The Carolina Panthers made one of their biggest free agent splashes in franchise history on Monday, agreeing to terms with six time Pro-Bowl defensive lineman Gerald McCoy. The Panthers are very familiar with McCoy, having matched up against him in the NFC South for the past 10 seasons.
A one-year, $8.5 million deal with only $4 million guaranteed proves to be an absolute bargain for a player who was due $13 million in Tampa Bay before being released and replaced on the same day. You’d have to think that a revenge factor played a large part in McCoy’s decision to stay within the division. The Buccaneers threw some major disrespect by handing over McCoy’s former No. 93 jersey to his replacement, Ndamukong Suh.
Let’s dive in and take a look at three bold predictions for McCoy heading into the 2019 NFL season with the Panthers.
3. McCoy will have a cool handshake or touchdown celebration with Cam Newton
Last offseason, Gerald McCoy said his son LOVES Cam Newton and thinks he’s the 🐐. He also said it’s tough competing with his swag.
Now, they’re on the same team 👀@Geraldini93 @CameronNewton @Panthers pic.twitter.com/V1SR8h5eJm
— The Lefkoe Show (@LefkoeShow) June 3, 2019
Cam Newton and Gerald McCoy seem to have a special bond on and off the field, which is surprising considering they have competed head to head for all of these years. McCoy has always been quick to defend Newton in the media, even claiming him to be one of his favorite players. There have been several reports that Newton had a large hand in the recruitment and securing of McCoy in Charlotte.
The veteran All-Pro will look to be an instrumental piece on a competitive team, a rare occurrence throughout his 10-year career. McCoy went 52-92 with Tampa Bay since being drafted in 2010, having only been a part of two winning seasons during his decade spent in the league.
Winning is fun, and Cam Newton is one of the most fun guys in the league to win with. Gerald McCoy hasn’t won much. Seeing as how close they already seem to be, I believe a classic sideline celebration could be in order following touchdowns or turnovers. Will Cam go back to the well and try out his basketball floater celebration? Maybe a crazy LeBron-esque handshake? It’ll be fun watching these two interact on the sidelines as long as you aren’t playing against Carolina that week.
2. McCoy will have a career year playing on the best defense he’s been a part of
McCoy racked up a 78.1 overall PFF grade in 2018, good for 28th among defensive tackles. Despite not finishing in the top 10 in his position since 2014, McCoy was the highest graded defensive player on his team last season.
Although McCoy has been a 4-3 defensive tackle his whole career, his pass rushing ability should allow him the flexibility to play at defensive end in the Panthers secret hybrid 3-4 defense that coach Ron Rivera has been concocting throughout the offseason. A front line rotation of Kawann Short, Dontari Poe, and Gerald McCoy is absolutely a force to be reckoned with. McCoy has averaged 6.9 sacks per season since 2015, which is pretty nice for someone on the interior.
The change of scenery could be just what McCoy needs to revitalize his career. It’s clear he’s still got a ton left in the tank, and has never really played for a competitive defense where the onus wasn’t completely on him to get the job done. McCoy should thrive in a strong rotation up front and a fantastic linebacker corps behind him.
Ten sacks for McCoy in 2019 would be a career high. I’ll give him eleven.
1. McCoy will help boost the Panthers back into the playoffs
Carolina was virtually a playoff lock heading into Week 9 of the 2018 season. Then they were absolutely drubbed in Pittsburgh, initiating a six game losing streak. Cam Newton’s shoulder was a huge factor in the Panthers demise in the back half of the season. If Cam was able to stay healthy, he could have been in the MVP runner-up conversation and the Panthers would have been a force to be reckoned with in the NFC Playoffs. A return of a healthy Cam Newton with major development on offense should give the Panthers a chance in every game, but a stout defense could make them dominant.
Carolina’s pass rush in 2018 was dismal, not doing their withering offense any favors down the stretch. With 35 total sacks, the Panthers failed to produce pressure and found themselves in the bottom third of the league in this category.
General Manager Marty Hurney put a huge emphasis on the pass rush this offseason with the addition of edge rushers Bruce Irvin, Brian Burns, and Christian Miller. The team has taken a clear stance on the direction they’d like to go next season, and it starts with getting to the other team’s quarterback. Gerald McCoy should prove to be the cherry on top here, helping the Panthers return to the playoffs and make a deep run.
This move was helped in part by the $2 million pay cut agreed to by wide receiver Torrey Smith over the past weekend. The Panthers kill two birds with one stone, if one bird was a contract that provided terrible relative return on investment and another one was signing an all-pro defensive tackle.
This addition could also spell the end for former first round pick defensive tackle Vernon Butler who will not have his fifth year option exercised in 2020. This is a huge move for Carolina, and should propel them into the conversation among contenders.