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Finding Free Agents: Gerald McCoy would be an improvement on Jarran Reed

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NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

In our 2020 iteration of Finding Free Agents, we’ll attempt to answer three questions for each player: Why would the Seahawks be interested? What would their contract look like? What is the likelihood they reach free agency? Throughout the series, we’ll be focused on specific positions of need in Seattle: Wide receiver, offensive line, defensive tackle and EDGE.

After nine outstanding years in Tampa Bay with the Buccaneers, four-time All-Pro Gerald McCoy moved on to the Panthers in 2019. Playing as a 3-4 defensive end for the first time, McCoy posted his lowest sack total since 2012, with five, and was a part of a horrendous Carolina run defense. With McCoy’s one-year deal with the Panthers coming to an end, the 32-year-old will hit unrestricted free agency for a second consecutive spring.

Why would the Seahawks be interested?

If Jarran Reed does in fact depart Seattle in free agency, McCoy would be an excellent replacement and really, an upgrade. Despite Carolina’s leaky rushing defense in 2019, McCoy has been a good-to-great run defender over the course of his career. More importantly, he would be a vast improvement on Reed as a pass rusher. In Reed’s career, he has totaled 15.5 sacks, 87 pressures and 45 quarterback hits. Over the same span, McCoy has totaled 24 sacks, 139 pressures and 73 quarterback hits. Even in Reed’s career year of 2018, he posted a pressure percentage (9.4) that was lower than McCoy’s in 2019, when he totaled the third-fewest sacks of his career.

The Seahawks are going to need to add a defensive tackle, even if Reed stays (and if he does, it’ll likely be at a deal cheap enough that would enable the team to pursue McCoy, too). McCoy would be a three-down tackle on defense, aiding a rushing defense that needs improvement and, crucially, reviving a pass rush that appeared lifeless a season ago.

What would McCoy’s contract look like?

Upon McCoy’s release from Tampa Bay a year ago, he stated above all else, he wanted to play for a contender. That will surely be the case again, after McCoy went through a frustrating 5-11 campaign in Carolina, which should help Seattle from getting blown out of the water by a team in the dumps with cap space to burn. McCoy is yet to play in a playoff game, and he’ll want to change that in a major way in 2020, with the Super Bowl being played in Tampa Bay, the city where he “became a man.”

McCoy’s one-year deal with the Panthers was for $8 million, with $4 million guaranteed. McCoy remains tremendously healthy—he has missed just eight games over the last eight seasons—and his production was similar between 2018 and ‘19. Another deal, be it for one or two years, around $8 million APY could be expected. That type of deal would be well worth it, for a player capable of netting 5-8 sacks and generating pressure on 8-10 percent of his rushes, while providing solid run defense.

Will McCoy reach free agency?

Carolina has $35 million in cap space and nearly their entire defensive line is set to hit free agency. The Panthers could certainly try to retain McCoy if they wanted to, but with a new regime, it seems likely they look towards youth. Furthering the likelihood of McCoy reaching free agency is new Carolina defensive coordinator Phil Snow, who utilizes three-man fronts. McCoy, a standout 4-3 defensive tackle for most of his career, would surely like to get back to seeing one-on-ones in a better situation.

With the Seahawks, McCoy could pursue a ring in the role he’s best suited for.