogunjobi and the newly signed Sheldon Richardson. Even the backups have talent in Brian Price and Trevon Coley.
The other item that was newsworthy about McCoy was the possibility that perhaps the Ravens would end up with him. If the Browns did not ink him to a contract, the last thing anyone associated with the Browns wanted was to see him across the line twice a season.
Carolina was late showing interest in McCoy, so it was a little surprising that they eventually made such a push to sign him to a deal. Sources stated that Panthers QB Cam Newton was the swing vote that swayed McCoy’s decision. McCoy texted the following to Anderson about his new venture with Carolina:
“Carolina was a great fit for me,” McCoy texted Anderson. “Being around the guys we just meshed & I love the instant chemistry we had. They have a tradition of having a great defense. I love the players & I believe in #1 [Newton]. Ron Rivera is a proven coach & can’t wait to get started.”
What may indeed have become the swing vote lies in the fact that the Panthers currently reside in the NFC South, and play their division buddy Bucs twice a year.