BEREA, Ohio -- The Cleveland Browns took the field for the first of their three minicamp sessions on Tuesday.
And when they did, Gerald McCoy was more than 500 miles away.
Despite the Browns publicly stating they were confident in their ability to sign the 6-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle, as it turned out, they were unable to lure him from the NFC South. On Monday, McCoy agreed to a one-year deal with the Carolina Panthers worth a reported $8.5 million with incentives that could push it to $10.25 million.
Last week, Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield publicly stated that he had been recruiting the fellow Oklahoma alum to Cleveland. On Tuesday, he was succinct in his reaction to the news that his efforts were unsuccessful.
“Like I said, you are either with us or against us," Mayfield said. "Other than that, wish him the best.”
While Mayfield's Sooner ties to McCoy may have been the impetus for his short response, Cleveland head coach Freddie Kitchens was more thorough in his assessment of the matter.
“I’m just going to shoot you straight: We want people that want to be here. We want people that want to be here for the right reasons," Kitchens said. "Gerald made the best decision that he felt was best for him and his family. I wish Gerald nothing but the best."
Kitchens' comments lend credence to the idea that McCoy's decision was a matter of dollars and cents.
After initially visiting the Browns shortly after being released by the Tampa Bay Buccanneers, the 3-time first-team All-Pro player took a visit to the Baltimore Ravens. It was only after his reported attempt to drive a bidding war between Cleveland and Baltimore failed that he opted to visit Carolina, where he eventually signed.
With approximately $32.7 million available, the Browns possess more cap space than both the Panthers and Ravens and could have conceivably outbid either team had they desired to.
"If there is any reservation at all, we do not want anybody to be here," Kitchens said. "We do not want any reservation about trying to convince someone to come here. What we are about to do, it is not for everybody. What we are going to attempt to do is not for everybody. It is going to take a lot of hard work and then we will see where we are at. That is all.”
Between Larry Ogunjobi's emergence and the 3-year, $37 million contract they just signed Sheldon Richardson to, it makes sense the Browns wouldn't be willing to overspend -- even for a player of McCoy's caliber.
That's not to say this might not be a potential miss for Cleveland, given his stature as one of the most prolific interior pass-rushers in NFL history. But when it came to the Browns' failed attempt to lure McCoy north, the reality is it was always more of a luxury than anything else.
“I’m happy with the guys we have here," Pro Bowl defensive end Myles Garrett said. "I’m definitely confident about the men we have in our room right now. Gerald McCoy, of course, would have been a good addition to the team, but I like the chemistry we have built over this time. It doesn’t bother me at all."