The Next Succession Plan & A Pile Of Chips

April 14th, 2022

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Jason Licht’s job description doesn’t include the phrase “tightrope walker,” but maybe it should.

In his ninth year as GM of the Bucs, Licht is treading a fine line at the moment, facing a challenging balancing act that requires both short-term focus and proper foresight.

As the overseer of football operations at One Buc Place, Licht is acutely aware of the franchise’s heightened sense of urgency.

Tom Brady is back, along with the lofty expectations that surround any team with No. 12 under center. As Tristan Wirfs put it so eloquently on Tuesday, the window is open again now that Brady has ended a brief retirement.

Within a week of Brady’s return, the Bucs traded for veteran guard Shaq Mason and signed wide receiver Russell Gage as a free agent.

Coincidence? Hardly.

Mason and Brady were former teammates in New England while Gage acknowledged that Brady actively recruited him to Tampa. You can bet Brady is now working hard on Rob Gronkowski, hoping to convince the future Hall of Fame tight end to come back for one more Super Bowl run.

The temptation to load up this roster with veterans is understandable.

This has the feel of Brady’s final season in a Buc uniform. He is not obligated to Tampa Bay past 2022 and as much as Licht would like to extend Brady’s contract, it hasn’t happened.

With Brady back aboard, the Bucs are now the favorites to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl, ahead of the defending champion Rams. It’s easy to understand a short-term strategy that maximizes this team’s chances to win it all this fall. But there’s a flip side to the agenda that many Buc fans simply don’t want to think about — the idea of life beyond Brady and all that entails.

Center Ryan Jensen is in his 10th NFL season.

There are some danger signs for those willing to look beyond the upcoming season. For example, 14 of the 67 players on the current roster are 30 or older.

That may not seem like a big number, but by NFL standards, it’s huge. And if Gronkowski and Ndamukong Suh return, that number would swell to 16.

The 2022 Bucs could feature seven starters at least 30 years old — Brady, Gronkowski, Ryan Jensen, Will Gholston, Suh, Lavonte David and Logan Ryan. Once again, we see a graphic example of The Brady Factor.

In 2019, Jameis Winston’s final season under center, Suh and Demar Dotson were the only Buc starters 30 or older.

There’s another way of looking at the seasoning of this franchise. In 2019, the average age of Tampa Bay’s 53-man roster heading out of training camp was 25.4, the second-youngest in the league behind Miami.

A year later, with Brady aboard, that average age grew to 26.3, the seventh oldest mark in the NFL. In 2021, the number was 26.7, the third oldest in the league.

Once Brady departs, Tampa Bay’s future will be in the hands of players entering their prime — Wirfs, Vita Vea, Devin White, Chris Godwin, Carlton Davis and Antoine Winfield. Perhaps Joe Tryon-Shoyinka will emerge as an additional cornerstone piece.

Unlike so many other teams, these Bucs aren’t building toward something … they’re already there. They’re all-in and no Buc fan is thinking about 2023.

But part of Licht’s responsibility is creating a blueprint for long-term success. If this is indeed Brady’s final fling in Tampa, the Bucs need a succession plan at the game’s most important position.

They need fresh young bodies at tight end and the defensive line and a potential replacement for David, who turns 33 next January.

Those issues seem far off, but they’re not. Licht thinks about them every day — even as he pushes chip after chip onto the 2022 pile.

Yes, that warranty includes USED vehicles!
Ira drives a 2020 Ford Escape (cherry red).

Enjoy the latest Ira Kaufman Podcast!

16 Responses to “The Next Succession Plan & A Pile Of Chips”

  1. Tampabaybucfan Says:

    There is no question that 23 may be a complete rebuild year…..if Brady doesn’t return, it will all fall on whether or not Kyle Trask can step in adequately.
    We will have a choice……give him weapons & support like Brady…..or throw him to the wolves with a bunch of younger players.
    Licht has been very good with finding some UDFA, Oline…..and some other draft picks.
    We also have players we can trade…….Jensen, D. Smith…..perhaps Davis…..
    I don’t propose that, but it may be necessary.
    For now…it’s 22 or bust.

  2. Defense Rules Says:

    GRRREAT analysis Ira. The notion of JL being responsible for creating ‘a blueprint for long-term success’ is critical IMO unless we want to return to those dark days of the last decade. Bucs have a LOT of young talent that this coaching staff has developed very nicely, but we won’t be able to keep them all because of future salary CAP limitations. Such is life … every team has virtually the same CAP limitations year-in & year-out.

    The even bigger issue, as you mentioned, is replacing some of our older players. I’m very confident that both Suh AND Gronk will return on 1-year deals; maybe even JPP. That’d be 3 players to replace next year, POTENTIALLY along with Brady, LVD, Gholston, Ryan, Neal & some others. Interestingly, almost all of those FAs are on defense, and I doubt we’ll be able to afford veteran FAs to replace them. Along similar lines, our depth (on defense especially) is quite inadequate (as we saw last year?). All that tells me is that the Bucs better use their top picks over these next 2-3 drafts on D-E-F-E-N-S-E if we expect to run with the big dogs.

  3. Bruce Blahak Says:

    Sustainability involves mastering the draft and coaching young players, which the Bucs have proven to do. Would like to see more focus on building the ultimate Bucs star defense!, what the team is historically known for. Keep adding to the oline too.

  4. Dlavid Says:

    Brady will be in Miami 2023….

  5. Dusthty Rhothdes Says:

    JL got extremely lucky that TB12 wound up in Tampa or the bucs might be just another 7-9 team in the lousy NFC South. The bucs do have the pieces in place if Brady leaves next year; hope the bucs have a shot at Baker Mayfield via FA, if he is released this year, which would keep the bucs atop the NFC South if Brady leaves

  6. Pa Bucs fan Says:

    You people are delusional and spoiled it’s comical. Do you not remember what a rebuild looks like ? It looks like the current Texans jaguars jets and giants . Do any of those teams have anywhere near the talent of the Bucs team that would start in 2023 without Brady? No, the Bucs are not close to rebuilding cuz they have drafted well, even with no Brady next year the Bucs will be more talented across the board more than half the leagues teams. Everyone relax the Bucs are not gonna be 7-10 without Brady

  7. Bird Says:

    Read somewhere that bucs have 6 free agent dbs next season

    May want to get corner early.

  8. Bucsfan4ever Says:

    Here’s to staying healthy this year.

  9. PSL Bob Says:

    DR, I agree with you re loading up on the defensive side in the draft, with one exception. I’d pick a D-lineman in Rd 1 but would grab a stud o-lineman in Round 2. Then grab the best defensive players available in the remaining rounds. Forget grabbing offensive weapons (WR, WR, and TE) this year. Although TE will be critical, I’d try to get that filled through UDFA and FA.

  10. HC Grover Says:

    I only care about this year and the championship this year.

  11. HC Grover Says:

    Most players even on the top NFL teams were drafted in the later rounds.

  12. KnoxvilleBuc Says:

    We will never truly know all the behind the scene drama with the team, Brady, Arians. And that’s fine. I do think Brady should acknowledge this and be open about all the questions and Arians slander. It’s only paying respect to arguably the best coach in Bucs history. Hopefully one day he will and the team can put it past them. There is definitely fire to all the smoke out there. But Brady chose us and chose us again. Jensen, Fournette resigned for 3 years, with the addition of Gage. This gives me hope Brady will extend. I don’t see him recruiting these guys with them not asking a simple question about his own future.

  13. Jmarkbuc Says:

    “But Brady chose us again”

    Meh.. I think we were the second choice, again. He was contractually obligated.

    Brian Flores just put a wrench in his plans.

    On the bright side, TB12 strives for excellence, and no doubt will again this year.

  14. Bucs Guy Says:

    Bucs signed a number players to 1 year and 3 year contracts. The 1 year deals are to go all in. Most of them are a little older and probably will be gone in 2023.

    The 3 year deals tell me that’s when the Bucs could be looking at a major rebuild. Depending upon the QB situation after TB12, the rebuild could be earlier or later.

  15. Todd Says:

    I must admit, JoeBucsFan used to drive me nuts with their negative reporting on the franchise. I thought the criticism was as way over the top.

    But listening to this podcast, I reflect and admit, “You were right!”

    Being such an optimist filled with hopeium, I was offended.

    But, you were right.

    I now witness a very pragmatic assessment and defense…especially of Arians. The man is a legend who brought us out of the decade of depression. Personally, I’m grateful and disdain the utter disregard to his accomplishments.

    Joe Bucs Fan…the three of you…deserve my apology of yester-years. You are my favorite podcast and now I pay attention without being defensive.

    Just wanted to utter the three sentences that are so hard to say.

    “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Please forgive me.”

    Love you guys.

  16. Ed Says:

    One of the factors in the Rams beating the Bucs in the NFC Championship game was the defensive pressure that Aaron Donald and Von Miller got on Brady. Until the end of the 3rd quarter the game was a blowout. Wirf’s injury certainly helped the Rams D line but they didn’t have to blitz.

    Without better players on the defensive line the Bucs will face similar challenges when playing top quarterbacks.

    Personally, I’m all in on them drafting all defense. I think we can get away without drafting a DB this year. It should be DL and LB/Edge Rusher for first 4 rounds.