Jason Licht & The Long Game

April 15th, 2021

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They all say it, and they all lie.

NFL executives overseeing the draft always make it a point to tell local media how talent always trumps need. Then they go out and turn their draft boards topsy-turvy, trying to address pressing needs.

And what usually happens?

Bust, bust, bust.

Bucs GM Jason Licht.

Jason Licht finds himself in a special place three weeks before the 2021 draft. Through the fine work of his savvy scouts and a dedicated coaching staff, Licht is in position to truly select the best players available at every turn.

Buc fans should realize this opportunity is extremely rare. Very few NFL teams enter a draft with all 22 starters returning, let alone a defending Super Bowl champion.

That’s why I asked Licht if he felt liberated — unshackled by issues of need.

“We didn’t want to pigeon-hole ourselves into saying we have to take a certain position high in the draft,” Licht says. “I think that’s one of the good things about our situation right now. We can take the best player.”

What a luxury.

It didn’t happen by accident, either. Tampa Bay developed young players like Ronald Jones, Alex Cappa, Devin White and Carlton Davis.

Veterans like Lavonte David and Mike Evans maintained their elite standard of play. And of course, Tom Brady arrived to bring out the best in all concerned.

The Bucs suddenly find themselves in uncharted territory. They are drafting for depth. They are drafting for development. They are drafting for 2022, and beyond. They are anything but needy … and isn’t that the best news of all?

“I think it’s important to acquire good players wherever they are,” says Bill Belichick. “If you take a player at a position that you might so-called ‘need’ but he’s not good enough to fill that need, then it’s a wasted pick. So, I don’t understand the whole need thing. I understand player value, and that’s what we try to go by.”

Needy teams tend to lose their way on draft weekend.

When Bill Polian ran the draft for the Colts, he made it a point to remain true to his board.

“I’ve always believed that if you pass a blue-chip player to take a need, then you’ve made a mistake,” Polian said. “We’ve tried not to do that. On occasion we may have. But we work very hard to try to avoid it. It is a temptation, but you need to work hard to try to avoid it.”

Buc fans have tried to forget the 2016 draft because it’s a painful illustration of need running the show. That’s how you end up with Vernon Hargreaves (11th overall), Noah Spence (39) and Roberto Aguayo at No. 59.

“You always want to set your draft board where you weren’t pushing your positions of need up too high because that’s where you make mistakes,” says Licht. “Sometimes, it naturally happens and you’ve got to make sure you put the reins on it.

“It is a really good feeling this year that literally just about any player at any position we could take. Liberating is probably a very good word.”

Barring injury, it will be very difficult for a rookie to earn a starting job on the Bucs this fall. That wasn’t the case a year ago, when Licht was determined to fill a hole at right tackle and find a ball-hawking safety.

Tristan Wirfs and Antoine Winfield Jr. each made an immediate splash. Expect a slight rookie ripple in 2021.

Gathering Vs. Hunting

That’s why it’s more likely Tampa Bay moves back from No. 32 rather than trading up with a particular player in mind. Gathering extra picks has never made more sense because Licht is looking at the long game.

“Mr. Glazer, the only need we have is quality champagne for our NFC South victory party.”

The list of potential 2022 free agents is expansive and impactful — Jones, Leonard Fournette, Chris Godwin, Jason Pierre-Paul, Ryan Jensen, Ndamukong Suh, Rob Gronkowski, Davis, Cappa, Jordan Whitehead, Will Gholston. That’s almost half of your starters, and Brady would turn 45 by the start of the 2022 season.

Yes, Licht and his cap wizards face another challenging offseason, although the salary cap is expected to soar. That’s a discussion for another day. In the here and now, the gaps between needs and pressing needs are wider than a football field. Let other teams scramble to vault up the draft board, sacrificing precious capital.

Jason Licht knows he’ll probably never be in this position again. If the Bucs stay at No. 32 and take a Big 10 interior offensive lineman, so be it. If they like an SEC cornerback still on the board, go for it.

Stick to your chart and take it to heart.

In the NFL, a liberated GM is a dangerous GM. All draft options are in play for the defending champs. The rest of the league can only watch, wait and hope Licht wastes this rare opportunity to drop need from the equation.

The Bucs enter this draft free as a bird.

They need to be vultures.

Ira!  … Ira’s good friend Sean Sullivan, the Bill Currie Ford general manager, is ready to help you personally. Just call, email or stop in, one mile north of Raymond James Stadium.


JoeBucsFan draft party two weeks from tonight, Thursday, April 29, at Big Storm Brewery in Clearwater!

All kinds of fun ahead. Lots of giveaways. Fun begins at 7 p.m. Arrive early. Stay late.

Here’s your official video invite. Be there!

27 Responses to “Jason Licht & The Long Game”

  1. SKBucsFan Says:

    Well said Ira. I like the idea of moving down if it means adding more picks overall. Although I’m not sure the salary cap agrees with that strategy.

  2. Swampbuc Says:

    You guys should open up your draft party by playing Free Bird!

    Nice article Ira. Spot on.

    2016 draft still gives me severe intestinal trauma.

  3. Casual Observer Says:

    And fewer draftees will be able to crack this roster. I should think that fewer high quality picks would be a priority over several picks. Few will the roster. Go for a few top ones.

  4. HeyItsAdam Says:

    And also remember: sometimes a player “slides” for a REASON.

    see “Howard, OJ.”

  5. PSL Bob Says:

    Move down for extra picks in Round 2 and draft a QB.

  6. Yar Says:

    Best thing i’ve heard is to trade for future picks. We’ll need draft capital to move up in future drafts when we will really need to replace some players. Forget about this draft. I’d trade 32 for next years 1st and so on. Trade the whole draft for future picks (maybe a returner this year).

  7. lambeau Says:

    He’s still lying! The offense needs nothing, but he’ll probably grab a C/G to lower the cost of his OL; otherwise he’ll look to CB and Edge due to lack of depth. So they are needs, but not pressing ones–the beauty of his liberation is that he’s free to prioritize according to the talent level available–I’m guessing DT doesn’t get filled until the fourth round due to lack of talent, Edge 3rd Round.

  8. Mitch Says:

    I have already said that I want Azeez Ojulari. If he isn’t there the bucs could trade back into the second round and pick up EDGE/OLB Patrick Jones II and hopefully C/G Quinn Meinerz. I think if they drafted Quinn he would be the second highest selection of a division three lineman ever. The highest of course would be current buc Ali Marpet at 61.

    After that Bucs can draft secondary/ILB/Returner-WR/DL all they want.

  9. 813bucboi Says:

    i would love for us to trade down and get an extra 2nd round pick…

    c.baremore and quinn meinerz would be perfect…

    GO BUCS!!!!

  10. Drunkinybor Says:

    jeremiah owusu koramoa if by some miracle he’s there at 32 please please grab this guy. Dude is my draft crush this year.I saw a few mocks with the Aints taking him, I almost vomited.

  11. PatsBucsfan4years Says:

    Hope the Bucs draft Ian Book at 199… Worked out well for the Patriots 21 years ago drafting a QB nobody was talking about 🤔

  12. BUCFAN4LIFE Says:

    Since the BUCS entered the NFL there’s NEVER been a better time to be a Fan indeed !

  13. Jason Says:

    Draft a QB to compete with weenie armed Tom Brady!!!

    Am I the only one who misses the trolls a little bit? Lol.

  14. Iamabuc Says:

    I keep saying there’s no better time to draft our future Qb than right now. I mean, there’s no pressing needs, right?

  15. Pickgrin Says:

    Another gem of a piece Ira. Wordsmith extraordinaire.

    Sage is the GOAT of Tampa Bay sports writing.

    Mcewen, Mizell, et all got nothing on you Irv…..

  16. Joe in Michigan Says:

    Jason: Which troll was it that called Brady “Noodle Arm” for part of last season? History wasn’t kind to that person!

    I just want the Bucs to draft good football players. I’d like to see them draft an edge rusher in the first 3 rounds, if the talent matches up with the draft spot. I see no reason for the Bucs to trade down, there’s a good chance a highly regarded player will fall to 32. That, and a 5th year option on said talented player, why would the Bucs or Bucs fans want to give that up for say, an extra 3rd or 4th Rounder?

  17. Joe in Michigan Says:

    PatsBucsfan4years Says:

    April 15th, 2021 at 4:09 pm

    Hope the Bucs draft Ian Book at 199… Worked out well for the Patriots 21 years ago drafting a QB nobody was talking about

    I don’t know that Book is a scheme fit for the Bucs. Arians likes bigger, strong armed QB’s. They might sign somebody like this as an UDFA as a camp guy, but I doubt they’d draft him. Just my humble opinion.

  18. Buczilla Says:

    Good stuff Ira.

  19. Mike28277 Says:

    Love the last 2 lines Ira

  20. Joe in Michigan Says:

    HeyItsAdam Says:

    April 15th, 2021 at 2:35 pm

    And also remember: sometimes a player “slides” for a REASON.

    see “Howard, OJ.”
    OJ Howard isn’t even in the top 10 biggest 1st Round disappointments from the 2017 Draft. Mitch Trubisky, Solomon Thomas, John Ross, Adoree’ Jackson, Jarrad Davis, Charles Harris, Gareon Conley, Takk McKinley, Taco Charlton, and Reuben Foster have him topped in the “bust” category.

  21. MadMax Says:

    Rondale Moore….need I say more.

    KR/PR/small WR the type Brady always loves to have who is quick over the middle, end arounds, hands forever, will catch everything within radius and break away from everything non radius…185lbs, 4.29 40… and squats 600 lbs…plus he’s future if we lose someone at WR.

    Imagine him on one side, scooter on the other, Evans or Godwin wherever, Gronk and Brate doing whatever…thats a DC’s worst nightmare, who do you cover? And with Brady at the helm. hahaha, I just laugh at the possibilities.

  22. Bucanero Says:

    If it was me I would go Jerry style all the way up to pick Kyle Pitts just for the sake of it. Big splash Mike Ditka way. It’s good that I’m just a fan and the pros are at work. But I do want to see some exciting rookies fill the roster.

  23. Joe in Michigan Says:

    MadMax: Have you checked out Rondale Moore’s stats? Is he the Jayson Oweh of receivers, great athlete, little to show for it?

  24. MadMax Says:

    Yeah, his freshman season stats, did you see those? then he had a hamstring injury cut his season short in 2019 (only played 4 games), then only played 3 games with a horrible back up QB last year. I dont know, maybe i just look past certain things and know what I see on tape….lots of immediate impact potential at our weakest spot…KR/PR, plus that small speedy shifty WR Brady always loves.

  25. Joe in Michigan Says:

    I respect your opinion, MadMax. If the Bucs drafted Moore, I’d hope for the best with him. I’d rather the Bucs get a WR on Day 3 of the draft, if they decide to draft one at all this year.

  26. JimbobBucsFan Says:

    Yar Says:
    April 15th, 2021 at 2:53 pm

    There is a great deal of merit in what you have said, Yar.  I doubt many fans will think longer range at this time. 

    Should we win the Super Bowl again this year we will be anticipating a likely sooner departure of Tom Brady and Bruce Arians. If we are going to sustain as a high level contender under a new regime we are going to need to acquire top potential in player replacements in the next few years.

  27. Bucs4821 Says:

    I remember hearing this years ago. You don’t want your coach making your draft picks because he needs to win *now*. A general manager takes an overall look at the big picture. Not just now, but 2-3 years from now. Bucs ownership have given their head coach too much power through their horrible draft history.