Jason Licht

Bucs Extend GM Jason Licht, HC Bruce Arians

The Super Bowl architects are staying put. The Buccaneers have agreed to extend the contract of GM Jason Licht (Twitter link via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport). Meanwhile, they’ve also revised Bruce Arians‘ contract to give the head coach a pay bump. 

Licht took over as the Buccaneers’ GM in 2014. The club went 27-53 in his first five years at the helm, but that didn’t stop the club from inking him to a five-year re-up just before the 2019 season. Today, they’re happy they stuck with him. Licht spearheaded the recruitment of Tom Brady, replacing the interception-prone Jameis Winston with a future Hall of Famer. And, together with Brady, Licht brought in a slew of stars, including Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown. For the reigning champs, the decision to extend Licht was a no-brainer.

Arians still has several years to go on the original deal he inked in 2019. And, all along, he’s said that he’ll honor the contract and coach until he’s truly had his fill.

Oh yeah, that’s the plan. I don’t have any plans on retiring,” Arians said of finishing out his contract during an appearance on the Pewter Report Podcast. “It’s just, when do I not want to go back to work? When I’m not excited about going back to work then I’m cheating somebody. I’m cheating the Glazer family, I’m cheating my players. Right now I can’t wait to get back to work.”

Arians is the third-oldest head coach in the NFL, after only Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick. A three-time cancer survivor, Arians has already cemented one of the best comeback stories in NFL coaching history.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bucs GM: Tom Brady Can Play Until He’s 50

The Buccaneers drafted Kyle Trask in the second-round a couple weeks ago, but don’t count on him seeing the field any time soon. Tom Brady continued to defy father time once again this past season, and as far as the Bucs are concerned there’s no cap on when he can keep playing until.

Tampa GM Jason Licht recently appeared on the Rich Eisen Show (Twitter video link), and made it clear he’s not going to force Brady out the door. For starters, Eisen asked Licht whether Brady gave any indication that the extension he signed back in March would be his last. Licht immediately said “none.” While Licht said he’d keep most of their conversations private, he said Brady gave “no inkling at all” that this would be his last go-round.

Most notably, Licht said “I told him if he wants to play until he’s 50, and he feels like he can still play, he can play until he’s 50.” Brady, born in August of 1977, would turn 50 right before the start of the 2027 season. Trask’s rookie contract will have already been long done at that point.

While Licht obviously wasn’t making a firm commitment right there, it’s yet another sign that Brady isn’t going to ride off into the sunset as long as he’s playing at a high level. His most recent extension keeps him under contract through the 2022 season.

The 43-year-old had knee surgery this offseason, although he said recently that he’s hoping to be ready to go by the time the team opens minicamp in June.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Buccaneers Would Consider Drafting QB

The Buccaneers may be all-in on the 2021 season, but that wouldn’t stop them from considering a quarterback in the upcoming draft. During his press conference earlier this week, Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht revealted that he’d consider taking a developmental quarterback who could learn from future Hall of Famer Tom Brady.

“You just want to make sure that you’re not picking a quarterback just to pick a quarterback,” said Licht (via Scott Smith of the team’s website). “You want everybody to be onboard, and the guy’s got to have the right mindset. He’s got to be, obviously, talented and can through the ball, but he’s got to be somebody that we all feel comfortable with above the neck. There’s always positives to drafting a quarterback if all those things align.”

The Buccaneers won’t use a first-round pick on a quarterback, and it’d be a bit surprising if the team selected a QB on the second day of the draft. A late-round quarterback would be a natural crapshoot, but the Buccaneers would be putting that young player in a position to succeed. For starters, the rookie would obviously be playing behind a seven-time champion (and a former late-round pick, to boot). Plus, as Licht pointed out, that young signal-caller would also benefit from the current coaching staff.

“Well, there’s always pros to drafting a quarterback for us because of our coaching staff,” said Licht. “Bruce and Byron and Clyde and Tom Moore – I mean, you couldn’t think of a better staff to groom a quarterback.”

A young quarterback would also have the inside track to succeed Brady when the veteran inevitably retires. In fact, this hypothetical player could have a path to playing time if Brady was forced to miss time next season; the only other quarterback on the roster is Ryan Griffin, although the team is still looking to re-sign backup Blaine Gabbert.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Buccaneers GM: I Won’t Draft A Kicker

Buccaneers GM Jason Licht has learned his lesson. He’s reached for kickers twice during his tenure as Tampa’s GM, but he’s ruled out the position in this year’s draft.

I won’t take a kicker,” said Licht, who intends to head into the fall with Ryan Succop as his kicker.

In 2016, Licht went for Roberto Aguayo in the second round, citing him as a generational talent. The Florida State product was the first kicker since 2005 (Mike Nugent, Jets) to be selected in the second round, but he made just 71-percent of his field goal attempts as a rookie. During the 2017 offseason, he was replaced by Nick Folk.

This is the best kicker I’ve ever seen in college, my favorite kicker,” Licht said of Aguayo following the draft. “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.”

Then, in 2019, Licht took Matt Gay with the No. 145 overall choice. This time around, he’s standing pat with Succop, who recently inked a three-year, $12MM contract extension.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bucs GM: Blaine Gabbert Could Eventually Take Over For Tom Brady

At some point, Father Time will catch up with Tom Brady. Whenever that happens, the Buccaneers could turn to backup Blaine Gabbert as his heir, according to GM Jason Licht.

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First of all, I love his energy,” Licht told Pewter Report. “I’ve really gotten close to Blaine this year just being on the sidelines. He’s a really smart guy but he is one guy, my scouts and I talk about this a lot, he’s just one guy that I love to watch throw every day in practice because he has got a cannon. He’s very accurate with his throws as well and he can just really whistle them in in tight windows. If he had been forced to play, he played in the Detroit game, but if he had been forced to play more I think that he would have really opened a lot of people’s eyes about how talented he is, especially being in the same system for a couple of years.

Gabbert, 32 in October, came into the league as a first-round pick of the Jaguars in 2010. Since then, he’s compiled a career 13-35 record as a starter with the Jags, 49ers, Cardinals, and Titans. Needless to say, he hasn’t lived up to his draft status or built a resume to rival Brady’s. The Bucs aren’t about to anoint Gabbert as Brady’s heir, but Licht is “not going to rule anything out right now.”

Fortunately, the Bucs won’t have to consider such a scenario anytime soon. Brady is signed through the 2021 season and, as he’s said repeatedly, he plans to play for as long as possible. Right now, the Bucs will keep the focus on their pending free agents. Among their out-of-contract star contributors: Chris Godwin, Rob GronkowskiLavonte David, Ndamukong Suh, Antonio Brown, and Leonard Fournette.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Longest-Tenured GMs In The NFL

When we ran down the longest-tenured head coaches in the NFL, we found that less than half of the league’s current coaches have been in their positions for more than three years. That’s not quite the case with general managers, but there have been plenty of changes in recent years.

A handful of general managers have gotten to take their coats off and stay for a long while. Among coaches, Bill Belichick had joined his team prior to 2003. Here, you’ll see that five GMs have been with their teams since before ’03 (Belichick, of course, is also on this list). Two of those five – Jerry Jones and Mike Brown – are outliers, since they’re team owners and serve as de facto GMs. But the Patriots, Steelers, and Saints, have all had the same general managers making their roster decisions for well over a decade.

Here’s the complete list of the NFL’s longest-tenured GMs, along with the date they took over the job:

  1. Jerry Jones (Dallas Cowboys): April 18, 1989[1]
  2. Mike Brown (Cincinnati Bengals): August 5, 1991[2]
  3. Bill Belichick (New England Patriots): January 27, 2000[3]
  4. Kevin Colbert (Pittsburgh Steelers): February 18, 2000[4]
  5. Mickey Loomis (New Orleans Saints): May 14, 2002
  6. Rick Spielman (Minnesota Vikings): May 30, 2006[5]
  7. Thomas Dimitroff (Atlanta Falcons): January 13, 2008
  8. John Schneider (Seattle Seahawks): January 19, 2010[6]
  9. Howie Roseman (Philadelphia Eagles): January 29, 2010
  10. John Elway (Denver Broncos): January 5, 2011[7]
  11. Les Snead (St. Louis Rams): February 10, 2012
  12. David Caldwell (Jacksonville Jaguars): January 8, 2013
  13. Steve Keim (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2013
  14. Tom Telesco (San Diego Chargers): January 9, 2013
  15. Jason Licht (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 21, 2014
  16. Ryan Pace (Chicago Bears): January 8, 2015
  17. Chris Grier (Miami Dolphins): January 4, 2016
  18. Bob Quinn (Detroit Lions): January 8, 2016
  19. Jon Robinson (Tennessee Titans): January 14, 2016
  20. John Lynch (San Francisco 49ers): January 29, 2017
  21. Chris Ballard (Indianapolis Colts): January 30, 2017
  22. Brandon Beane (Buffalo Bills): May 9, 2017
  23. Brett Veach (Kansas City Chiefs): July 11, 2017
  24. Marty Hurney (Carolina Panthers): July 19, 2017
  25. Dave Gettleman (New York Giants): December 28, 2017
  26. Brian Gutekunst (Green Bay Packers): January 7, 2018
  27. Mike Mayock (Oakland Raiders): December 31, 2018
  28. Joe Douglas (New York Jets): June 7, 2019
  29. Eric DeCosta (Baltimore Ravens): January 7, 2019[8]
  30. Ron Rivera (Washington Redskins): January 1, 2020[9]
  31. Andrew Berry (Cleveland Browns): January 27, 2020
  32. Bill O’Brien (Houston Texans): January 28, 2020

Footnotes:

  1. Jones has been the Cowboys’ de facto general manager since former GM Tex Schramm resigned in April 1989.
  2. Brown has been the Bengals’ de facto GM since taking over as the team’s owner in August 1991.
  3. Belichick has been the Patriots’ de facto GM since shortly after being hired as the team’s head coach in January 2000.
  4. Colbert was initially hired as the team’s director of football operations and received the newly-created general manager title in 2011.
  5. Spielman was initially hired as the team’s VP of player personnel and received the GM title in 2012.
  6. While Schneider holds the title of GM, head coach Pete Carroll has the final say on roster moves for the Seahawks.
  7. Elway was initially hired as the team’s executive VP of football operations and received the GM title in 2014.
  8. In 2018, the Ravens announced that DeCosta would replace Ozzie Newsome as GM for Ozzie Newsome after the conclusion of the season. The Ravens’ ’18 season ended with their Wild Card loss to the Chargers on 1/6/19.
  9. Technically, the Redskins do not have a GM, as of this writing. Rivera is, effectively, their GM, working in tandem with Vice President of Player Personnel Kyle Smith. Smith may receive the GM title in the near future.

Bucs GM On Brady, Gronk, Jones

Buccaneers GM Jason Licht has been heavily criticized over the years, but he managed to come away with the league’s biggest prize this offseason. So, how does it feel to land Tom Brady?

It feels damn good,” Licht said on Thursday (Twitter link via ESPN.com’s Jenna Laine).

The GM also recognizes his shortcomings, saying “a lot of [the criticism] was deserved.” The Bucs have gone 34-62 in Licht’s six years at the helm, but that could all be quickly forgotten if Brady is able to lead them to a Super Bowl championship.

Here are some of the highlights from Licht’s virtual chat:

  • Licht expressed confidence in Ronald Jones, signaling that the running back position might not be high on their to-do list. “We do think Ronald hasn’t even scratched the surface of what he can be,” Licht said (via the team website). “He made a huge jump from year one to year two. He didn’t have to do much to do that because year two wasn’t very good for him. But year two, we felt very good about where he came, and we think he still has a tremendous amount of upside.” Jones, a former second-round pick, had a strong start to the 2019 season as a backup to Peyton Barber. Later, he was bumped up to the starting lineup, but his production took a nosedive. He also missed some key blocks on blitzes, an issue that he’ll have to correct if he wants to be a regular this year.
  • No matter what’s going on in the news cycle, tight end Rob Gronkowski seems to remain front and center. Brady’s arrival in Tampa has fueled speculation that Gronk could attempt a reunion with his longtime pal, but Licht didn’t take the bait. “Well he’s doing a pretty good job in Wrestlemania right now,” Licht said (Twitter link via Laine), referring to Gronk’s recent WWE appearance. “I have no idea if he’d want to play.” It’s worth noting that the Patriots still hold his rights, so a return with the Bucs or any other club would require cooperation from Bill Belichick & Co.
  • Earlier this week, Tom Brady sat down with Howard Stern to discuss his move to Tampa and what led him to leave the Patriots.

Brady Fallout: Bucs, Belichick, Colts, Hoyer

The Buccaneers‘ signing of the most accomplished free agent in NFL history triggered a ripple effect in several cities. That started in Charlotte. Although neither Bruce Arians nor Jason Licht spoke to Tom Brady until Wednesday of last week, the Bucs believed they had a “shell of a deal” with Brady by Tuesday, Peter King of NBC Sports reports. This was hours before the future Hall of Fame quarterback announced he would no longer return to the Patriots. The Bucs’ discussions with Brady’s agent, Don Yee, Tuesday prompted them to bow out of the Teddy Bridgewater pursuit, King adds. Bridgewater’s Panthers offer prompted the Bucs to give him an answer, and they chose to stay in the Brady pursuit without a full commitment. The Bucs had been linked to Bridgewater for weeks.

At February’s end, the Bucs’ quarterback hierarchy went Brady-Bridgewater-Jameis Winston, King notes. Tampa Bay had also been linked to Philip Rivers in February, but it became clear the Colts were his top option.

Here is the latest fallout from the Bucs’ Brady signing:

  • Brady’s camp expressed interest in the Colts, but King notes the interest was not mutual. The prospect of a Rivers-Colts partnership surfaced shortly after the Chargers revealed they would not re-sign him, and while the notion of Rivers-over-Brady sounds interesting based on the veterans’ accolades, Stephen Holder of The Athletic tweets the Colts’ preference of going with a one-year quarterback arrangement probably did not align with Brady’s hopes of a multiyear commitment. Rivers signed a one-year, $25MM deal; Brady became a Buccaneer for two years and $50MM fully guaranteed. Brady also expressed interest in the 49ers, and the Titans were a long-rumored suitor. These franchises joined the Colts and Raiders in leaving the Brady race early.
  • Early this offseason, Brady’s camp put out feelers to other teams, and ESPN.com’s Seth Wickersham notes many executives around the league viewed the quarterback as being driven by ill will toward Bill Belichick that they could not tell if he wanted out of New England or merely wanted Robert Kraft to step in and broker a new Pats deal. Belichick refused to give Brady the extension he sought last summer, and Wickersham adds that a Brady-Belichick conversation in late 2017 about the quarterback’s future with the Patriots ended with a “blowup.” This meeting appears to have happened just before Wickersham’s “tension in New England”-centered report that indicated Kraft’s intervention helped drive the Jimmy Garoppolo-to-San Francisco deal. The Patriots gave Brady an incentive package in 2018, leading to his extension-in-name-only 2019 contract.
  • As for the Patriots‘ plans, they may actually be planning a Brian HoyerJarrett Stidham quarterback battle. Hoyer could have earned more money elsewhere but wanted to return to New England because he was told he will have a chance to vie for the starting job, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com adds (video link). The Patriots, as of now, do not have Andy Dalton on their radar and are viewed as being high on Stidham, who has attempted four NFL passes.

Buccaneers GM Discusses Jameis Winston, QBs

While Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians couldn’t commit to Jameis Winston, general manager Jason Licht acknowledged that the quarterback is still an option for next season. Talking to reporters, Licht noted that Winston is a candidate to stick around next year.

“We’re not saying we don’t want Jameis,” the executive said (via The Athletic’s Greg Auman on Twitter). “We’re just saying we want to check what’s potentially behind Door No. 2, 3, 4, just so we can gather as much information as possible before we make the decision of what we do.”

We heard last week that the organization was considering a two-year deal for the former first-overall pick, with the contract being guaranteed at a franchise-tag-level rate (of approximately $27MM) for the first year followed by an option year. There are some who believe that the front office will simply slap Winston with the franchise or transition tag, although a new CBA could complicate matters.

While Winston set career-highs in passing yards (5,109) and touchdowns (33) in 2019, he also set a career-high (and led the NFL) with 30 interceptions. Perhaps recent LASIK surgery will help reduce those turnover numbers in 2020.

It sounds like Tom Brady could be behind one of Licht’s proverbial doors. The Buccaneers were mentioned as one of three teams that continue to be associated with the future Hall of Famer and impending free agent (along with the Raiders and Chargers).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bucs Signed Jason Licht To Five-Year Extension

Buccaneers GM Jason Licht isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. According to Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times, the executive inked a five-year contract extension with the franchise this offseason.

The deal, which wasn’t reported until now, was signed in January just days after the team made Bruce Arians its head coach. Arians and Licht have been good friends for quite some time and Arians likely wouldn’t have joined Tampa Bay if not for their relationship. Arians’ deal is also for five seasons, so the Bucs have tethered the pair’s future together.

Tampa Bay hasn’t been great since Licht took over back in 2014. The team is 27-53 in the five seasons since he took the GM gig with poor defense and inconsistent quarterback play plaguing the team.

Arians is expected to help with the quarterback issues. He’s helped get the best out of a number of quarterbacks, including Andrew Luck and Carson Palmer. The defense is another story, as the Bucs finished dead last in defensive DVOA last year and didn’t make any major moves this offseason to improve their putrid pass rush.