Are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on the lookout for a potential trade partner for six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy? It sure sounds like it. That was the big takeaway from Bruce Arians' chat with reporters at NFL owners meetings in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday.
Arians, who has openly discussed projected roles for Lavonte David, Vernon Hargreaves, Carlton Davis, M.J. Stewart, Jason Pierre-Paul, Carl Nassib and Noah Spence, was asked about the team's reluctance to openly commit to keeping McCoy in 2019. A Tampa Bay Times report last month said that McCoy would return this season.
"Um ... probably a better question for [general manager] Jason [Licht] because the financials are part of it," Arians said, referring to McCoy's $13 million salary cap hit and nonguaranteed money. "I've gotta evaluate him. Guy's up there in age, it's different. It's usually the age when they're getting paid the most, and production and [pay] don't match. So we've gotta find that out."
When Arians was asked what he saw of McCoy on film so far, he said, "He's not as disruptive as he was four years ago, but he's still a good player."
ESPN spoke to multiple high-ranking executives of several NFL teams after February's NFL combine in Indianapolis, and most were under the impression that McCoy was returning in 2019 and was not on the trade block, versus what they'd been hearing about DeSean Jackson.
However, two sources told ESPN in recent days that they believe the Bucs would consider trading McCoy in the event they received an offer that blew them away.
The key is that Arians wants to see McCoy in action to properly assess his condition and fit in the scheme this offseason. The Bucs are switching to a hybrid, one-gap 3-4 defense, while McCoy has played in a 4-3 defense his entire NFL career.
"He plays three-technique. And we have a three-technique that penetrates. He did it as well [as anybody] whenever that was [when the Cardinals faced the Bucs], [three] years ago," Arians said. "Would I like to see more disruptive? Yeah. But we can use him. If he's here, he'll be used a bunch. It's just a matter of what happens."
In addition to the news surrounding McCoy, some other nuggets surfaced from the NFL's annual meetings:
Arians will play a large role in draft evaluation and believes the draft is loaded with talent, particularly on defense. He was specifically asked about linebackers Devin White and Devin Bush possibly going in the top five or top 10. "Oh yeah, these cats are special. And you look at those outside guys -- it's an unbelievable group." He specifically cited several safeties, cornerbacks and defensive linemen being available in the second round.
Arians wants to blitz David more. "Lavonte's always been a stack-backer. Let's see what he can do in a situation where we're rushing him more with his speed," Arians said, adding that he also looks forward to seeing defensive end William Gholston put on more weight and do his "natural" thing as a run-stopping 3-4 defensive end.
Arians said he looks forward to Nassib standing up on certain downs as an outside linebacker and having his hand in the dirt as a 4-3 defensive end in others. "He's a cat that we can put anywhere," he said.
Wide receiver Chris Godwin will be in the slot a lot. When he was with the Arizona Cardinals, Arians moved veteran wideout Larry Fitzgerald into the slot. The idea is to get the ball in one of his best playmaker's hands.
Arians likes Hargreaves strictly as an outside corner. Up until this point, Hargreaves had been starting outside and moving inside during nickel situations, but that won't be the case, and they will need to find a nickel cornerback so Hargreaves won't be doing double duty. What gives Arians such confidence in Hargreaves despite his struggles to adjust to the NFL, and after he missed last season with a shoulder injury? "I'm gonna go back to the draft. We really liked him. We had him really high on our board. We thought he could do what we do," Arians said. "People say this guy is a bust. Well, hell no, he's hurt all the time. It wasn't his fault. He's a hell of a player. ... I think Vernon has all the talent in the world. He works hard, is smart, so why can't he be successful? He's just gotta stay healthy."
Arians said he likes Carlton Davis on the outside opposite Hargreaves. They will be playing a lot of man defense. Cornerback M.J. Stewart, a second-round draft pick last year who wound up playing nickelback, will move to safety.
Arians' inclination is to keep three quarterbacks. "I'd rather have two, unless I have a young, promising guy that I really think can be a great two, maybe a one someday. You never want to lose those because they're hard to find," Arians said. "I see us keeping three right now because I really like [Ryan] Griffin and what he's shown on tape, in practice. But I want to see him in ballgames more. I know Blaine [Gabbert]. I know Jameis [Winston]. I don't think you can have enough."
Arians believes that their biggest signing was actually punter Bradley Pinion, a move that allows Cairo Santos to focus strictly on kicking and not have to worry about kickoffs. "When I came in, that was the glaring thing -- special teams," Arians said, emphasizing the importance of adding a former NFL place-kicker on the staff in Chris Boniol.
Arians said that Warren Sapp called to inquire about coaching. He said they have four former players set up to work with the team every day for organized team activities and six for training camp.