Since the NFL Combine has been canceled this year, Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians and general manager Jason Licht had a joint press conference together via zoom on Wednesday that would normally take place in Indianapolis at this time.
Along with discussions on the upcoming free agency period and NFL Draft, there were plenty of topics that the Bucs’ brass went into, including Tom Brady’s health and leadership, how much Lavonte David means to the team, going for another Super Bowl, and more.
Here is a full transcript from Arians’ and Licht’s press conference with the media from this afternoon.
(On if they want to do an extension with Tom Brady and if they’ve had conversations with him about it) Licht: “We don’t typically talk about those discussions publicly. Bruce and I both have a great relationship with Tom and I have a good relationship with his agents. We thought Tom played incredibly well this year along with the entire team and we would love to have Tom play here, I can speak for Bruce I think, as long as he continues to want to play. If that comes to fruition at some point, then we’d be elated. I’d like to keep those conversations private that we have right now.”
(On if they could borrow more money from down the road to keep this team in tact and repeat) Licht: The reasons a lot of those contracts were set up that way for so long before I was even here is – when you get to a point where you have a very successful team and you want to try and keep as many of the core players that you can together. We don’t want to do anything that’s going to completely disrupt the future, but we have flexibility now and the ability to try to keep this team together, as Bruce and I have both been saying.”
(On if there’s any players undergoing surgery that could jeopardize their offseason with the team) Arians: I’m not even sure we’re going to have an offseason, we’re going to have to wait and see. But yeah, there’s a few guys that are getting cleanups just like normal, especially when you play to February. Most guys are not going to make it back if there’s OTAs, but we’ll be more than ready to go for the season. We’ll wait and see how many of that happens, but right now it’s nothing that’s not normal.”
(On QB Tom Brady’s role in the roster-building process) Licht: “I would say Bruce and I both talk to Tom. Why wouldn’t you, with the résumé that he has? I think it gets a little bit overblown. Tom isn’t banging down the door saying, ‘We need to sign this guy. We need to sign that guy. Bruce, we need to draft this guy.’ We ask him his opinion at times [and] he gives us his opinion at times, but he never mandates anything, and he’s actually been a joy to work with. I think a little bit of that gets overblown. We like to advise with him on certain things, just like Bruce does with the gameplan, but there has never been any kind of animosity or directive from him. In fact, most of the things that we do, we don’t consult with him on.” Arians: “Yeah, I’m not sure he knew who Tristan Wirfs was last year.” Licht: “And, he didn’t know Leonard Fournette was coming into the building.”
(On if the franchise tag is an option again this season for retaining OLB Shaquil Barrett) Licht: “The tag is an option for any one of our players right now. We don’t necessarily have plans to use it on one particular player versus another. Right now, we’re trying to keep as many of these players that we have and move forward to next year – [whether] that’s a long-term deal, a short-term deal or we use the tag. You’re not going to get me to tell you who’s going to get tagged because right now, we couldn’t even tell you ourselves.”
(On if depth at the skill positions factors into how the team evaluates players like Chris Godwin when heading into discussions toward long-term contracts) Arians: “He brings so much more than targets. When you look at what he does as an outside receiver and a slot receiver, he’s so unique in that regard, and then you put the blocking in there. He’s a huge part of what we do offensively. It’s more than stats. It’s also what the guy brings to the huddle. I think with all these guys, each and every one is so different because of what they bring into the huddle, but Chris is very, very unique.”
(On the biggest obstacle for this team in repeating as Super Bowl Champions in 2021-22) Arians: “Well we cleared the first huddle and that’s that we kept our coaching staff intact, other than [Antwaan Randle] El, and we’re happy for him. The next thing now is to keep the players intact, keep the team intact as much as we possibly can without risking future years. Jason and I will work together as hard as we can to keep the core guys. We started last year saying, ‘If we could keep the defense together, we would have a chance.’ We kept the defense together and then all of the sudden we got Tom Brady and that was the icing on the cake. It led to a Super Bowl. For me, it’s still keeping the defense together and then whatever is left – we’ll score enough points. It’s a matter of, for me, keeping the defense as solid as we can.”
(On how the offseason conversations change this year in terms of prioritizing keeping the team together rather than addressing weaknesses) Licht: “We felt like we had a very strong team last year and I think last year proved that a lot of depth at key positions helped us get to our goal of winning the Super Bowl. Right now, as BA (Bruce Arians) said, we’re trying to keep the core together. Then, if we can keep that core together, we can address other areas. We have to also address areas of future needs. We haven’t been in that position for a long time since I’ve been here, where if we are able to keep our core together, there is no immediate need that we’re going to be [addressing]. The picks that Bruce and I, and our staff, could either affect future needs or just be luxury picks that could help us. It leaves us in a position to take really good football players and not just direct our attention to one or two particular positions.”
(On what changes Licht has made to his drafting strategies) Licht: “First of all, I kind of answered this a few weeks ago, but I have an amazing staff. They do a great job. Coach [Arians] has an amazing coaching staff and we work so well together. I think Coach [Arians] has mentioned this in his own personal journey as a coach, and I’ve learned from him that you have to learn how to delegate, and you need to learn to trust your assistants. It took me some time, not that I didn’t trust them before, but to fully trust them. During the season when coach and his staff are coaching the football team and we’re trying to get ready for the draft already and free agency; just listening to them and empowering them more is something that I’ve learned is something that has really benefited me, in terms of the draft record. But, this is our draft record and as coach and his staff got here it just continued to get better and better because of the togetherness and the way we work together.”
(On if other players besides WR Mike Evans offered to restructure to keep other players around and the team’s salary cap outlook) Arians: “I think we have a number of guys that would restructure if needed to be just to help the rest of the guys out. Nobody’s giving up money. That’s one thing for sure. They’re just pushing it in a different direction to help the cap. We’re in great shape. Jason [Licht] and Mike Greenberg have done a great job of keeping us in a great spot that way. It always comes down to dollars and cents, but it also comes down to fit. Guys know where they fit and I think all these guys know they fit here. We’ll get the dollars right and hopefully keep this core together.”
(On if winning the Super Bowl will bring players to Tampa to chase another ring) Arians: “I don’t think so – dollars still talk. Now, if it’s a couple hundred thousand – that’s not really dollars to them – then maybe. For us I don’t know how many outsiders we’re even going to look at. If we can keep our guys and then hit the draft again like we have the last few years, we’re going to be in great shape.”
(On if trying to get an extension done last offseason with OLB Shaquil Barrett makes it easier to get one done this year) Licht: “It’s an entirely different year. I don’t know want to say it’s inched us closer, but it does show that we’re willing to invest. I, once again, don’t want to publicly talk about our conversations that we have with his representatives, but I will say we would like to have him back.”
(On when Tom Brady will be able to run a 7-on-7 practice, and if there is no offseason, how important is his leadership) Arians: “I think he’s probably looking [at] somewhere around June, right now, from what I hear. His leadership – he doesn’t have to be out there throwing it anymore. He can be there standing and coach the [mess] out of them. Wherever they meet and workout – I’m hoping we have an offseason for the younger players. Tom doesn’t need it, but for the younger players – first, second-, and third-year players – we’ve missed two years of player development with where we’re at now. We don’t need to miss another one. For him he can learn as much sitting in my golf cart as he can out there throwing the ball. For me it’s just a matter of hopefully having those practices”
(On the value of ILB Lavonte David and how important it is to keep the linebacker tandem with Devin White intact) Licht: “It would be extremely important. I don’t know if Devin would be the kind of player he’s evolving into without Lavonte. Lavonte behind the scenes is a phenomenal leader. He’s actually grown as a leader the last couple of years to be one the go-to guys for Bruce on that defensive side of the ball. He’s a very important player. He was a very important part of our Super Bowl win and we’d love to have him back. We’re going to try our damnedest to have him back.”
(On players accepting their roles after the Super Bowl win) Arians: “I think that’s all to be determined. When I said goodbye, we said goodbye to this season, this team. Next year is a different team. When we come back we’re not Super Bowl champs, we’re just the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It’s for everybody to find their role, whatever that might be, then embrace it. We did learn this year to embrace those roles and know that at any point in time they could change and be bigger or smaller. And team is still the main thing. We had a long talk about that when we broke up as a team. Congratulations but this team is history, next year is a whole new ball club, man. We ain’t done [nothing].”
(On if offensive lineman Donovan Smith and Ryan Jensen will be back next season) Licht: “We love Ryan and Donovan. They played a pivotal role in our offense – in their protection, in the run game. We envision Ryan and Donovan both being on this team. We expect them, not just envision them.”
(On his thought process about how long he plans to coach) Arians: “It depends on my golf game because it sucks right now. If it stays this bad, I’m going to coach for a hell of a long time. If it gets really good, maybe. But no, we’re coming back and going after two and see what happens from there.”
– Part of this transcription is courtesy of the Buccaneers Communications Department