Ex-Bucs DT McCoy chooses to play for Panthers

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Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle and six-time Pro Bowler Gerald McCoy has agreed to a contract with the Carolina Panthers, he told ESPN’s Josina Anderson.

McCoy is getting a one-year deal worth up to $10.25 million that includes a $4 million signing bonus, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Carolina joined the battle to sign McCoy late, bringing him in for a visit last Thursday and Friday after McCoy visited Baltimore and Cleveland.

McCoy left Baltimore thinking he very well might sign there, sources told Schefter, but Carolina wowed him on his visit and quarterback Cam Newton helped recruit McCoy.

“Carolina was a great fit for me,” McCoy texted Anderson. “Being around the guys we just meshed & I love the instant chemistry we had. They have a tradition of having a great defense. I love the players & I believe in #1 [Newton]. Ron Rivera is a proven coach & can’t wait to get started.”

McCoy has been a longtime fan of Newton’s, saying in 2015 that the first pick of the 2011 draft deserved to win the MVP well before the voting was final.

To cap it off, McCoy gets to stay in the NFC South and play against the Bucs, who released him and gave his No. 93 to Ndamukong Suh. Tampa Bay and McCoy “mutually parted ways” on May 20.

He joins Pro Bowlers Kawann Short and Dontari Poe on a Panthers front line that is transitioning from a base 4-3 scheme to a 3-4.

The 31-year-old’s ability to play tackle or end gives coach Ron Rivera, who took over the defensive play calling late last season, the position flexibility he is seeking in trying to keep opposing offenses off balance and improve the pass rush.

Carolina finished 27th in the league last season with 35 sacks, the lowest total since Rivera arrived in 2011.

McCoy has 39.5 sacks since 2010 when lined up as a defensive tackle, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Only Geno Atkins and Aaron Donald have more from the inside rush.

McCoy has 54.5 sacks overall in nine seasons and 45.5 since 2013. Even with a drop-off the past two seasons — six sacks each year — McCoy can’t help but improve Carolina’s rush. No Carolina interior lineman had more than Short’s three sacks last season.

McCoy has been a nemesis to the Panthers since arriving in the NFL as the third overall pick of the 2010 draft. His 42 tackles in 15 games against his NFC South rival is his most against any team. So are his 34 solo tackles.

His 4.5 sacks against the Panthers are tied for his second-most against any team. He has five against Atlanta Falcons and 4.5 against Philadelphia Eagles.

Carolina Pro Bowl guard Trai Turner called McCoy a “real life savage” on social media when it was announced the Bucs were releasing their star.

The Panthers had to wait until Saturday, June 1, when they picked up an additional $7.5 million under the salary cap for the release of offensive tackle Matt Kalil, to compete financially for McCoy. They also cleared another $2 million in cap space by getting wide receiver Torrey Smith to take a pay cut.

The team still has approximately $8 million in cap space to sign its top two draft picks, edge rusher Brian Burns and offensive tackle Greg Little, and keep enough in reserve to sign additional help.

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