The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh to a one-year deal Tuesday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the latest in a series of moves that have made the Bucs—yes, the Bucs—one of the more active teams of the offseason.
The Suh signing comes one day after Tampa Bay released—sorry, “mutually parted ways with”—longtime defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who was set to earn $13 million in nonguaranteed salary in 2019. The team tried to trade him in the weeks leading up to the draft but couldn’t find a partner willing to take on his contract, which would have paid him $10 million in 2020 and $10.4 million in 2021, though none of the remaining money was guaranteed. McCoy subsequently did not show up to the team’s offseason workouts—a clear message, even though they are voluntary—and the team announced his release on Monday, showing far more appreciation for McCoy’s time with the team than most veterans receive when they’re released.
Suh and McCoy were drafted back-to-back in 2010 as the no. 2 and no. 3 overall picks, and while Suh has bounced around—the Bucs are his fourth team after Detroit, Miami, and Los Angeles—McCoy has been a staple of Tampa Bay football since he entered the league (he made six consecutive Pro Bowl trips from 2012 to 2017). McCoy is reportedly interested in joining a contender like the Patriots, where he would find another former Tampa Bay defensive line castoff in Michael Bennett, who joined the Super Bowl champs in March.
This is the second consecutive one-year deal for Suh. He signed with the Rams last year for one year and $14 million, but the predicted dominance of Suh and costar Aaron Donald failed to materialize. Donald repeated as Defensive Player of the Year, but Suh seemed to coast for much of the regular season before turning on the jets for the stretch run, which can be viewed as veteran savvy to preserve his energy for a Super Bowl push or financial savvy in a contract year, or both, depending on your perspective. Suh’s play, along with his age (32), reputation (prickly), and price tag (high enough to count against the compensatory formula), meant he had to wait until mid-May for a suitor to materialize. Suh was released by Miami last year, three years and $60 million into the six-year, $114 million deal he signed in 2015. Then–Miami head coach Adam Gase said he sought a culture change, or as he put it last year, “alpha dogs” who don’t tolerate “some of the bullshit” in the locker room.
Suh’s signing is the latest move in a surprisingly newsworthy offseason for Tampa Bay. General manager Jason Licht granted wide receiver DeSean Jackson’s trade request, sending him back to Philadelphia for essentially nothing (the Bucs received a 2019 sixth-rounder and sent a 2020 seventh-rounder). Fellow receiver Adam Humphries also departed in free agency for Tennessee, though the Bucs have the depth to replace them both with pass-catchers Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard, and Cameron Brate.
Where Tampa doesn’t have depth is on the defensive line. While Suh will replace McCoy fairly neatly, there are still major questions on the edges. In February, the Bucs released defensive end Vinny Curry, who they signed away from the Super Bowl champion Eagles in 2018 (Curry, like Jackson, made his way back to Philly this offseason). Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul suffered a neck injury in a single-car crash earlier this month and his status for the 2019 season is uncertain.
After two consecutive 5-11 seasons, Tampa Bay decided to revamp its coaching staff by firing head coach Dirk Koetter and replacing him with former Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians, who had been thirsting for a head coaching job like it was a gallon of Valspar. Arians has pledged to bring in a high-flying offense that works downfield (his offenses have consistently been among the highest in the league in average depth of target). Arians hired Byron Leftwich, whose stock soared under Arians in Arizona, to be his offensive coordinator. Leftwich’s main job is overseeing Jameis Winston, who is entering the final season of his rookie contract. Winston’s progress in 2019 will be a major factor in whether or not the Bucs sign their former no. 1 overall pick to a contract extension. Arians also brought in former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who played for Arians at Temple in the 1980s and became one of the hottest coaching candidates in football under Arians in Arizona, to run his defense. (Schefter reported that Suh signed with the Bucs in part because was excited to play for Bowles.) Between Bowles, Leftwich, and special teams coordinator Keith Jackson (another one of Arians’s former players from Temple), Tampa Bay’s staff is believed to be the first in NFL history to have minority head coaches at all three coordinator spots, according to The Athletic. Arians also hired Lori Locust as assistant defensive line coach and Maral Javadifar as assistant strength and conditioning coach, making Tampa Bay the first NFL team with two full-time female coaches on staff.
The Buccaneers have finished last in the NFC South in eight of the 10 seasons since Jon Gruden was fired after the 2008 season. They still might not be good in 2019, but Arians is already taking steps to turn around the organization’s fortunes.