Jason Licht

Staff Rumors: Licht, Bowles, Bills, Patriots

Jason Licht built a Super Bowl-winning Buccaneers roster, doing so after luring Tom Brady to Tampa and completing an all-in effort that kept the Bucs as an elite team in 2021 as well. The 10th-year GM did not oversee a playoff team until Brady’s arrival, and the team regressed after the all-time great unretired last year. But the Bucs are back atop the NFC South, in another bad year for the division, with Baker Mayfield at the helm. This status aside, the Washington Post’s Jason La Canfora notes Licht and second-year HC Todd Bowles may be on the hot seat. Pointing to ownership’s interest in starting over to begin a rebuild, La Canfora indicates each of the Bucs’ top two decision-makers could be in trouble.

In his sixth season as a head coach, Bowles is overseeing a No. 13-ranked defense (DVOA places the unit 17th). The former Jets HC has taken heat for his clock management, and the Bucs have certainly dipped as a whole compared to the two Brady-Bruce Arians years. Bowles one-and-done rumors emerged late last season, and the Bucs dropped from 3-1 to 4-7 this year. With a clear chance to either qualify for the playoffs as the NFC South champ or as a wild card, the Bucs do not profile as a clear-cut candidate to dismantle their setup. But this does look to be a consideration.

Here is the latest from the coaching and front office ranks:

  • Weathering a storm of his own making last week, Sean McDermott has the Bills at 7-6. While that is a disappointing record given the team’s plus-104 point differential, Buffalo looms as a dangerous team in the AFC wild-card race. Prior to the report about McDermott using the 9/11 hijackers as an example of teamwork back in 2019, the seventh-year HC was viewed as close to a lock to return in 2024. The Bills HC, however, may not be completely in the clear, ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano writes. The Bills still have matchups against the Cowboys and Dolphins. While McDermott has led a recovery effort that has featured five playoff appearances in six years, not advancing to this year’s bracket — in a conference littered with backup QBs — would be a major disappointment. Would that fate be enough for the Bills to cut bait?
  • On the subject of the Bills’ staff, the team hired another assistant following Ken Dorsey‘s firing. Former Buffalo University OC DJ Mangas is now on McDermott’s staff as an offensive assistant, CBS Sports’ Jonathan Jones tweets. Mangas also was on the 2019 LSU staff alongside current Bills OC Joe Brady. Mangas, 34, spent this season as the MAC program’s OC; he was LSU’s pass-game coordinator in 2021. The Bills added Mangas to their staff during their Week 13 bye, ESPN.com’s Alaina Getzenberg tweets. This is Mangas’ first NFL gig.
  • Syracuse firing longtime HC Dino Babers will have ramifications for the Patriots. The ACC program will poach Ross Douglas from New England, per ESPN.com’s Pete Thamel, who notes the three-year Pats assistant will work as the wide receivers coach under new Orange coach Fran Brown. Douglas, 29, climbed to the role of Patriots wideouts coach this year. While the Patriots are expected to move on from their legendary HC after the season, it is not known if Jerod Mayo would replace Bill Belichick and retain a number of assistants. An outside staffer coming in would point to the Pats’ staff being mostly sacked.

The NFL’s Longest-Tenured GMs

The latest NFL general manager hiring cycle only produced two changes, but each took over for an executive who appeared in good standing at this point last year.

Steve Keim had held his Cardinals GM post since January 2013, and the Cardinals gave both he and Kliff Kingsbury extensions — deals that ran through 2027 — in March of last year. Arizona has since rebooted, moving on from both Keim and Kingsbury. Keim took a leave of absence late last season, and the Cardinals replaced him with ex-Titans exec Monti Ossenfort.

[RELATED: The NFL’s Longest-Tenured Head Coaches]

As the Cardinals poached one of the Titans’ top front office lieutenants, Tennessee went with an NFC West staffer to replace Jon Robinson. The move to add 49ers FO bastion Ran Carthon also came less than a year after the Titans reached extension agreements with both Robinson and HC Mike Vrabel. But controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk canned Robinson — in place as GM since January 2016 — before last season ended. Adams Strunk cited player unavailability and roster quality among the reasons she chose to move on despite having extended Robinson through the 2027 draft months earlier. The Titans are now pairing Vrabel and Carthon.

The Bills reached an extension agreement with GM Brandon Beane two weeks ago. Hired shortly after the team gave Sean McDermott the HC keys, Beane has helped the Bills to five playoff berths in six seasons. Beane’s deal keeps him signed through 2027. Chargers GM Tom Telesco has hit the 10-year mark leading that front office, while this year also marks the 10th offseason of Buccaneers honcho Jason Licht‘s tenure running the NFC South team. Although Jim Irsay fired Frank Reich and later admitted he reluctantly extended his former HC in 2021, the increasingly active Colts owner has expressed confidence in Chris Ballard.

Here is how the NFL’s GM landscape looks going into the 2023 season:

  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. Mickey Loomis (New Orleans Saints): May 14, 2002
  5. John Schneider (Seattle Seahawks): January 19, 2010; signed extension in 2021
  6. Howie Roseman (Philadelphia Eagles): January 29, 2010; signed extension in 2022
  7. Les Snead (Los Angeles Rams): February 10, 2012; signed extension in 2022
  8. Tom Telesco (Los Angeles Chargers): January 9, 2013; signed extension in 2018
  9. Jason Licht (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 21, 2014; signed extension in 2021
  10. Chris Grier (Miami Dolphins): January 4, 2016[4]
  11. John Lynch (San Francisco 49ers): January 29, 2017; signed extension in 2020
  12. Chris Ballard (Indianapolis Colts): January 30, 2017; signed extension in 2021
  13. Brandon Beane (Buffalo Bills): May 9, 2017; signed extension in 2023
  14. Brett Veach (Kansas City Chiefs): July 11, 2017; signed extension in 2020
  15. Brian Gutekunst (Green Bay Packers): January 7, 2018; agreed to extension in 2022
  16. Eric DeCosta (Baltimore Ravens): January 7, 2019
  17. Joe Douglas (New York Jets): June 7, 2019
  18. Andrew Berry (Cleveland Browns): January 27, 2020
  19. Nick Caserio (Houston Texans): January 5, 2021
  20. George Paton (Denver Broncos): January 13, 2021
  21. Scott Fitterer (Carolina Panthers): January 14, 2021
  22. Brad Holmes (Detroit Lions): January 14, 2021
  23. Terry Fontenot (Atlanta Falcons): January 19, 2021
  24. Trent Baalke (Jacksonville Jaguars): January 21, 2021
  25. Martin Mayhew (Washington Commanders): January 22, 2021
  26. Joe Schoen (New York Giants): January 21, 2022
  27. Ryan Poles (Chicago Bears): January 25, 2022
  28. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah (Minnesota Vikings): January 26, 2022
  29. Dave Ziegler (Las Vegas Raiders): January 30, 2022
  30. Omar Khan (Pittsburgh Steelers): May 24, 2022
  31. Monti Ossenfort (Arizona Cardinals): January 16, 2023
  32. Ran Carthon (Tennessee Titans): January 17, 2023

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. Although Grier was hired in 2016, he became the Dolphins’ top football exec on Dec. 31, 2018

Buccaneers Promote Mike Greenberg, John Spytek To Assistant GMs

The Buccaneers made a few notable changes to their front office today. The team announced that Vice President of Football Administration Mike Greenberg and Vice President of Player Personnel John Spytek will now serve as assistant general managers.

Greenberg has spent 16 years in the NFL, the majority of them with Tampa Bay. Per the team’s release, the executive often worked alongside general manager Jason Licht when it came to salary cap management, contract negotiations, Collective Bargaining Agreement compliance, and the organization’s financial/strategic planning.

Spytek, who will be entering his eighth season with the Buccaneers, was worked alongside Licht on the NFL Draft, “key free-agent acquisitions,” and other personnel decisions. In his role as Vice President of Player Personnel, the executive oversaw the college and pro scouting departments.

The team also announced that Jackie Davidson has been named Vice President of Football Research and Shane Scannell has been named Director of Pro Scouting. Davidson was previously a senior director and will support both the front office and coaching staff “in roster and strategy decisions through research and development of analytical tools and methods.” Scannell was promoted from assistant director and will work alongside Director of Player Personnel Rob McCartney on “advance scouting.”

Bucs GM Jason Licht On Tristan Wirfs, Luke Goedeke

MAY 10: Lending more to the notion Wirfs will be on the move, Bucs offensive line coach Joe Gilbert said (via Stroud) the left side of the team’s line looks fairly set with the All-Pro on the blind side and free agency pickup Matt Feiler at left guard. After three strong seasons at right tackle, Wirfs appears on the cusp of playing a more lucrative position as a big payday nears.

MAY 7: The Buccaneers have contemplated moving right tackle Tristan Wirfs, who has earned two Pro Bowls bids and one First Team All-Pro selection in his three years in the NFL, to the left side of the line. After the Bucs failed to acquire a left tackle in last month’s draft, Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times wrote that Wirfs will officially be moving to LT.

GM Jason Licht, however, says that a final decision on Wirfs’ position has not been made just yet. On a recent appearance on 95.3 WDAE, Licht said, “Now we’re still going to remain fluid here in the offseason. We’re going to see how it goes. We certainly feel very comfortable with a person like Tristan, with his skillset and his athleticism and size and intelligence and all that, that [his transition to left tackle] is gonna be pretty seamless, but that hasn’t completely been etched in stone yet” (h/t JoeBucsFan.com).

Licht’s comments notwithstanding, it would seem that Wirfs, as Stroud indicated, is indeed ticketed for the blind side. At this stage of the offseason, the free agent left tackle options are generally uninspiring and include the likes of Eric Fisher (who did not play a snap in 2022), Jason Peters (who turned 41 in January), and Taylor Lewan (who has suffered two ACL tears in the past three years). Unless Wirfs sustains an injury or proves completely incapable of making the transition to LT, those players likely would not represent an upgrade.

Of course, assuming Wirfs does fill the void created when longtime left tackle Donovan Smith was released in March, someone will need to replace Wirfs at right tackle. Per Stroud, the first crack at that position will go to Luke Goedeke, a 2022 second-round choice. In his rookie season, Goedeke — who worked as a right tackle in college — spent the majority of his time at left guard and largely struggled.

The hope is that moving Goedeke back to RT will make him look more like a second-round draftee. He did line up at right tackle for last year’s regular season finale, and he looked much more comfortable there than he did as an interior blocker.

“We are excited about how Luke did for us at (right) tackle there at the end of the year — it’s his natural position,” Licht said.

It is unclear whether Licht made an effort to trade up from his No. 19 selection to land an OT. The Steelers moved up four spots from their No. 18 slot to nab Georgia LT Broderick Jones, and Licht passed on Oklahoma’s Anton Harrison when the Bucs were on the clock. While the Bucs did pick up North Dakota State tackle Cody Mauch on Day 2, Mauch will be converted to guard.

At present, Tampa Bay’s starting OL, from left to right, appears to be Wirfs, Nick Leverett, Ryan Jensen, Mauch, and Goedeke. That unit will be tasked with clearing more space for what was the league’s worst rushing attack in 2022 and affording presumptive QB1 Baker Mayfield sufficient time to throw.

Wirfs is already under club control through 2024 since Licht made the easy decision to exercise his fifth-year option. But if the Iowa product performs as well at left tackle as he has on the right side, his future earning power will get a significant boost.

The NFL’s Longest-Tenured GMs

Wednesday, we took a look at how the 2022 offseason changed the HC landscape. While 10 new sideline leaders are in place for 2022, not quite as much turnover transpired on the general manager front. Five new decision-makers, however, have moved to the top of teams’ front office hierarchies over the past six months.

The Bears, Giants, Raiders and Vikings rebooted their entire operations, hiring new HC-GM combos. The Minnesota move bumped out one of the previous top-10 longest-tenured GMs, with 16-year Vikings exec Rick Spielman no longer in power in the Twin Cities. The Steelers’ shakeup took the NFL’s longest-tenured pure GM out of the mix. Kevin Colbert was with the Steelers since 2000, and although he is still expected to remain with the team in a reduced capacity, the 22-year decision-maker stepped down shortly after Ben Roethlisberger wrapped his career.

Twelve teams have now hired a new GM in the past two offseasons, though a bit more staying power exists here compared to the HC ranks. Two GMs (the Cardinals’ Steve Keim and Chargers’ Tom Telesco) have begun their 10th years at the helms of their respective front offices. They have hired three HCs apiece. The Buccaneers’ Jason Licht is closing in on a decade in power in Tampa Bay; Licht will now work with his fourth HC in Todd Bowles. Beyond that, a bit of a gap exists. But a handful of other executives have been in power for at least five seasons.

Here is how long every GM or de facto GM has been in place with his respective franchise:

  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. Mickey Loomis (New Orleans Saints): May 14, 2002
  5. John Schneider (Seattle Seahawks): January 19, 2010; signed extension in 2021
  6. Howie Roseman (Philadelphia Eagles): January 29, 2010; signed extension in 2022
  7. Les Snead (Los Angeles Rams): February 10, 2012; signed extension in 2019
  8. Steve Keim (Arizona Cardinals): January 8, 2013; signed extension in 2022
  9. Tom Telesco (Los Angeles Chargers): January 9, 2013; signed extension in 2018
  10. Jason Licht (Tampa Bay Buccaneers): January 21, 2014; signed extension in 2021
  11. Chris Grier (Miami Dolphins): January 4, 2016[4]
  12. Jon Robinson (Tennessee Titans): January 14, 2016; signed extension in 2022
  13. John Lynch (San Francisco 49ers): January 29, 2017; signed extension in 2020
  14. Chris Ballard (Indianapolis Colts): January 30, 2017; signed extension in 2021
  15. Brandon Beane (Buffalo Bills): May 9, 2017; signed extension in 2020
  16. Brett Veach (Kansas City Chiefs): July 11, 2017; signed extension in 2020
  17. Brian Gutekunst (Green Bay Packers): January 7, 2018
  18. Eric DeCosta (Baltimore Ravens): January 7, 2019
  19. Joe Douglas (New York Jets): June 7, 2019
  20. Andrew Berry (Cleveland Browns): January 27, 2020
  21. Nick Caserio (Houston Texans): January 5, 2021
  22. George Paton (Denver Broncos): January 13, 2021
  23. Scott Fitterer (Carolina Panthers): January 14, 2021
  24. Brad Holmes (Detroit Lions): January 14, 2021
  25. Terry Fontenot (Atlanta Falcons): January 19, 2021
  26. Trent Baalke (Jacksonville Jaguars): January 21, 2021
  27. Martin Mayhew (Washington Commanders): January 22, 2021
  28. Joe Schoen (New York Giants): January 21, 2022
  29. Ryan Poles (Chicago Bears): January 25, 2022
  30. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah (Minnesota Vikings): January 26, 2022
  31. Dave Ziegler (Las Vegas Raiders): January 30, 2022
  32. Omar Khan (Pittsburgh Steelers): May 24, 2022

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. Although Grier was hired in 2016, he became the Dolphins’ top football exec on Dec. 31, 2018

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.