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Gerald McCoy: Carolina Panthers a 'true contender'

On Monday evening, six-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoymade headlines with his decision to sign with the Panthers, a long-time division rival, over the Browns and Ravens.

The move may be surprising to some but as McCoy made clear during his introductory press conference Tuesday, he believed Carolina represented the ideal football fit with the best chance to reach the mountaintop.

"The reason I'm here is because I was quoted as saying I wanted to go to a contender and every ounce of me feels like this team is a true contender," McCoy told reporters inside Bank of America Stadium. "The NFC South champs are the New Orleans Saints and they're known to have a great offense and in order to take them out you got to have a great defense. The Carolina Panthers have been known to have a great defense and I just want to add to that and I truly believe that, with the addition of me and all the pieces that are already here, we got a great shot."

Some of those pieces, including defensive tackle Kawann Short and linebacker Luke Kuechly, were a part of the group of Panthers that were instrumental in influencing McCoy's choice. McCoy, along with Short and Dontari Poe, who's looking to bounce back after a down first year with the team, will make up a front that could be hard for opposing teams to combat.

In 2018 with the Buccaneers, McCoy posted 28 tackles, 21 QB hits and 6.0 sacks, giving him his seventh straight season with 5+ sacks (the longest-active streak among DTs). Quarterback pressure is a message both Rivera and defensive coordinator Eric Washington harped on all of last year -- Carolina finished 27th in the NFL with 35 sacks and 31st in QB hits with 71 -- so adding McCoy should provide a boost.

Despite not being able to add playoff experience to his resume during his nine years in Tampa, the 31-year-old McCoy has plenty to boast about as one of the league's top defensive talents. McCoy is one of several new players on Carolina's defense, joining defensive ends Bruce Irvin and first-round draft pick Brian Burns as potential difference-makers.

Joining a "grade-A organization" with a strong history on defense seems like a no-brainer for a savvy, highly-skilled player entering their 10th season and McCoy fits that profile as a player who has his sights set on making his first postseason.

"When you have a bunch of like-minded men for one common goal with a leader like Coach Rivera, it's going to be hard to stop," he shared. "I think the culture that's set here is set in stone so getting to the playoffs and winning a ring, I don't really think you need to talk about that because you know who you're around and that's why I said it was an instant chemistry. You just look in their eyes, they look in mine and they know what time it is."

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