The PR Bucs Monday Mailbag is where’s Mark Cook answers your questions from our @PewterReport Twitter account. You can submit your question each week via Twitter using the hashtag #PRMailbag.

However, with Mark Cook enjoying some well-deserved vacation time, this week’s mailbag questions have been answered by our Bucs Beat Reporter Trevor Sikkema.

Question: Sporting News ranked Jason Licht as the number 30th-best GM in the league. What number do you put on him?

Answer: Uh, a lot higher than 30th. That’s for sure.

I’ve sort of talked about this before, but I don’t know how you look at Jason Licht’s path with the Buccaneers with all the context involved and not come out thinking he’s done a pretty damn good job. When he came on initially, he was hired by the already-chosen head coach (which is weird) Lovie Smith, and it was his first time as a general manager. Knowing that, you can infer there not only being potential conflict of draft and team building strategies, but also him likely not being as strong to his own instincts with a bunch of different voices in his head telling him what to do and not a lot of experience of his own to weed through those outside voices. Thus you have some picks and signings that looked bad early on, but, in context, shouldn’t be all on him, especially in an unforgivable manner.

But, if you look at what Licht has done with this team since firing Smith, yes the 2016 draft has blemishes, but he made the right, initiative decision to keep Dirk Koetter, has kept the Bucs in one of the healthiest cap situations in the league, went after big talent and got it, and his last two drafts look like home runs – if the pieces fall into place.

The article says the Bucs need to get some wins for him to move up, and yet they have guys like Oakland’s Reggie McKenzie, who just gave head coach Jon Gruden $100 million dollars and then had all of his power usurped by Gruden, Denver’s John Elway, a Hall of Fame quarterback, who has whiffed on every quarterback he’s had minus an aging Peyton Manning, and Cleveland’s John Dorsey, who literally hasn’t done anything for the Browns yet, ahead of Licht.

I get why people have some reservations about Licht – even he’s been fairly critical of himself for the lack of wins in Tampa Bay (his record is 22-42) – but he’s higher than 30th.

Question: How many fingers should we prepare to point after starting 1-4 with Saints, Eagles, Steelers, Falcons in the first 5 weeks?

Answer: Hey now. I know the schedule is tough, but we don’t have to sign this Bucs team up for a poor start right out of the gate before we even see what they look like in camp.

If you want to choose to not believe in this team until they prove something to you, then yes, there will be no convincing you of a better start than 1-4 in the first five weeks. Dirk Koetter and his staff may have gone 9-7 in 2016, but however you weigh each excuse, the 5-11 season was on them. The players played hard for them down the stretch, which was good, but there were far too many games that were “just out of reach.” Better coaching puts those game in reach.

Now, am I going to sit here with blissful ignorance and tell you that the Bucs can go 4-1 in that stretch? No, I’m not. But, I will tell you that there is no league like the NFL when it comes to turnover of which teams were good the previous season. And when you talk about the start of a season, no team, even ones with returning talent and coaching staffs, are guaranteed success.

The Bucs are more talented than they were last year, so if a start like 1-4 were to occur this season, I likely think the only two fingers you’ll have to point at are either for Koetter or Jameis Winston, because if those two do what they need to do, this team won’t be 1-4, even with a tough schedule to open 2018. Of course there might be another finger to point if the NFL does suspend Winston for at least one game in a case that may not contain much other than flimsy evidence.

Question: What is the percentage chance that Ronald Jones is the starting RB after the bye week?

Answer: Mark Cook has talked about this before, but even though there is a “starter” for every game, the Bucs rushing attack is going to be a “by committee” thing.

Peyton Barber is going to be the first running back out there for most of the first half of the season, if not more, pending how he performs. He has experience over Jones, and he has the trust of the coaching staff, which has seen him play for two years now. Jones will likely be the second running back in during all situations, and there may be games where he gets more carries or more yards than Barber if he’s the hot hand, but then I think Charles Sims will always be the third down back.

But, even then – not trying to dance around your question – if Jones really shows off in the first few weeks against some of those big-name teams, I’d say there’s a 30 percent chance he’s the “starting” running back ahead of Barber after the bye week (Week 5). If that happens we’ll see if Barber can pry some third-down opportunities away from Sims as a result because Barber is just a better all-around back than Sims is.

Question: Haven’t heard much from Kendell Beckwith, did you guys get a chance to speak with him during minicamp and will he be ready to rock for training camp?

Answer: Though I did not see Beckwith with my own two eyes, we have been told that he has been around the facility and in plenty of contact with the players and coaches since his car accident in mid-April.

When explaining that accident, Bucs general manager Licht said “We’re very fortunate that it wasn’t life-threatening.” The Bucs also seemed optimistic that Beckwith could be ready to open up the regular season, but said that they won’t really have a good grip on his progress until training camp.

We haven’t heard much since that update. I’m sure the hope is to get him back the week or two before the regular season begins, but, if you ask me, that might be a stretch listening to how severe that accident was. I would be surprised (pleasantly, of course) if Beckwith started the regular season healthy, but it wouldn’t be the first time he pleasantly surprised me and others as his recovery from a torn ACL in 2016 was speedy and impressive going into his first year with the Bucs in 2017.

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  1. Jason Licht doesn’t deserve to be moved up because he’s done everything BUT win as GM of the Bucs. People talk about these homerun drafts, certain FA signings and moving on from Lovie when in reality none of those moves resulted in a playoff birth. We can gloss over reality as Tampa fans as we want but the real world prefers results so yes Licht drafting OJ Howard looks like a HR but the previous draft featured VHIII, Noah Spence and Roberto Aguayo. So yea it’s an improvement FROM terrible. I hope Licht turns this around bc nobody wants us to win worse than me but these rose colored goggles for the guy are hilarious.

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  2. I’ve been as negative as anyone but it seems like Licht did about as much as he could do if the offseason and the defense does look improved. If we have a pass rush the DBs will look a lot better. It comes down to beating New Orleans week 1. If we win we get off to a good start. If we lose we have to beat the Eagles week 2. If we lose both its over. This team will crumble just like it did after the Patriot loss last year.

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  3. Does anyone know if Beckwith broke the same leg he had ACL surgery on, or was it the other one?

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  4. I like Licht overall, but He would be higher if not for the Aguayo disaster that we still don’t know if we have recovered form and actually found a kicker. That was the dumbest move I’ve seen in a long time. We had so many needs and he takes this chance on a kicker like we were already a playoff/super bowl contender? I remember all the idiots telling me and orhers that didn’t like it wewere wrong too. Lol. We get 9 or 10 wins this year and he will move up.

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  5. Sorry, I cringed a bit when I saw “Sims will always be the third down back”…

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    • Ditto… nobody else wanted this guy so we resign him… If he makes the 53 man roster that will not be a good thing….

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  6. Jason Licht is already a top 15 GM and once this team starts winning he’ll e considered top 10, hes done an excellent job of acquiring talent, keeping us under the cap, and I really hope that he gets to stay after the coaching staff gets fired after this season.
    I say that because I believe we’re gonna be no better than 2-3 through the first 5 weeks. I seriously laughed out loud at the podcast this week when Tom Jones was on and said that he liked Dirk Koetter and was recounting how the players like him…the guy doesn’t have our team practice tackling in training camp. I’m still trying to figure out how that isn’t headlining NFL network, ESPN and every other sports media outlet, “Proffession tackle football team, doesn’t practice tackling in practice.” It really is a overachiever that we won 5 games last year. That speaks to the talent level of this team that JL has assempled. Dirk is gonna let us down and is wasting our talent. He’s gotta go…

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  7. Judging a GM based solely on wins is even dumber than doing it to a QB. I wish people would show more self-awareness in regards to their feelings masquerading as logic.

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    • Would it help if I named 20 bad draft picks/trades/signings? Would that help you any? (Please say yes Ken. PLEASE SAY YES)

      Are you also telling me that Jason Licht has been killing it in building the roster with a ton of great moves, just that none of those moves actually turned into wins? Isn’t the point of building a roster and hiring a head coach so that you win games? Am I missing something Ken?

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  8. I would say 30th is pretty accurate on Licht, and may even be too generous. He’s had no real success, he hasn’t really had any spectacular draft moments, and his Day 3 picks have been downright sad, plus he was a part of the “Koetter Rubber Stamp” where the team didn’t even conduct a true coaching search after Lovie’s exit. He is average, at best, and hopefully in his last year.

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  9. Licht has learned on the fly and made adjustments to his mentality in a timely manner. He was a first time GM who yes, has had some growing pains but he checks his ego in pursuit of getting better. He’s going to go down as one of the greats in my opinion. No GM is perfect. He’s got the balls to make bold moves and is eager to learn from them if they don’t work out. Winning personality will bring winning performance. It’s coming.

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  10. After surviving Ken Herrock, Phil Krueger and even periods when we had GM by committee, I’d say Jason Licht has a chance to be the best in team history if these last two draft classes result in wins. The failing has been with free agency disappointments and the 2016 draft.

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  11. I’ll be honest guys, the past few years have been tough for me. I know as humans we do things that aren’t logical. I know we let our feelings cloud our judgment, and sometimes people don’t want to listen to anything rational about something they love.

    Buy y’all need to get over Jason Licht. He wasn’t good for you. He isn’t good for you. He’s 22-42 because he has made very real mistakes both in player evaluation and roster construction.

    If Jason thought the situation he signed onto was as bad as it was, ie. if he could evaluate a roster, then he wouldn’t have signed onto to be the Bucs GM in the first place. The guy was literally a finalist for the Dolphins job at the time that he signed on for the Bucs gig.

    Trevor, this current draft class has not played a single snap and you’ve stated “his last two drafts look like home runs.” I don’t know what to tell you buddy, but that statement is one of the least objective a person could write. That’s like saying the incoming freshman class at Braden River High School is probably the best graduating class in the history of the school. How does the Mission Accomplished banner look at your desk?

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    • I think Licht’s been pretty good. He’s made mistakes, as I stated, like every GM in the NFL does every season, but Bucs fans usually crank the negative up to 10 because they haven’t had a winner in so long. The fact of the matter is Bruce Allen was trash, Mark Dominik was trash and the Bucs entire foundation was also trash because of it when even Lovie Smith took over, who then continued to make it just as bad. Licht took over with Lovie as his head coach (who he did not hire) for the first two years which was unfortunate.

      Licht’s first few years as a GM with signings and drafting with Lovie were not great, and so was the 2016 draft. We’ve said this. No one’s debating it. But I think he’s since turned it around to recognize where and how you pick up talent. Him signing Koetter was a bit of a timing thing that I’m not sure will workout. But it was like Doug Martin coming off a 1,4000 yard year in a contract year; you had no choice but to keep him. Sort of the same with Koetter there so we’ll see.

      Also, I’m a draft guy. I scout these players year-round. Yes I’m going to comment on how and where the players were picked as wins and losses. The draft is a game in and of itself. The rest is on the coaches. Not allowing yourself to have good or bad opinions on when players are acquired until 3-5 years later is a really boring way to follow football. Duh you don’t know anything for sure about these guys until after their rookie contract, but a lot of that afterwards is on the coaching staff — which could be a Licht thing, too, so we’ll see.

      I don’t mean to say that Licht can do no wrong in my eyes, but I also don’t think people get just how bad this franchise was when he took over, which is why I said 30th is too low, all things considered. If you unforgivably blame Licht for his first few years as a GM for a team he’d never worked for with an awful cap situation, an awful roster foundation and an awful coaching staff, he was doomed to be your guinea pig anyways.

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      • To my point, as a GM prospect Licht was making the rounds and was a finalist for the Dolphins job before he took the Bucs offer. If Jason realized that he was walking into a situation following up two “trash” GM’s (ie he could evaluate a roster) why did he take the job? If you’re a bright, hot commodity as a coach or GM are you jumping to take the Browns job over other potential offers instead of sticking with the Patriots? If Jason Licht sees the Bucs as it actually was, why did he trade a 4th for Logan Mankins on the eve of his first season? Doesn’t seem like the move you make if you have a clue you are embarking on 2-14.

        There is a stark difference between having an opinion “I like this draft class” and calling a draft a “home run” comparable to a one that has netted legitimate positive results.

        I would counter your optimism with your own reservations with Vea as a “complimentary player”, a much greater love of Darrius Guice than Ronald Jones and other picks you would’ve made such as the difficulty you had with passing on players such as Justin Reid or Isaiah Oliver. Comparing your reactions in real time to the draft picks to calling it a “home run” today doesn’t quite mesh.Maybe you think “hey, they made some solid picks.”but to call the 1st round draft pick a “complimentary player” and then state it is a”home run” I can only imagine you were surely very impressed with Vea’s sled work and Rojo’s agility.

        Let’s also not falsely equivocate the fact that all GM’s make mistakes with this GM’s mistakes. In his 4th year Licht built a 5-11 roster, low in pass rush, coverage, o-line play and missing much of a running game. Are you going to blame that on Dominik too?

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  12. I’m not saying he’s top 10, but anyone that says 30th is exactly where he should be ranked, needs their head examined. Because that’s just insane. Wins and losses don’t always tell the story. He doesn’t coach the players, or play the games. He’s been right more than he’s been wrong on draft picks(at the time they were picked) and has done a great job with the team cap situation. And his best attribute(which never seems to be brought up) is that he doesn’t let his ego cloud what’s best for the team. He could have let Aguayo be the kicker for 2 years because of his draft status. Nope! He cut him as quickly as he drafted him. He admitted the horrible pick and moved on from him to avoid the team suffering because of his mistake. That’s what the best GM’s do. Christ look at all the horrible draft picks Belichek makes. I think Licht has gotten way more right than B.B. has. Point is, there’s so much more that goes into it. It’s not just strictly wins and losses. That’s what clueless fans use to evaluate a GM or QB

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    • Thank youuuuuuu

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    • Licht hired ALL of the coaches who coach the players. His fingerprints are all over the roster and you’d like to ignore his record?

      If my dear objectively challenged friends are willing to be honest with yourselves, you’ll look at Licht’s trade for Kyle Brindza the year prior to Aguayo and the length of his Bucs career (4 games) 50% FG and 75% XP and compare it to Aguayo’s first 5 games 50% FG 88% XP, and say maybe the decision to gut through Aguayo kicking for a full year vs cutting him like he did with Brindza was actually very much due to Licht’s stubborness and the spot where Aguayo was drafted.

      Also recall he replaced Aguayo with Folk, who then proceeded to cost the team 1-2 games before himself being released. Licht didn’t exactly fix the mess he created and his inability to evaluate/grade the kicker position and this is one I’m sure Dirk Koetter didn’t appreciate these past two seasons. I’m sure Lovie didn’t enjoy the Brindza experiment much either.

      If we want to discuss people Licht held onto for too long, how about the 7 million dollar ungruaranteed contract for Doug Martin last year. What exactly was this GM seeing that led him to believe that Doug was a top 5 RB by salary? How about holding onto 33 year old Vincent Jackson for 11 million a year after coming off an injury plagued 543 yard 3 TD season? How about the medical miracle of JR Sweezy who is still gracing this roster? Does anyone think he was legitimately playing up to his contract last year? If Licht is as ruthless as you believe him to be, why was he giving out millions of unguaranteed Glazer cash to players who had proven to be past their prime or injured/ineffective?

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