The Jason Licht Tightrope

March 11th, 2023

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Anybody remember the Flying Wallendas? Didn’t think so.

The Flying Wallendas were famous circus performers, specializing in high-wire feats of daring. They were particularly adept at walking across tightropes without a safety net.

Welcome to the act, Mr. Licht.

Tom Brady’s departure has obviously changed the calculus for the Buccaneers, but Tampa Bay’s GM is working on a tricky formula. With the blessing of the Glazers, Licht is determined to keep the Bucs competitive in the division while taking a rather passive approach to free agency.

General manager Jason Licht has forged a path with Bucs ownership, writes Ira Kaufman.

The Bucs are no longer all-in, but they’re not exactly all-out, either.

It would be a mistake to describe the Bucs as a franchise in full tanking mode. That’s not the case — even as the Bucs say goodbye to a slew of players who contributed to a Super Bowl victory only 25 months ago.

Tough decisions had to be made because Tampa Bay’s salary-cap situation remains challenging. In a few days, the team’s longest-tenured player, Lavonte David, may leave as a free agent.

Wish him luck … and move on.

As strategies were developed following the lopsided playoff setback against Dallas, it became clear the Bucs intended to balance fiscal prudence with an acknowledgement the NFC South appears ripe for the taking.

Yes, even with Derek Carr now making things harder for opponents in The Big Easy.

Carr is certainly an upgrade on Andy Dalton, but he’s hardly a savior. In nine seasons with the Raiders, Carr averaged seven wins. He’s played in only one postseason matchup, losing 26-19 at Cincinnati. He averages all of six rushing yards per game and he’s been sacked on 5 percent of his dropbacks.

Defenders know the exact coordinates of Carr’s desired launching point, so don’t expect any pocket change in 2023.

Carr’s been durable, but he’s no difference-maker for a franchise teeming with major issues. Michael Thomas, a Buc-killer who once looked like the NFL’s premier receiver, has reached the end zone three times in the past three seasons.

Alvin Kamara, one of the league’s most versatile backs, has been charged with felony battery for allegedly punching, kicking and stomping a Houston man during an altercation at a Las Vegas nightclub. Kamara’s status for the upcoming season remains uncertain.

On the other side of the ball, Cameron Jordan turns 34 in July.

The Panthers and Falcons are both searching for answers under center  There’s a decent chance they will start rookie quarterbacks this fall.

Given that scenario, Licht has to think this roster still has enough juice to squeeze out a third consecutive division crown. Tristan Wirfs, Ryan Jensen, Vita Vea, Antoine Winfield Jr.., Carlton Davis, Devin White, Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and Shaq Barrett form a solid nucleus, and Kyle Trask could be better than advertised.

In other divisions, the landscape wouldn’t be nearly as hopeful.

If the Bucs were looking up to the Eagles or the 49ers instead of looking down on the Panthers, Falcons and Saints, Tampa Bay’s approach would be different. Playing in the league’s weakest division gives ownership understandable pause when assessing the idea of selling off top-shelf players to accumulate draft capital.

Will Mike Evans last beyond the midseason trade deadline?

Evans would likely fetch a nice return if the Bucs decided to shop him. He’s only 29 and he commands a lot of attention downfield, so there would be no shortage of suitors. But the road to another division crown would be far more trecherous without Evans, so he’s still here.

Until he’s not.

Suppose things go awry next season? The calculus would have to change once again. Noting the Titans received two draft picks from Philadelphia, including a first-round choice, for A.J. Brown last April, Licht could at that point be more amenable to moving Evans.

One thing’s for sure: if the Bucs ever decide to tank, you’ll know it.

That’s one slippery tightrope.

For the moment, the Bucs believe they have a more than decent chance to win the NFC South. Even with Trask under center. Even without Donovan Smith and Leonard Fournette. And yes, even without Lavonte David.

Jason Licht’s walking an exceedingly fine line. The Flying Wallendas would be proud.

39 Responses to “The Jason Licht Tightrope”

  1. Joe in Michigan Says:

    I remember the Wallenda that tried walking the tightrope on a windy day in Vegas. Tragic.
    The Bucs aren’t tanking, they wouldn’t have restructured contracts if they were gonna quit.

  2. Ds Says:

    Blow it up

  3. Goatfarmer Says:

    If Mike were traded, I would be a fan of wherever he went and would hope the Bowelszo Yucs lost every game.

  4. Old School Nole Says:

    The Flying Wallendas may not be the best metaphors considering their tragic history. Or maybe they are perfect…..

  5. ElioT Says:

    Even if this season sucks, long term I think the Bucs are in the best spot. As long as they don’t muck it up.

  6. BA’s Red Pen Says:

    F Cam Jordan

  7. PewterPride Says:

    Sure up the o-line and d-line, get this run game going, and there is no reason we can’t compete for a division title.

  8. HC Grover Says:

    Bowles will tank without deciding to tank.

  9. Destinjohnny Says:

    We should have the first pick in the draft the next couple of years.
    Then top 10 4 years after that.

    Google our drafts, we get one player every 3rd draft.

  10. Bosch Says:

    Let’s se how things look after free agency. I suspect that will dictate a tank strategy for 2023. And if Bowel movement has a problem with it? Then just walk out and go get the job you really deserve.

  11. Jon Grudin Says:

    If Licht is the Flying Wallenda and Bowles is Bowlzo the Clown then this Three Ring Circus will be competing for it’s third ring.

    Joes can sell popcorn and peanuts to go along with refreshing Big Storm Beer. Florida’s Elite Restoration can clean up when the Elephants on both lines poop in the straw. Ringmaster Joel Glazer can hopefully assemble a good show this year!

  12. Mike Johnson Says:

    Like the way you give the Buc masses hope there Ira. But I just don’t see it happening. To win in this NFL. You must have a QB .Not a great one but a good one. I’m afraid Trask will take his knocks. Some of them severe. Unless we get a QB in here? I see nothing but a losing record. At least for this year.

  13. Pewter Power Says:

    On a more positive note. The Brady/ patriot fans have finally relocated to a new bandwagon

  14. Freddyfish Says:

    It’s plain and simple. No Quarterback will sign with us, unless below average and begging for a chance in the nfl. The veteran and superstar quarterbacks look at this past season and say well if Brady can’t succeed here finishing 8-9 on a weak schedule, how could I? This coaching staff is a joke. It’s been a fun 3 years…but back to cellar dwellers we go….btw save me the Lamar Jackson bullshiiii, he will never come to Tampa bay. Rant over.

  15. Rod Munch Says:

    If you don’t have a quarterback, you don’t have anything, and there are exactly zero reasons to believe Trask is going to be any good. He might end up being good, but we’ve seen zero proof of that. If Trask stinks, then the rest of the roster doesn’t matter, in particular when you’re replacing half the starters on your defense with guys playing on minimum wage contracts.

  16. steele Says:

    Yes, it is a tightrope. Between Todd Bowles nothingness and an unknown future. And Glazer/Licht is still thinking “competitive”?

    What is the reason for trying again to squeeze something out of a sputtering apparatus full of jaded veterans (who have underperformed mentally and physically for two seasons) and a head coach who is the opposite of visionary or inspirational? Simply because, “we already invested the money, what the hell”? The problem is top down, and it’s Bowles, which affects everything large and small.

    Let’s say you do insert an above-average NFL veteran at QB. This QB is stuck with the same sputtering apparatus as last season, with even fewer pieces, and another season of mental issues (Evans, your superstar, who mostly quit the season). Rah Rah Canales is trying to get everyone to drink his Kool-Aid, but he’s not the HC. Bowles doesn’t have any magic Kool-Aid for himself or the rest.

    Let’s say somehow, after this bizarre and still unfolding offseason, this bunch manages to be an above .500 proposition. Barely above. Then what? Bowles gets an extension? Then more mediocrity into the future.

    The way to really do it right is to make the changes. Lose Bowles. Change the coaching, reset the whole culture. You want a nucleus of young talent (BETTER DRAFTING), coming up all at once. Then you can look forward to a long stretch of hope, over , say, a 5 yr period. Bengals are doing it. Seahawks are starting it.

  17. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    Goatfarmer Says:
    “I…would hope the Bowelszo Yucs lost every game.”

    Seems to me like you already do…

  18. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    Rod Munch Says
    “…there are exactly zero reasons to believe Trask is going to be any good. ”

    True…but there are exactly zero reasons to believe he is going to be very bad also. It’s kind of a ‘we won’t know until the time comes’ thing…and patience is not exactly a Bucs fan virtue.

  19. JamesrunningWilder Says:

    The Wallendas are still around and they’re still walking tightropes to this day, most notably, Nick Wallenda, who resides here in Sarasota Florida. That being said, depending how the QB situation shakes out, we should still be very competitive.

  20. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    steele Says:
    “…who have under-performed mentally and physically for two seasons…”

    Wait. TWO SEASONS???? Since when is 13 wins under-performing?

    I can agree with you on one year, though injuries were the main cause, but not two.

  21. Buccaneer Bonzai Says:

    Destinjohnny Says
    “Google our drafts, we get one player every 3rd draft.”

    2 in 2014
    3 in 2015
    1 in 2016
    2 in 2017
    5 in 2018
    4 in 2019
    3 in 2020
    3 in 2021
    5 in 2022 (not nearly as bad as some people claim, aye?)

    Number of picks who produced from each draft. Seems google doesn’t backup your claim.

  22. Oxycondoms Says:

    All ive heard is that trask will compete for the job. I dont think the bucs believe in trask as a starter.

  23. An Erection for Sacks Says:

    “Goatfarmer Says:
    March 11th, 2023 at 6:47 pm
    If Mike were traded, I would be a fan of wherever he went and would hope the Bowelszo Yucs lost every game.”

    Here is a prime example of a terrible fan. Shameful.

  24. Buc king Says:

    We just need one year to clean up the books and maybe land a important pick..
    Either we will find a gem a back up or a bum in Trask..
    Will get to see if the new o coordinator has magic Leftwich lacked.
    I expect to match up well against certain teams and be blown out by others.
    Will get closer to the big picture next year if the books get cooked right..
    Smartest thing we can do is beg Brady back for 1 more year.

  25. Mike C Says:

    Yeah “Goatfarmer ” that’s why you are not a Bucs fan, and just a ship jumping, band wagon, fair weather chump.

  26. gotbbucs Says:

    What a bunch of whiny b!tch’s.

  27. Craig Says:

    If you don’t have a QB, then you don’t have anything.

    We might have a better QB than we had last season. We might not know it if they trade off those who can help him.

    Keep Evans and let him be the first down guy again, Last season was hard on him, because Leftie couldn’t see talent if it squatted on his toes.

    The real problem will not be the offense, it will be a Bowles cleaner defense. The Talent there is falling fast.

  28. Goatfarmer Says:

    Bonz — I hope the Bloweszo Bucs will win but I know they won’t. And I am an old school player-loyal guy, especially when it’s someone like Mike. And Mike has given the Bucs a huge discount over the years when he’s had the chance to leverage. So, that’s it.

    I hope Bloweszo can win. I want Bloweszo to win.

    I’ve been a Bucs fan since inception. I know stank when I smell it.

  29. Goatfarmer Says:

    Erection and Mike C — you two seem like a perfect pair. “Just trash the team, see what inept player/coach combinations can do. Tank the season. Play for the top draft pick. ”

    The Bucs have taken 25 years to do two “rebuilds.” This is a fact. One of the reasons is for letting great players just go, for peanuts. Relying purely on draft picks means you will suck. That is also a fact.

    So, bleaux me…..a kiss as you’re logging out.

  30. Crickett Baker Says:

    What I wanna know is where Ira saw any advertisement for Kyle Trask.

  31. TampabayDJ82 Says:

    If the Bucs trade Evans , the fans would boycott !! Go Bucs and F Cam Jordan

  32. Leighroy Says:

    The AJ Brown trade was the last straw that got the Titans GM fired. So uh, not a good citation of a positive idea.

    Also DeAndre in his prime Hopkins only yielded a 2nd round draft pick when teams knew the Texans were desperate to move him. So don’t go banking on some haul the Bucs might receive for Evans. He’ll turn 30 in august btw, and AJ Brown is actually young enough to have his prime ahead of him at 25.

  33. Allbuccedup Says:

    Don’t forget Derek Carr had three pro bowl seasons before Chucky the quarterback killer showed up.

  34. Obvious Says:

    I would like to second the notion that BA’s red pen has put on the floor. “FRACK camara jordana”!

    But I can’t since TampabayDJ82 has beaten me to it!

    In the meantime,

    Camara jordana experiences self doubt as his body continues to betray him for the rest of his smug life. He won’t be so smug for much longer when father time comes knocking. He will stand tall and talk smack to the next heir apparent and he will find himself picking his LOUSY ARSE up off the floor when the “truth of the truth” cashes that check that his mouth was writing for years. He will find that he has received “insufficient funds” notices piling up!

    The feeling that has escaped him due to his gifts from God, will now be FRONT AND CENTER! And that basic human emotion that has not been there since a young boy, and is known to most mere mortals, as “FEAR”!

    And as he sits on his arse for a SECOND TIME due to him having a disrespectful tone and what’s known as a “slick mouth” (A habitual problem), the SUPERIOR and FAR STRONGER Athletic Young “BUC” WILL remind him once again that a New Sheriff is in town and there isn’t a darn thing he can do about it. This young Buc’s name is likely “Tristan Wirfs” BUT there will be many more as camara grows weaker in short time.

    Yes I’ll third that sentiment from The red pen and the Tampabaydj82. I also feel like camara jordana can just go and F OFF!

  35. Voice of Truth Says:

    This season is gonna suck

  36. BucaneroJim Says:

    right JRWilder… we Sarasota Bucaroos know the Wallenda family members are still around and walking the wire… which is what Licht will be doing for a couple more seasons.

  37. Nicholas Carlson Says:

    Everyone stop trying to trade Mike Evans and get rid of our good players. Anyone who says “blow it up” doesn’t Weber what it’s like to have zero good players on the team. Well I do and it’s terrible. And it’s not so easy to just add good players again!

  38. Who Says Says Can't Say Says:

    Joe I just want to say that it’s a real service to the Bucs fan community that Ira is on here still writing articles. Even as print media fell by the wayside, most of us really wanted to keep hearing his thoughts about everything Buc. thank you

  39. Joe Says:


    You are welcome!