After making comments earlier this offseason that indicated they were strongly considering breaking up with Gerald McCoy, the Buccaneers have finally decided to move on from the former All-Pro defensive tackle who has anchored their defensive line for the past nine seasons. Instead of paying him the $13 million he was owed in 2019, they've cut him free. 

As first reported by the Tampa Bay Times' Rick Stroud, the Buccaneers have decided to release McCoy. The team confirmed the move shortly after.

McCoy immediately becomes one of the best available free agents. The best free agent might still be defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh and on that note, the Tampa Bay Times reports that the Buccaneers could try to sign Suh to replace McCoy. Suh and McCoy went No. 2 and No. 3, respectively, in the 2010 NFL Draft. 

McCoy's been one of the best interior defensive linemen in football since he arrived in the NFL. In his career, he's played in 123 of 144 possible games, racked up 54.5 sacks, 296 combined tackles, 79 tackles for a loss, and 140 quarterback hits. He's fourth in sacks among defensive tackles since 2010 trailing only Geno AtkinsAaron Donald, and Suh. He was also the Buccaneers' highest-graded player on defense last season, according to Pro Football Focus. 

The Buccaneers will miss him. Remember, defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul is dealing with a serious injury that will sideline him at least a significant portion of the season. This is a defense that finished last season ranked dead last in DVOA. Now, they're going to be without their two best defensive players in Pierre-Paul (for a while, anyway) and McCoy. The Buccaneers did draft linebacker Devin White in the first round in addition to five other defensive players later in the draft, but expecting the defense to improve drastically in 2019 is probably expecting the impossible.

So why did the Buccaneers cut him free? Mainly because of the money. The Buccaneers rank dead last in available cap space, according to Spotrac. McCoy was owed $13 million in 2019, $12.5 million in 2020, and $12.9 million in 2021, but the Buccaneers were able to cut him without suffering any financial consequences. 

In March, new coach Bruce Arians called McCoy "a good player," but also said, "He's not as disruptive as he was four years ago." Earlier this month, McCoy said he wasn't sure if he'd be back with the team. So, Monday's news shouldn't come as a real shock. It's been coming for a while now. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the Buccaneers tried to find a suitable trade for the past two months

So, why didn't another team trade for him knowing the Buccaneers would listen to offers? Probably because they didn't want to take on the rest of his contract. 

Now, teams can try to sign McCoy at their price. That team very well could be the Patriots

In his story for the Tampa Bay Times, Stroud wrote that the Patriots "showed interest in signing" McCoy and that McCoy might be willing to "sacrifice salary" to join a "perennial playoff contender" like the Patriots. The Patriots already re-signed run-stopping defensive tackle Danny Shelton on Monday, but McCoy would be an instant and significant upgrade at the position. He and Michael Bennett would form a terrifying pass rush that can generate pressure from both the interior and exterior. It'd be the kind of signing that would cause every other team around the league to collectively groan as the rich get richer.

But again, more than just the Patriots should be interested in McCoy. Along with Suh, he's the best available player in free agency who can help a contender win a Super Bowl. Schefter mentioned the Browns, Chargers, Jaguars, and Cowboys as possible landing spots, in addition to New England. The Colts could be another potential destination.

Let the sweepstakes begin.