By Tom Krasniqi
There's a new GM in town for the Bucs. He was introduced on Tuesday and he seems confident and bright. After nearly 20 years of NFL experience in scouting and personnel, Jason Licht is finally getting his shot to be a general manager.
During the press conference and afterwards with the media, he explained his philosophy for building a football team—the foundation of any successful football team comes through the draft.
"Our philosophy is going to be to build through the draft, that’s where we find our stars, that’s where we find the next generation, but also in the short term and long term we’re going to supplement our roster through free agency but we’re going to look for value,” Licht said on Tuesday. “We’re going to spend wisely.”
The Bucs will have ample cap room to do some business in free agency—about $17 million in cap space. That number could grow if contracts are restructured and/or veterans are cut loose.
Over the last couple of years, the Bucs have spent big money—WR Vincent Jackson, guard Carl Nicks, cornerback Darrelle Revis and safety Dashon Goldson. But if you’re looking for the Bucs to spend big in free agency, think again. Licht believes in “value” when it comes to free agency.
“The better teams in the NFL that compete in the playoffs year after year are the teams that draft the best, and that’s what Lovie, myself and our staff is going to do,” Licht explained.
Does this really mean the Bucs won’t spend in free agency? No. Getting a big time edge rusher is a top priority this offseason for the Bucs and that won’t come cheap. Licht knows that and head coach Lovie Smith knows that too.
Licht made a name for himself by his work on draft day. Last year’s draft looks like a good one for the Arizona Cardinals and Licht takes some credit for a couple of those selections— Cards tabbed CB Tyrann Mathieu in the 3rd round and RB Andre Ellington was a steal in round 6.
As far as the Bucs are concerned, Licht says he has an open mind when it comes to the draft. Tampa Bay has the 7th overall pick.
“You go through all the scenarios with your staff and obviously with Lovie, well before the draft,” Licht said. “I’ll tell you right now, we’ll be open to anything. We’re not locked into one player, we’re not locked into one pick. Right now we’d be open to do anything. We just have to explore all those opportunities. We’ve got to make decisions that are best for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It sounds simple, but it is what it is.”
The relationship between the GM and the head coach is crucial to the success of any franchise. Licht told Steve Duemig he spent more than 4 hours with the new Bucs head coach during his first interview with the team. Licht said the operation will not work if there’s friction. Lovie agrees.
“Everything we discussed, we were on the same page,” Smith told reporters after the press conference.
Now that the head coach and GM are in place, it’s time to go to work and there’s plenty of work to do. The Bucs were 4-12 this season but as we’ve seen in the NFL, teams can make that one year jump.
“Absolutely,” Licht said when asked if the Bucs can turn things around quickly.
Bucs fans should be excited. Their team is back on track to respectability.