TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Buccaneers continue to tap dance around the absence of Gerald McCoy, who has been a no-show for the first three weeks of the Bucs' voluntary offseason program. But with the NFL draft next week -- one that features many potential replacements at his position -- the Bucs could be contemplating a difficult decision about a player who has been arguably the franchise's best for almost a decade. That's one of several options the Bucs will consider with the No. 5 overall pick next Thursday. Some frequently asked questions:
Why is the McCoy situation coming to an apex?
McCoy is owed $13 million for 2019 -- none of which is guaranteed -- and the Bucs simply don't have the cap room to pay the 31-year-old and the roughly $9 million it will take to pay their draft picks. McCoy's production -- which is starting to decline -- also doesn't warrant that large salary.
General manager Jason Licht declined to discuss whether the team asked McCoy to take a pay cut, saying, "Any conversation we have with Gerald I'm going to keep private." Instead of learning a new position in Todd Bowles' 3-4 scheme, McCoy has remained in San Diego with longtime trainer Todd Durkin.
Why has McCoy been a no-show?
According to the Tampa Bay Times, coach Bruce Arians told McCoy not to come to the offseason program, which a league source confirmed to ESPN. Licht declined to discuss this when asked, instead deferring to Arians, who hasn't been available for interviews since the owners meetings last month.
There's a good reason why McCoy's absence is excused. If McCoy were to get injured in the offseason program, it would limit his trade potential. It also creates a potentially uncomfortable situation for McCoy if he doesn't feel wanted.
If the Bucs are still open to keeping McCoy, his absence does have an impact on the new coaching staff's ability to evaluate him in their scheme. And because free agency has come and gone, even teams that could have used a player of McCoy's caliber are going to have a hard time taking on his salary unless it's restructured. There are also younger and more affordable options in a very deep draft for defensive linemen.
The Bucs' best hope here is that they can find a trade partner and receive some type of draft compensation in return, although it probably wouldn't be much. The worst-case scenario would be releasing McCoy without receiving anything in return.
Is there a possibility that McCoy returns? Feathers have already been ruffled and it would require a Herculean effort of restructuring contracts of other players.
Who could replace McCoy?
In the draft, Alabama's Quinnen Williams and Houston's Ed Oliver would be considered potential replacements in the first round. Both have received considerable attention from the Bucs during the pre-draft process. Both would be considered immediate-impact players.
Most mock drafts have Williams off the board in the top four. Oliver should be available at No. 5. Considered highly versatile, he could line up as a three-technique, a defensive end or even an outside linebacker, as he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.73 seconds at 280 pounds at his Houston pro day.
But just because there's uncertainty with McCoy doesn't mean the Bucs will be forced into taking a defensive tackle at No. 5.
The benefit of a deep draft class of defensive linemen is that players such as Clemson's Christian Wilkins and Mississippi State's Jeffery Simmons could be available deeper in the first round -- although Simmons is expected to miss most (if not all) of the 2019 season because of a torn ACL, so his impact wouldn't be immediately felt. And neither is considered as promising as Williams or Oliver.
Michigan's Rashan Gary, who played tackle and end in college, could also step into that role, although at 277 pounds, he might be an option only inside in sub packages. There's also Clemson's Dexter Lawrence, but he's more of a Vita Vea/Beau Allen-type player and doesn't win with quickness.
Is an inside linebacker an option?
Few linebackers are worthy of a top-five pick, but many believe Devin White could be. If the Bucs picked him, they could potentially still address McCoy's absence later. But some would argue that position becomes less of a priority because Lavonte David will be moving inside for this new scheme.
There's also the argument that the Bucs could still grab the next-best inside linebacker later on in Michigan's Devin Bush, but he likely won't last beyond the first 20 picks. Like White, he also took a pre-draft visit with the Bucs. Sources say the Bucs are extremely high on White and don't quite view Bush in the same way, but they still see him as an extremely talented player. Many have compared him to David, who was a second-round pick in 2012.
Should the Bucs not select White or Bush, Alabama's Mack Wilson and Clemson's Tre Lamar would be great Day 2 options.
What about edge rushers?
Licht acknowledged that this draft class is loaded with edge rushers. It's hard to fathom Josh Allen or Nick Bosa being available at No. 5, but if for whatever reason one of them drops, the Bucs would strongly consider either.
Don't rule out the Bucs trading down
Licht has traded down in the first round and out of the top 10 in two out of the past three years. The Bucs went from No. 9 to No. 11 to select Vernon Hargreaves in 2016, and traded out of No. 7 to select Vea at No. 12 in 2018. They certainly will entertain offers to trade down again, which could net them a player like Bush.
Would the Bucs even entertain drafting a QB?
Because quarterback Jameis Winston is entering the final year of his rookie contract, would the Bucs consider a replacement?
"We evaluate the quarterbacks every year as if -- we try to go into an exercise of, 'If we didn't have a quarterback, who would we want?'" Licht said. "We happen to have a quarterback that we all very much like right now, but we still evaluate the quarterbacks."
Arians has said previously that he doesn't want Winston looking over his shoulder. That's why they signed Blaine Gabbert and re-signed Ryan Griffin -- they'll challenge Winston but won't upset the quarterback hierarchy.