In the short 3 years that Jason Licht has come on as General Manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the club has steadily climbed out of the hole they dug themselves a few years ago.
With five seasons, finishing in the last place of the NFC South and in 2014 finishing the last place in all of the NFL with a record of 2 and 14. That year prior, the Bucs parted ways with Head Coach Greg Schiano and brought in former Bears Head Coach and Bucs linebackers coach Lovie Smith who earned us the 2-14 record that supplied us with Jameis Winston. Upon arrival, Lovie began making changes immediately. By making sure he got the guy who would help him build the team he wanted; Jason Licht. Ironically, in just two seasons, Licht would be handing Smith his walking papers and hiring offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter as our new HC.
Licht was announced, as the Bucs General manager, on January 21st, 2014 and on the 23rd he was introduced to Bucs nation, in his first news conference at One Buc Place. In the interview, he discussed his philosophy, saying, “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. We’re going to spend wisely.” If this looks familiar to you, it is.
It has been the philosophy of the defending and five Super Bowl champs the New England Patriots. Each year the Patriots get their stars of tomorrow usually in the later rounds of the draft. They have been able to maintain a consistent level of production while keeping their salary cap down by fielding rosters with late-round draft picks or undrafted free agents, enlisting help from veteran free agent’s who are more than happy to sign for less money for a chance at a Superbowl, and only re-signing a handful of stars who they hardly pay.
This strategy has been highly efficient as the Patriots opened this off-season with the fifth most available salary cap in the league. Right behind the Bucs, who had the 4th most available salary cap.
So why the similarities between the two clubs?
Well, to include brief stints with the Dolphins, Eagles, Cardinals, and the Panthers, Licht spent 7 years with The Patriots as a scout, assistant director of player personnel, and director of player personnel. In his short tenure here in Tampa, the Bucs have gone from 2 and 14 to 9 and 7 finishing 2nd in the very tough NFC South.
How the Bucs have been able to do this was building talent through the draft with stars like Mike Evans, Jamies Winston, and Kwon Alexander. While supplementing the roster with valuable veterans like J.R. Sweezy, Clinton McDonald, Brent Grimes, Robert Ayers, Desean Jackson, and Chris Baker. While also developing young talents such as Adam Humphries, Keith Tandy, and Cameron Brate.
Unfortunately, the rest of the league has yet to see this as they have Mr. Licht ranked 17th amongst General Managers in the league. While I would rate him higher, the fruits of Jason Licht’s labor has just begun to be seen. There is still much work to do, but if the Bucs can remain patient and work with the system, the future will remain to look bright.