Jason Licht

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.

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.