Tampa Bay Buccaneers top pass rusher Jason Pierre-Paul suffered a likely season-ending fractured neck in a one-car accident last week, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Tuesday.
JPP, who less than three years ago blew off two of his fingers in an infamous offseason fireworks accident, will seek more opinions on his injury and whether it will end his second season in Tampa Bay before it officially begins.
Pierre-Paul, 30, was acquired via trade from the New York Giants last year, recording 12 ½ sacks — matching his highest total since 2014 — and was set to enter his first season under new HC Bruce Arians and DC Todd Bowles as the Bucs' lone established edge rusher. Tampa Bay signed ex-Denver Broncos reserve Shaq Barrett in March and has former second-round disappointment Noah Spence but spent only one of its eight selections in last month's draft at the position, adding developmental fourth-round Iowa product Anthony Nelson.
Bowles, who is installing his aggressive and multiple 3-4 scheme, loves to blitz from all directions — and he may have little choice after the loss of Pierre-Paul from a unit that ranked 31st in yards per play, 26th in passing and 19th in sack percentage last season. The Bucs could look for reinforcements in free agency, where remaining players will no longer count against the 2020 compensatory formula beginning at midnight Tuesday.
According to the NFLPA's latest salary cap report, only the Minnesota Vikings have less space than the Bucs' $1.8 million, but if JPP is placed on the NFI (non-football injury) list, they likely can recoup the $14.9 million he's currently allocating on the cap. That would would better position the Bucs to consider the top remaining vet options, such as DE Ziggy Ansah and DT Ndamukong Suh, both still likely to command somewhere in the vicinity of $8-12 million this season.
And although they don't play the same position, JPP's latest injury might increase the likelihood of potential trade chip and six-time Pro Bowl DT Gerald McCoy, 31, returning after his days with the team appeared until recently numbered.