I really didn't think it was going to end like this, but it sure sounds like it might.
For a long time now -- nearly ten years -- Gerald McCoy has been the face of the Buccaneers' franchise. He's had to deal with five head coaches, even more defensive coordinators and a lot of losing seasons. Over the years he's earned six Pro Bowl honors with three First-team All-Pro recognitions, as well. McCoy has never recorded a double-digit sack season, but his 54.5 sacks trail just Simeon Rice and Warren Sapp for the most in franchise history. All of that considered, McCoy might be on the team's Ring of Honor someday.
With that in mind, you figure his departure would have been cleaner than it's shaping up to be.
McCoy is now 31 years old and is currently under a contract that is scheduled to pay him $13, $12.5M and $12.9M in each of the remaining three years of his deal. With just six sacks in each of the last two seasons, the question has not only been whispered but now blasted through a megaphone whether he's worth that money for that production.
Back in January ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the Bucs might consider cutting McCoy. Then when new head coach Bruce Arians was hired, they seemed more optimistic about keeping him. But that was the pinnacle of hope for the two sides and the relationship has since soured to the point where it may not be repairable.
It's no secret the Bucs are shopping McCoy, but to this point the Bucs have not found any takers for their asking price -- which could be as low as a Day 3 pick, as of now. The most likely time a McCoy deal could happen is on draft weekend, perhaps as a throw-in player for a pick swap to move up a few spots. Even if McCoy isn't dealt via trade, though, it's hard to see him being back with the Buccaneers in 2019.
So if McCoy is gone this year, or even if he's not and would likely be gone the year after, who would Tampa look to replace McCoy for the long-term? These are some names to know from the 2019 draft class.
Ed Oliver, Houston
I really don't think Quinnen Williams is going to fall to the Bucs at No. 5. If they really want Williams, who I believe is No. 1 on their board, they would have to trade up to get him. But I don't see that happening.
I think it is much more realistic to envision the Bucs staying at No. 5, if not trading down even further. If they stay at No. 5, they'll likely have the chance to draft Oliver, a choice that would make a lot of sense.
As an undersized interior defensive lineman, Oliver is about as athletic as they come for a player of the position. The potential knock on him is his overall playing weight, which is probably between 275-280 pounds, but for a team like the Bucs, pairing him with Vita Vea in the middle can still make sense without the worry of Oliver being overpowered. Oliver can still jump his gaps while having the mental security that Vea takes up so much space to recover. In a versatile 3-4 defense, Oliver would fit like a glove in Tampa Bay.
Jeffery Simmons, Mississippi State
Simmons is more of a top-of-the-second-round option for the Buccaneers rather than one at No. 5.
Simmons was one of the Top 10 best players in college football last season, but an ACL tear early in this draft process has hurt his stock significantly. He'll likely be out for most of his first season, but that's why you might be able to get him as late as pick No. 39, if you're Tampa Bay. Simmons does not have any size concerns at 6-foot-3, 300 pounds. He is a run stuffing stud, but also has some pass rush potential to him. Again, he and Vea next to each other would be dominant, as long as that ACL heals up properly.
Khalen Saunders, Western Illinois
Saunders is a potential early Day 3 player who could be a nice Bucs target for this position. I'd almost consider him to be Ed Oliver-lite. Saunders is 6-foot, 325 pounds but can move very quickly. He was an athletic mismatch for most of his competition in college, and plays the same gap penetrating role a player like Oliver does. Saunders would be a very intriguing option for Tampa Bay in the later rounds, if they haven't addressed the position by then.