Jason Licht

Extra Points: Millen, Long, Bears, McCarthy, Bucs, Koetter, Licht

We heard yesterday that Mike McCarthy was interested in the Cardinals’ head coaching job, assuming Steve Wilks is fired as is expected, but McCarthy might actually have his sights set on a different destination. While there is still a chance Dirk Koetter retains his job in Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers’ gig is the one McCarthy “has been connected most to”, according to Albert Breer of SI.com. While Breer writes that Koetter is likely to be gone, he says that Tampa GM Jason Licht’s job status is “murkier.”

It’ll be a pivotal offseason for the Buccaneers, as they have to decide on what to do with their coaching staff, their front office, and their quarterback. Right now it seems likely that Jameis Winston is back in 2019, but that’s not a guarantee. McCarthy will seemingly have his pick of a couple of jobs, and will likely want to go somewhere with a quarterback in place. If he does go to the Bucs, that could be an indication the team plans on sticking with Winston.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • We heard recently that ex-Lions GM Matt Millen was having serious health issues, and now we have an update. The former four-time Super Bowl champion and Penn State star had been in need of a heart transplant, and finally was able to receive one. After months in the hospital waiting, Millen had successful heart transplant surgery, according to Peter King of NBC Sports. The heart was a “perfect match” and Millen is recovering well. Since leaving the Lions, Millen has worked for NBC, ESPN, FOX, and NFL Network as a commentator. It’s great news, and everyone here at PFR is wishing Millen the best.
  • The Bears have already clinched the NFC North, but are still fighting for a first round by and the two seed. They’ll be getting a boost on offense, as it appears that starting right guard Kyle Long may return for their Week 17 game against the Vikings. Long has been on injured reserve since early November with a foot injury, but coach Matt Nagy said he’s “cautiously optimistic” Long will play this week, according to Patrick Finley of the Chicago Sun Times. Mitchell Trubisky has struggled at times in recent weeks, so getting Long back will be good for him.
  • In case you missed it, Adam Gase isn’t necessarily safe in Miami, but the Dolphins won’t be pursuing Jim Harbaugh.

South Notes: Colts, Bucs, Falcons, Newton

Although Matt Eberflus was tied to Josh McDaniels when he accepted the offer to become the Colts‘ defensive coordinator, Stephen Holder of The Athletic notes (subscription required) Chris Ballard was the driving force behind the then-Cowboys linebackers coach moving to Indianapolis. The second-year Colts GM held Ebeflus in such high regard that he may have been the DC choice without McDaniels’ involvement, though likely not had the Colts hired a defensively geared coach. But in nearly all of the interviews the Colts conducted, Holder reports Eberflus’ name was broached. Despite a host of young players for a unit not expected to be particularly strong, the first-year DC has the Colts holding the No. 11 DVOA defense going into Week 15. The 2017 Colts produced the No. 27 DVOA defense.

The latest from some South teams, continuing to Tampa.

  • It is possible DeSean Jackson has played his final game with the Buccaneers. Playing on a contract that includes no additional guaranteed money, the 32-year-old wide receiver had his injured thumb immobilized, Greg Auman of The Athletic tweets. Jackson has been unable to grip footballs with his injured hand, forcing him to miss the past two Bucs games. He had previously played through this malady, per Auman (on Twitter). Tampa Bay’s top deep threat hopes to play again this season, but that’s not a lock. And with a nonguaranteed $10MM base salary on the Bucs’ books next year, Jackson is a prime release candidate in 2019.
  • Most believe Buccaneers GM Jason Licht has a better chance of returning in 2019 than Dirk Koetter does, Jenna Laine of ESPN.com writes. Despite the Bucs still staring at what will likely soon become an 11-season playoff drought, Licht’s ability to draft and extend the likes of Mike Evans and Cameron Brate has pleased ownership, Laine adds. Licht signed an extension that takes him through the 2019 season, but it remains possible the Glazers move on from he, Koetter and Jameis Winston and start fresh next year.
  • Arthur Blank said he has not lost faith in Thomas Dimitroff or Dan Quinn, but the Falcons have since endured another one-sided defeat and now sit 4-9. They already made other moves, like replacing highly paid right tackle Ryan Schraeder with Ty Sambrailo, for the future. Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk writes more losses will continue to cause suspicion as to whether Blank will change his mind and pivot to a new power structure.
  • Derek Newton‘s Saints contract is a two-year pact, according to his agency (Twitter link). It appears the Saints will use their upcoming practices to gauge whether the former longtime Texans right tackle is fit enough to the point he could be more than an injury fill-in.

Buccaneers Extend GM Jason Licht

The Buccaneers have given Jason Licht an extension, but it’s not a lengthy one. Only one year has been added to Licht’s deal, keeping him in place through 2019, according to Jenna Laine of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The news was first reported by Ira Kaufman of JoeBucsFan.com

The Buccaneers signed Licht to a four-year deal in 2014 which included a fifth-year option. The Bucs picked up Licht’s option last year, leaving him with lame duck status. He has some additional security now, but not much more.

Under Licht, the Bucs have been unable to snap their playoff drought, which dates back to 2007. In four years, the Bucs have gone through two head coaches and have managed only one winning season, so ownership is understandably wary about committing to Licht in the long run.

It may take a playoff berth this year for Licht to keep his job, but that’s a tall task given the level of competition in the NFC South and Jameis Winston’s three-game ban to start the year. Las Vegas oddsmakers indicate that Dirk Koetter‘s seat is among the hottest of any NFL coach and, logically, the same should go for the man staffing the team.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Accident Linked To DeSean Jackson

Tampa, Fla. police are investigating a crash on Christmas Eve that involved a vehicle registered to Buccaneers receiver DeSean JacksonMike Garafolo of NFL.com reportsDeSean Jackson (vertical)

The vehicle, a Chevy Silverado, was found unattended after it appeared to leave the road and struck a tree Sunday evening. Police discovered 6.3 grams of marijuana and also found two .38 caliber hollow-point bullets in the vehicle. In the state of Florida, the bullets are legal and any marijuana less than 20 grams is considered a misdemeanor offense. The police report indicated officers made contact with Jackson, who responded to the scene.

Per Garofolo’s source, “Jackson initially declined to cooperate, then gave officers the name of the alleged driver but declined to assist officers in getting the driver back to the scene.”

A representative of Jackson, Denise White, said “It was a friend of DeSean’s who borrowed his car while he was out of town. None of what was in the car was his obviously. He’s dealing with the person that was using it without his knowledge privately. The incident is being handled.”

Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht responded to the reports in a statement:

“We are aware of a one-car accident involving a vehicle registered to DeSean Jackson on the night of Dec. 24. Our understanding is that DeSean has been in contact with authorities and is cooperating with the investigation.”

Jackson, who was inactive and did not travel to the team’s Week 16 matchup with Carolina, has tallied 50 receptions for 668 yards in his first season with the team. No arrests have been made and the case remains open.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Latest On Jon Gruden, Buccaneers

While Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht is expected to remain in place, the “current thinking” is that Tampa Bay head coach Dirk Koetter will be fired, reports Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. Former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden is a candidate to return to Tampa Bay, per Florio, and many in league circles are “convinced” the Buccaneers will indeed make a run at Gruden, according to Tom Pelissero of NFL.com.Jon Gruden (Vertical)

Gruden, now an ESPN commentator, has been linked to a number of vacancies in recent seasons — including the Rams and Colts during the 2017 hiring cycle — but has always opted to return to the booth. However, Gruden didn’t rule out a return to coaching earlier this year, and has in fact been contacting former assistants regarding their availability, per Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (video link).

While Gruden hasn’t been on a sideline in nearly a decade, he’s still only 54 years old. He’s reportedly worked through any issues with the Buccaneers ownership group that would prevent a return to Tampa Bay, and while the club typically waits until after the season to finalize coaching hires, a Gruden addition could occur quickly, reports Pelissero.

In seven seasons with the Buccaneers, Gruden posted a 57-55 record and won a Super Bowl trophy. Prior to leading Tampa Bay, Gruden managed a 38-26 mark with the Raiders.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bucs Picked Up 2018 Option For Jason Licht

Jason Licht is under contract through the 2018 season thanks to an option Buccaneers ownership picked up in his contract recently, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

The Tampa Bay GM did not receive a contract extension, per Stroud, but did see a 2018 option picked up at some point during this past offseason. This ties Licht to the Bucs through next season but does so somewhat loosely, Stroud writes, adding it’s uncertain how significant a role Licht will have in hiring the team’s next head coach.

The Bucs are expected to move on from Dirk Koetter after two seasons, with Charean Williams of Pro Football Talk calling this a “certainty.” With Licht having fired Lovie Smith and promoted Koetter, he may not be safe. It could well depend on what the next Bucs head coach thinks of the job Licht has done.

In place for four seasons as Tampa Bay’s GM, Licht will have seen his teams finish with sub-.500 records in three of those campaigns. Their playoff-absence streak will stretch to 10 after this season. This campaign’s current 4-9 mark may look the worst, given what was expected of a team believed at one point to be on the rise.

Stroud notes the GM’s latest draft — which produced O.J. Howard, Justin Evans, Chris Godwin and Kendell Beckwith — should work in Licht’s favor, while the 2016 second-round selection Roberto Aguayo — whom ownership lobbied for — will stick to the executive’s resume. Of course, Licht is tied to the mercurial Jameis Winston as well. But it’s probably still too early to pass definitive judgment on the Bucs’ starting quarterback at this point, his 2017 struggles notwithstanding.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Aguayo, Contracts, Wilson, Jets

Buccaneers GM Jason Licht justified his decision to take a kicker in the second round by labeling Roberto Aguayo as the top kicking prospect he’d seen.

This is the best kicker I’ve ever seen in college, my favorite kicker,” Licht told Thomas Bassinger of the Tampa Bay Times. “I’m not going to risk [not] getting him and then have to go through a kicking carousel again during my tenure. I want to get the best kicker. Every position, I want to get the best.”

The rookie who never missed a kick under 40 yards with Florida State and drilled all 198 of his college-range extra points induced the Bucs to trade up to draft him, making Aguayo the highest kicker selected since Mike Nugent went to the Jets in the 2005 second round at No. 47.

While Massinger argues the numbers do not support Licht’s decision, the GM noted Aguayo’s combination of power and accuracy will make a big difference for a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in nine years.

There are lot of kickers that are very accurate — Connor Barth was an accurate kicker — but a lot of those don’t have a powerful leg,” Licht said. “(Aguayo’s) also a weapon as a kickoff guy, too. He can either put it out of the end zone or he can hang it high and drop it on the 5 (yard line) or the 2. … When a team is confident in a kicker, it can affect your game plan a little bit. You can know where you need to get to. We know that if we can’t get it beyond that, we’re still fine.”

Here’s more from around the league.

  • In light of what’s occurring with the Broncos and Von Miller as the franchise tag deadline nears, Jason Fitzgerald of OverTheCap writes incoming rookies’ agents should attempt to take some power back and demand teams incorporate language that prohibits the use of the tag for their clients. Using a CBA clause that contains language indicating the possibility of a contract preventing the use of a franchise or transition tag, Fitzgerald notes this could be a way for players to regain some leverage that the 2011 CBA stripped from them. Of course, getting a team to agree to such a premise when it holds a player’s exclusive rights coming out of the draft is a different story. Players like Miller and Muhammad Wilkerson have seen the fifth-year option and now the franchise tag restrict their earning potential severely compared to old-CBA first-rounders, however.
  • Fitzgerald notes that Russell Wilson signing for four years and being able to become a prospective free agent a year before Andrew Luck could help compensate for the Seahawks quarterback not receiving the guarantees ($87MM to $61MM) the Colts signal-caller did. The cap expert rates Wilson as the better player who could cash in higher than his 2012 draft class peer as a result of age and skill by the time the passers are due to sign their third contracts.
  • Darron Lee should sit behind Erin Henderson at inside linebacker alongside David Harris as a rookie, with the first-round Jets pick likely taking on sub-package responsibilities as a rookie, Darryl Slater of NJ.com writes. Slater expects Henderson, who played in 16 Gang Green tilts last season as a reserve, to start despite Bruce Carter‘s offseason arrival. The Jets possess solid experience in Harris, Henderson and Carter compared to their unseasoned charges on the outside, as Roster Resource details.
  • Johnny Manziel does not look to be aiming to return to the NFL in 2016, but he’s generated interest from the Arena Football League.

South Notes: Bucs, Aguayo, Winston, Jaguars

Draft evaluations are subjective and tend to vary greatly from team to team. This week, Buccaneers GM Jason Licht reminded us of that fact when he explained that he had first-round grades on three of his rookies this year, including kicker Roberto Aguayo. The Bucs thought enough of the FSU product to trade into the second round for him and apparently it’s a move that the Bucs made with confidence. Along with Aguayo, the GM feels that he snared first-round talents in cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and defensive end Noah Spence. In 2015, Licht says he also hit it big.

We think we got four last year,” Licht told Scott Reynolds of Pewter Report, referring to quarterback Jameis Winston, left tackle Donovan Smith, guard Ali Marpet, and linebacker Kwon Alexander . “That’s the goal – to get multiple first-round draft picks each year. When it’s all said done, to look back and say, ‘We got multiple first-round picks in this draft’ – that was the goal.”

While you ponder Licht’s assessment of his last two drafts (and his evaluation of Aguayo), here’s more out of the South divisions:

  • New Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken admits that he wasn’t a big fan of Winston prior to the 2015 draft. Today, the former Southern Miss head coach isn’t afraid to admit that he has had a change of heart. “It’s who he is, how he’s wired,” Monken said, according to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. “I think that’s one thing that’s a misnomer. I think from the outside you would’ve looked at it with all the things that were publicized in the past about him and who he is. I was dead wrong. He wants to win as much as we do. He’s a competitive joker, man, he’s smart, he’s intelligent…you can win a lot of games with guys like that.”
  • Jeff Linkenbach‘s contract with the Jaguars is for one season and will pay $810K, Adam Caplan of ESPN.com tweets. The guard/tackle has 86 appearances and 36 starts on his NFL resume.
  • The Jaguars got some bad news on Thursday when they learned that first-round pick Jalen Ramsey will have to undergo surgery to fix a knee injury. Depending on the second opinion and the treatment option he goes with, Ramsey could reportedly miss 4-6 weeks or 4-6 months. If all goes well, however, he’ll be ready for the start of training camp.

Draft Rumors: Glennon, Vikings, Colts, Giants

Jason Licht said the Buccaneers did not engage in any trade discussions involving quarterback Mike Glennon, according to Scott Smith of Buccaneers.com (on Twitter), who added Licht and Dirk Koetter are “happy to have him.”

Jameis Winston‘s backup has not played since 2014 and was speculated as a trade target for quarterback-needy teams, joining Nick Foles, A.J. McCarron and the now-released Brian Hoyer in that regard. A 2013 third-round pick, Glennon is entering his contract year and as of now would net the Bucs a low-round compensatory selection if he departs in free agency.

The 26-year-old owns a 5-13 record during his starts as a rookie and then in 2014, completing 58.8% of his passes and throwing 29 touchdown passes compared to 15 interceptions before receding into a practice-only player once the Bucs drafted Winston.

Here’s the latest from Day 3 of the draft, beginning with a bit of history.

  • German League standout Moritz Boehringer informed the Vikings he’d sign with the team as a free agent after the draft, according to Chris Tomasson of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, but those assurances evidently weren’t enough for the Vikings, who took the wide receiver project in the sixth round. A Vikings fan since he saw some Adrian Peterson YouTube videos in 2011, the 6-foot-4, 229-pound Boehringer is responsible for a landmark draft moment: he’s the first foreign-born player selected who didn’t attend a North American college (Twitter links courtesy of Tommason).
  • The Giants are going to add between 12 and 15 undrafted free agents, which is a slightly heightened figure from recent years, NJ.com’s Jordan Raanan tweets.
  • We heard earlier the Steelers were trying to move into the fifth round in order to select potentially a running back or quarterback, Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette tweets, but balked when the players they targeted were no longer on the board.
  • The Colts had some issues on their offensive front last year but did not necessarily intend to devote half of their initial six picks during the draft to the line, Jim Irsay told media (including Mike Chappell of IndySportsCentral.com). Ryan Kelly and Le’Raven Clark went to Indianapolis in the first and third rounds, respectively, with the team adding Carson Wentz‘s top blocker at North Dakota State in guard Joe Haeg in the fifth.

Draft Rumors: QBs, Ramsey, Treadwell, Browns

Jalen Ramsey would prefer to play cornerback despite excelling at both secondary positions at Florida State, Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union reports.

His preference for the higher-paying position, though, comes with the obvious caveat of being willing to play safety as well, possibly expressing malleability to increase his chances of being taken in the top three picks.

One AFC scout in attendance said, “Take your pick; either one” regarding Ramsey’s NFL fit. “He has the range; he’s got some length to him, and he has the ball skills,” the scout told O’Halloran regarding Ramsey’s ability to slot at free safety. “He has a lot of things going for him.”

Four GMs — the TitansJon Robinson, the SteelersKevin Colbert, the BuccaneersJason Licht and the BillsDoug Whaley — attended the pro day, while Mike Mularkey and Mike Tomlin were on hand as well.

Here’s the latest about this year’s crop of top prospects.

  • The 49ers and Browns are slated to work out Jared Goff, Alex Marvez of Fox Sports reports (on Twitter). Both Hue Jackson and Chip Kelly were in attendance at the Cal quarterback’s pro day March 18.
  • San Francisco also has a workout scheduled with Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook, Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee reports. The 49ers are expected to meet with Carson Wentz as well soon, as are the Browns, per Barrows. Cook is rated by most as the No. 4 quarterback on the board and could fall to the second round, while Wentz is expected to be chosen in the top 10. Colin Kaepernick‘s $11.9MM salary in 2016 becomes guaranteed if he’s still on the 49ers’ roster by 3 p.m., Thursday.
  • The Eagles plan to work out Wentz on Thursday, ESPN.com’s Adam Caplan tweets. Philadelphia’s brass observed Goff during a private workout on Monday. While these two passers have become the consensus top two quarterback prospects, Caplan hears from several NFL coaches and executives that Goff is better equipped to come in and contribute immediately (Twitter link).
  • Caplan also reports that one NFL offensive coordinator would sit Memphis’ Paxton Lynch, who hovers a bit below Goff and Wentz on experts’ draft boards as of now, for two seasons while the lanky talent learns the pro game (Twitter link).
  • Laquon Treadwell‘s 4.63-second 40-yard dash clocking at Ole Miss’ pro day didn’t necessarily shock scouts in attendance but caused some concerns about the first-round prospect’s long-term viability, Jason Cole of Bleacher Report hears (video link). The scouts Cole spoke with don’t believe the Ole Miss early-entry talent’s ability to get open effectively in the next four or five years will be affected by his lack of straight-line speed, but there are worries about whether Treadwell can have a long, successful career. The scouts expressed concern that once the rangy receiver loses some of his already-mediocre speed his route-running and body-positioning prowess won’t be enough to compensate.
  • The Browns are bringing in Treadwell for a visit Thursday, Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal reports. Despite his lack of top-end speed, Treadwell is still expected to come off the board by the middle of the first round, which would be in the Browns’ range only if they traded down from their No. 2 overall slot or up from No. 32, Ulrich writes.
  • Temple wide receiver Robby Anderson visited the Browns today, Ulrich reports. Jackson told media at the owners’ meetings in Boca Raton, Fla., receiver is a position is an area the Browns “need to address, obviously,” as Josh Gordon‘s status for 2016 is still unknown. “I’ve gone on record before saying I like to have bigger, faster guys play the position,” Jackson told media. “We have some very talented guys right now. They’re slight in stature, but they’re tough, and I’m looking forward to working with them and see if there’s more that we can gain from them. But at the same time, I still think it’s an area that we need to get better. And we will.”