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January 22, 2014 @ 5:57 pm
Current rating: 3.33 Stars/3 Votes

5 Bucs Questions Licht Will Need To Answer

Written by Scott
Scott Reynolds


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Does Tampa Bay have the right QB in Mike Glennon? Does the Bucs offensive line need to be overhauled? Those are just a few of the questions that new Tampa Bay general manager Jason Light will need to answer in the coming weeks as he assumes control of the Bucs franchise.
New Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht takes over the Buccaneers and will need to hit the ground running. Aside from quickly familiarizing himself with the new coaching staff and offensive and defensive systems, as well as the players on the current roster, Licht will have to provide the answers to five important questions over the coming weeks. PewterReport.com outlines five areas that will demand Licht’s immediate attention.

1. Does Tampa Bay have the right quarterback in Glennon?
Mike Glennon is coming off a solid 2013 season in which he completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 2,608 yards and 19 touchdowns – which set Bucs rookie records – and just nine interceptions. Statistically, Glennon had a better rookie season than Philadelphia’s Nick Foles did in 2012, and he had less to work with in terms of talent due to a plethora of injuries in Tampa Bay that affected every offensive unit.

While Glennon set an NFL record for rookie passing attempts in his first four games with 181, and a rookie record for throwing multiple touchdowns in eight games, he had a 4-9 record as a starter and lacked the “it” factor that Foles displayed as a rookie that set him up to throw 27 touchdown passes and just two interceptions in leading the Eagles to the playoffs in Chip Kelly’s first season.

Early reports from One Buccaneer Place suggest the team believes Glennon can be a very good fit in Jeff Tedford’s scheme, and Tedford, quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo, head coach Lovie Smith and Licht will all need to arrive at the conclusion to commit to Glennon for 2014 or decide whether to sign a veteran with starting experience by March, or draft another quarterback by May. That’s a difficult assignment out of the gate with only film from 2013 in another coach’s system, and an April mini-camp to work with in terms of evaluating Glennon prior to the draft.

If the team keeps Glennon at the helm of the offense and he succeeds, the Bucs are sailing in the right direction heading into 2015. If he falters and the Bucs didn’t draft a quarterback or sign a veteran to compete with him, the franchise’s growth could be stunted by a year or more. The Bucs currently have the seventh overall selection in the NFL Draft, and will be in position to likely grab one of the top four quarterbacks.

But what happens if Tampa Bay finishes 8-8 this year based upon the supposed strength of its running game and defense? The Bucs may be picking in the upper 20s next year in the first round and may be out of position to take an elite quarterback.

There is a lot for Licht to mull over in his first year on the job in Tampa Bay, and getting the QB position right is crucial for any franchise, as the NFL is a quarterback-driven league. While Licht will certainly have some say in this call, the Glazers will also factor into the decision on which quarterback will lead the franchise, evidenced by the fact that they wanted to give Josh Freeman the 2013 season to prove himself, while former head coach Greg Schiano wanted to trade him last offseason.

2. Who in Tampa Bay’s front office is worth keeping?
One of Licht’s initial responsibilities will be to evaluate the performance of Tampa Bay’s current front office members and scouts. Mike Greenberg is the Bucs’ capologist and does a lot of the contract negotiations. Dennis Hickey is Tampa Bay’s director of player personnel and oversees both free agency and the draft. Eric Stokes is the team’s director of college scouting, while Shelton Quarles, who played under Smith as a linebacker, is Tampa Bay’s director of pro personnel.

Licht will get a good look at his fellow front office members in action at the Indianapolis Scouting Combine in February and in free agency and pre-draft meetings in March and April. As a first-time general manager, Licht might want to bring in some talent evaluators from Arizona or from some other stops he’s made around the league right off the bat. He may even decide to keep some of Tampa Bay’s front office on board for continuity and performance reasons. Because of his relationship with Smith, Quarles seems like a safe bet to stick around, and that’s not uncommon. Both Hickey and Dominik survived when former general manager Bruce Allen was brought on board in 2004.

Most of the changes – if any – that occur in the college scouting department will occur after the draft in May, as that is the most common time to initiate turnover. If Licht wants to bring in his own scouts and director, he’ll have to spend some time lining up those hires this spring so those scouts can hit the ground running during the summer and begin preparations for the 2014 college football season and the 2015 NFL Draft.

3. What’s the status of the Buccaneers offensive line?
Schiano and general manager Mark Dominik soured on left tackle Donald Penn and were contemplating replacing him with right tackle Demar Dotson, who has the athletic ability to play either side. Former offensive line coach Bob Bostad was disappointed in Penn’s performance in 2013, especially down the stretch as he was whipped by Pro Bowl defensive end Robert Quinn and surrendered three sacks in a Week 16 loss at St. Louis. Penn, who will be 31 this year and is poised to make $6.4 million, might get a clean slate with Smith, Licht and new offensive line coach George Warhop, or they might draw the same conclusions as the former regime did based on evaluating Penn on tape.

While Dotson is the best and most consistent offensive lineman on the roster, what does the team think of Jeremy Zuttah? Is he better off at center or guard? Should Tampa Bay attempt to sign Browns Pro Bowl center Alex Mack, who played for Tedford at Cal and Warhop in Cleveland and move Zuttah back to guard?

Is former Pro Bowler Carl Nicks healthy enough to resume playing in Tampa Bay or will two toe surgeries and a MRSA infection last year cost him his career? Will Davin Joseph’s level of play rebound in 2014 after an offseason of rest and being two years removed from a devastating knee injury that cost him the 2012 campaign? Or is it time to turn the page on Joseph, who will be 31 and make $6 million in 2014 and go with a younger, healthier guard? Licht might find that the guard position may be more influx than any other spot on the roster.

There are more questions about the Buccaneers offensive line than at any other position. Who’s healthy? Who’s worth keeping? Who’s worth the money? Licht has a multitude of things to figure out about the offensive line prior to training camp from a personnel and salary cap standpoint.

4. Which free agents will be kept, which ones will be targeted?
The Buccaneers don’t have a lot of priority free agents coming up this year aside from long snapper Andrew Economos, fullback Erik Lorig and outside linebackers Jonathan Casillas, Adam Hayward and Dekoda Watson. It’s possible that a few – or none – could return to Tampa Bay. Licht will need to do his own evaluation of the tape and solicit the opinions of Hickey, Quarles and the coaching staff as to which players will be the best fits in the new offensive and defensive schemes.

Because Licht has spent time in New England and Arizona in recent years, will he want some players he has previously scouted and helped acquire and import some Patriots and Cardinals to Tampa Bay? Here is a list of available unrestricted free agents for both teams:

2014 New England Unrestricted Free Agents
LS Danny Aiken
RB LeGarrette Blount
DE Andre Carter
WR Austin Collie
WR Julian Edelman
LB Dane Fletcher
TE Mike Hoomanawanui
TE Matthew Mulligan
LB Brandon Spikes
OL Will Svitek
CB Aqib Talib
C Ryan Wendell
TE D.J. Williams

2014 Arizona Unrestricted Free Agents
CB Xavier Arenas
S Yermiah Bell
CB Antoine Cason
LB Karlos Dansby
TE Jim Dray
C-G Mike Gibson
K Jay Feeley
TE Jeff King
CB Brian McCann
RB Rashard Mendenhall
WR Andre Roberts
DE Frostee Rucker
OLB-DE Matt Shaughnessy
TE Kory Sperry
OT Eric Winston
P Dave Zastudil

An initial look at the list offers two experienced middle linebacker candidates in Dansby and Spikes in case Licht, Smith, defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier and linebackers coach Hardy Nickerson don’t think that Mason Foster is an ideal Mike linebacker in the Tampa 2. Spikes would have to drop a little bit of weight, but Nickerson might appreciate Spikes’ tenacity in the run game.

The Bucs could use some more athletic playmakers at tight end and Sperry might be an intriguing fit. Cason has some ballhawking ability and could be a good acquisition for the Tampa 2 defense. While Smith will have the final say on the 53-man roster, Licht will undoubtedly have some influence on the players Tampa Bay signs and parts ways with.

5. Can Licht re-sign Pro Bowl DT Gerald McCoy before the season?
While there aren’t any high-profile, high-priority free agents to re-sign this offseason in Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers will have three defensive linemen entering a contract year in 2014, including two starters. Defensive end Adrian Clayborn, the Bucs’ first-round pick in 2011, is a productive, three-year starter, while Da’Quan Bowers, a second-round pick in the same draft, has not lived up to expectations and was passed on the depth chart by rookie Will Gholston last year.

But the biggest free agent the Bucs will have in 2015 is defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, an All-Pro and a two-time Pro Bowler. McCoy, who is coming off a career-best nine sacks in 2013, is the team’s best defensive lineman, a leader on defense and the player that will be the engine for Smith and Frazier’s Tampa 2 defense. Stud three-technique defensive tackles are hard to find, and Licht will have to lock up McCoy for the future, but must be careful to do so in a way that won’t cripple Tampa Bay’s salary cap.

Because he was drafted in 2010 prior to the NFL rookie salary cap, McCoy is set to make $10.295 million in the final year of his rookie deal. But aside from Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh, who was picked one spot higher in 2010 than McCoy was, no other defensive tackle in the NFL makes over $10 million per season. Cincinnati Pro Bowler Geno Atkins is only scheduled to make $9 million in 2014 and he just received a contact extension this season.

The Bucs wanted to do a contract extension last year around the time that Atkins’ deal was done to lock up McCoy for several years for around $10 million per season, but were unable to do it. The goal for Licht will be to try to initiate some dialog with McCoy’s agent and try to get a deal in place before Suh heads to the negotiating table with Lions general manager Martin Mayhew. That would only drive the defensive tackle market value up. Avoiding any possible hold out in 2014 or the use of the franchise tag in 2015 by locking up McCoy with a long-term deal would be a huge coup for Licht in his first year as the Bucs general manager.


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  • avatar

    Happy New Year fellow PR-ites...a few thoughts: 1) QB is clearly critical...there hasn't been a winner without a top 10 performing QB (that includes Flacco last year who had amazing numbers in the playoffs) in a long time...but for those who only want draft an "elite" QB, well Andrew Luck comes along very rarely and you tend to need the #1 pick to get him...we aren't getting WJ next year (if you believe he is the next Luck)...we just need to upgrade our QB, not necessarily get the best QB in the league (the next Russell Wilson is fine enough for our team which will have one of the elite defenses in the league)...Glennon IMO is not the next Wilson so if we can draft a QB that is - maybe Bortles will be there at 7 - then that makes sense for us (not for every team)...it's early for mock craziness but in all of the ones I have seen there are no DE of value at 7 (indeed this draft is setting up to be weak at DL generally), leaving us with the following choices: 1) hope for a Bortles to fall to us; 2) take an OL (OT is value rather than OG which we probably need more); 3) reach a little for a TE (Ebron); 4) take BPA at a spot we don't need (LB; LB trying to convert to DE (yuck); WR (not slot)); 5) trade down; 6) trade up (I am sure Lovie would covet Clowney, the team could really use Bridgewater)....but (with a long road to teh draft) if it mocked out anything like the early ones I think the money has to be on trading down and recouping that 3rd rounder we lost.....
  • avatar

    "Skinny Post" Now that's funny Kenny. Schiano committing to Glennon for 2014 got himself run out on a "rail". Favorite play "Statue" of Liberty.
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    What is Glennon's favorite throw?......the skinny post. What is Glennon's favorite road?.....the slow road to China. OI course we need another QB, Glennon's talent shows that he is a back up only, Without a new QB Lovie's administration is doomed to fail. However not at the expense of using pick #7, that would be terrible value this year. Good luck Lovie, you have quite a challenge ahead.
  • avatar

    Biggest question is what are our biggest needs and what are the best ways to fill them. We need to have multiple plans because all the pieces are moving. On defense our biggest need is a pass rushing DE. No brainer. Second biggest need is CB. Yes we have Revis but we need 3 and the jury is still out on Banks. Third biggest need is MLB. I like Mason Foster and his play has improved every year, but his skill set is not what makes the Tampa 2 go. CB and MLB can be flipped in terms of priority based on how much Lovie is willing to go away from the Tampa 2. DT (but not 3 technique) is a need because Spence is in trouble and we have no one else. On offense our most pressing need is QB. If Glennon is our guy do we still draft a QB at number 7 for insurance? It is a sound argument that a team needs two quarterbacks. Glennon is still unproven. Lovie has been through this before and the failure to find an answer may have been what cost him his job in Chicago. My bet is that we draft a QB in round 1 or 2. Second priority is OT. Penn is done and Carimi is unproven. Next priority is TE, but you can have a great offense without a great TE. WR is a priority because Jackson is getting older, Mike is coming off an injury, Underwood is only above average and the rest are unproven. Most offenses need a four WR package and run 3 WR very often. So, even if we keep the three we have now we need another that can be or develop into the number one. It is not higher than TE because we do have 3 WRs and 0 TEs. The biggest puzzle is how to fill these holes. Who do we target in free agency and how much are we willing to spend? We can probably get two players in free agency, but what we spend will affect resigning McCoy. I would look to see us get a run stuffing DT and a RT. These are important positions but not the big money positions. Our first round pick will be the best player who is either a QB, DE or CB. Anyways, that's my Food Lion's worth.
  • avatar

    I think 15 draft picks and an extra $35 million in cap space will be enough to solve all of these probelms...
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    That's the rub isn't it? Do the Bucs decide Glennon is the man and bring in a FA vet like Josh McCown and address the OL in the draft or do they draft a QB and address the OL in FA? A little of both? HUGE decisions for Licht and the Buccaneers. I would like the Bucs to sign McCoy long term. Remember well when McKay signed Sapp to his first long term big deal. It was so important then and this would be as important now. Great Buccaneers must STAY Buccaneers. Good for team, fans and organization.
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    I see where Shiano wanted to trade Freeman during the off season and that would have been the right move as I told my friends last summer.I even wrote a blog on Buccaneers.com that was put on their sight and copied by some writers on bleacher report and other various sites.This trade would have recouped some draft picks for us and the team wouldn't have gone through the fiasco of drama it endured the first quarter of the season that ultimately cost Shiano and Dominick their jobs.
  • avatar

    Great point. That whole mess could have been avoided and the story might have been completely different. Crazy to think about. If the season had started on a positive note, who knows how our Bucs would have fared over all 16 games?
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    The Bucs need a QB, I don't think anyone can dispute that but that doesn't mean we have to take one in the first round IF we aren't sure its the right one. Carr is being mocked to the Bucs based solely on need and not in his actual performance. Drafting the wrong guy is worse than not drafting a QB at all. Fans will understand if Lovie brings in a vet to push Glennon and ultimately he decides next year we need an upgrade. But if we draft the wrong guy Lovie will be married to this guy and ultimately can lead to his demise. If Carr is Lovies guy then i'll get on board but something tells me this is all smoke and no fire. For the record I don't like Glennon long term but if the alternative is Carr then I say give Glennon more weapons(Watkins), a healthy offensive line, a full stable of RBs, healthy WRs, an NFL caliber playcaller and let's see what we have. Sidenote there's an article on Bleacher Report where Revis talks about the team under Schiano and how opposing players viewed our schemes, it's makes you wonder how we even won 4 games last year. Brighter days ahead but please don't reach for Jake Locker 2.0.
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    I agree with Horse. This a good QB Crop but no one really stands out as a super star. I would use # 7 on a DE or LB or OL. We need to dump Nicks. Penn is still a very good player. I think if we can get Blount back we should. He is not Martin but that could be a good thing. Blount is a very hard runner who will stay healthy. Martin is the muscle hamster who will get dinged from time to time. They could be a good tandem . Remember Alstott and Dunn ?
  • avatar

    The five questions for Mr. Licht have just been answered by the Pewter Report comments section. I'm sure he will heed the advice offered here. For me, Question # 1 is absolutely the most critical and has to be the starting point. Thank you Owlykat for not suggesting that our new GM resurrect a certain former Gator from the NFL graveyard to replace our signal caller. We all watched Mike Glennon through Training Camp, Pre-season games and when he played during the season. Anyone ever see a play when you were in awe? Ever see anything remarkable? Ever see # 83 have to contort his body just to get a hand on the ball? Any "wow" moments? Sadly, in my observation the rookie digressed as opponents quickly discovered his weaknesses. The once productive running game came to a complete stop as teams had no fear of # 8. Teams could simply attack the offensive line as the spindly QB was no threat to go Cam Newton on them. He is smart enough to understand the game but showed nothing to make me think he is anything more than a well-prepared back-up. I know Licht must address the offensive line injury issues, find a corps of receivers beyond Jackson and Williams and see if any of the TE's on IR are worth keeping. Our GM, personnel staff and coaches know far more than Scubog and the rest of us so we need to trust them to evaluate the QB situation. It's really a two-part question. Is Glennon good enough to be "the guy"? And if not, who is? When Licht sees the magnitude of the task at hand the question he might be asking is "Where's the exit?"
  • avatar

    to all those who like domidork he didn't leave the bucs in as good a salary cap future wise as you think, the revis contract alone while good a mil a game come on, McCoy needs to be kept, penn and nicks goodbye, davin restructure time, mack and allen welcome to tampa
  • avatar

    Good Article and lots to think about. I would not draft a QB at spot 7 because there are no "elite" QB's in this draft; just a lot of "maybe's". There are some "elite" players at other positions that we could take. By all means we should pick up a QB, DL, OL in Free Agency. I am not ready to give up on Penn, Joseph; they do need to come in lighter and in shape; also with lowered renegotiated contracts. We also need a Center and that hasn't changed since 2012. Why is Glennon on the hot seat and Gholston is not? I would sign McCoy now for 12 million a year for 7 years with 48 million guaranteed. Here we go again with high expections to make the playoff's; it's a goal to obviously go for, but seriously?
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    Looking at this picture above, at a bare minimum Glennon needs to gain 20 pounds of muscle. No wonder he was seen getting off the field at Buffalo barely able to walk. He's a twig! He's never going to get faster than he is so he needs to just accept the fact that he's a non-mobile QB and bulk up like Roethlisberger. I say give him a shot next year, see what he can do in Tedford's system. Draft a QB late if you can get Murray in the 6th round he's worth taking.. Otherwise try to bring in Josh McCown to be the starter and let Glennon learn behind him for the first year. Hopefully by 2015 the staff will have confidence that Glennon can bring this team to the playoffs.
  • avatar

    Another great article Scott! Licht has a huge job. If he foolishly does not bring in a veteran proven QB or pick a top QB in the first round we will be in for another losing year. Look at how many times Glennon was sacked and realize he has never engineered one come from behind victory in the fourth quarter last year and those are the only stats he needs to see. Dotson will make a great LT and that is a no brainer. Keep Penn to compete for LG but only at a lower salary. Sign the Brown's Center and keep versatile Zutah to back up the Center position and compete for a starting Guard position. Restructure Joseph's salary and have him compete with Meredith for RG. Draft a decent tackle to start at RT who can be a LT if Dotson gets hurt. Release the good for nothing backup center. If the first round reject Tackle Bostad got from Chicago has not been committed to getting a lot stronger this year he should be cut too and pick up a late round tackle such as Kistler or Tardiff from the recent Shrine Bowl and our OL will be much improved this year! Try Pruit as our big back this year to compete with Leonard (who should be kept also as our best 3rd down back and can be an emergency FB). Sign Hester to return punts and keep our present punt and kick returner to be our much needed speedy WR. He has great speed, hands, and durability. On Defense get back the W.Va. MLB that Shiano foolishly cut last year who has great speed to cover WRs and is a proven playmaker, tough against the run, and an ideal MLB in cover two. Foster was an OLB in College and will be great as the SLB. Just sign an outstanding tackling CB, and get a two way TE in the fourth round and Lovie can take this team to the playoffs this year with all his great Asst. Coaches and Coordinators. Pick up Syracuse's DT from the Shrine Bowl to backup the 3 position and push Spenser and bring in a Veteran DE from the Vikings and you can get a great rush from the front four while using Gholston inside for third down and groom him to be our star DE for the long haul.
  • avatar

    One thing I don't get is why everyone seems to think that the team has to decide if it's Glennon OR you draft a QB. Why is it soooo impossible to draft a QB AND have he and Glennon ( and maybe Rodgers and/or another vet) compete for the starting job? Worse case scenario is you have great QB depth for the next few years and a very valuable trade asset down the road. I definitely don't think the Bucs should reach for a QB at 7 if there are other players available that are higher on the board. This class supposedly has good QB depth and luckily a decision doesn't have to be made until early May. Going to leave the QB decision in the hands of Licht, Lovie and the gang, I'm sure they'll have a far better idea of how to proceed than practically all of us.
  • avatar

    Exactly. There won't be a QB worth taking at #7. There might be a QB in rounds 2-4 but that's a good place for a TE as well. The Bucs should draft a QB as well as sign a FA. No reason for the scenario you layed out SR.
  • avatar

    Scott, I read an article by Pat Yasinskas today that said that an escalator in McCoy's contract kicks in this year and pushes McCoy's cap number over 15mil. Here are his exact words - "But the bad news is the Bucs don’t have quite as much cap room as initially thought. As it turns out, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy hit an escalator that took away about $2.5 million in cap space. McCoy originally had been scheduled to count $13.19 against the salary cap. But the escalator now takes McCoy’s cap figure to $15.627 million, which ranks second on the team to Darrelle Revis’ $16 million cap figure." if this is true, isn't Licht forced to do something with the McCoy contract or the Revis contract or both? With so many needs in FA, this could get scary! Your thoughts, please. Couldn't wait til Friday Q&A!
  • avatar

    Let us get past this : do we draft a quarterback with the 7th pick? The only intelligent answer is yes. First, let us understand Lovie only knows defense (best evidence is the choice of Ron Turner, Terry Shea, John Shoop, Mike Martz and Mike Tice as his OC's in 9 years with the Bears). Only Tice remains in the NFL and that was only 2 weeks ago signed as the O line coach for the Falcons( which as an aside is good for the Bucs as he is a terrible judge of talent as he thought JeMarcus Webb would be a NFL left tackle and was finally dumped along with Carmi ( for who we gave up this years number 6 pick) after Tice left the Bears who subsequently in 2013 had to replace 60% of their O line). Lovie will unquestionably raise the level of the defense and the Bucs will go 8-8 or 9-7 or 10-6 ala Lovie with Rex Grossman ( substitute Mike Glennon). Best evidence of this is the fact that this was Lovie's experience in Chicago. Chicago finding itself in the 20's in draft status and therefore not in position to get an elite quarterback had to trade 2 number 1 draft picks for Jay Cutler. No matter what you think of Cutler with his recent signing of a 7 year contract, the Bears with Cutler have covered a 12 year period of not having to be concerned about a quarterback. In 2014 there are no elite quarterbacks available in free agency. In the future teams will not let elite quarterbacks reach free agency. All the recent press emphasis is on our new OC's (Jeff T.) relationship with the Carr family to the point of actually helping Derek recently. If our new GM has not figured out that the only pick for number 7 is Derek Carr we have the wrong man.
  • avatar

    Great article Scott, the only thing I see wrong is question #3. Problem is, that's not even a question. The offensive line was offensive this year and absolutely needs to be re-worked. The decisions that the new regime makes on the O-line, and the D-line, will go a long long way in determining the fate of this franchise in the future. I hope they make the right decisions and get two units that can gel and stay together for a while for this team. Go Bucs and lets have a prosperous free agent period and draft ! ! !
  • avatar

    Licht has his work cut out for him. An OL that is getting older by the day. A QB that is suspect and a draft coming up short of picks. A scout dept headed by Hickey that does not have a very good track record. Salary cap that is a little small to fix so many holes and a new coaching staff. This year should be very interesting to see how much progress can be made. He should make some progress but will it translate into wins?
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