Bucs GM Jason Licht - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Let’s get this out of the way.
It was a well-intentioned gamble that turned out to be an awful draft pick.
When Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht traded up in the second round to draft Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo in 2016, he envisioned drafting a highly decorated, accurate kicker that could make him and the team forget about the likes of oft-injured kicker Patrick Murray, a slumping Connor Barth and the disastrous trade for Kyle Brindza. Murray, Barth and Brindza were the three kickers that the Bucs employed from 2014-15.
In a league in which games are often decided by a field goal or less, finding a reliable kicker in the clutch is almost as important as finding a franchise quarterback.
Bucs GM Jason Licht – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
To those who ridiculed Licht’s bold move a year ago as a mistake – and again when Aguayo finished his rookie season as the worst kicker in the league – today marks vindication.
They were right. Licht was wrong.
Licht, however, doesn’t care.
In a league where many GMs care more about their egos and their job security above all else, Licht deserves tremendous credit for promptly cutting Aguayo, who looked good in training camp, but missed an extra point in the first half and a 47-yard field goal in the waning minutes of the team’s 23-12 loss at Cincinnati.
Licht had seen enough.
Head coach Dirk Koetter had seen enough.
We all had seen enough.
The missed 47-yarder was especially damning because Aguayo has struggled from long distance and he was set up on the left hash with the kick missing wide right.
Licht doesn’t care about his ego. He cares about doing what’s right for the Buccaneers and building the best possible 53-man roster. That’s it.
Cutting Aguayo was the right move for Tampa Bay. Now he should bring in competition for Nick Folk, who made last night’s lone attempt, a 45-yarder, for the rest of training camp and the preseason. Folk hasn’t exactly been automatic in practice. He too needs competition.
Bucs K Roberto Aguayo – Photo by: Getty Images
The failed Aguayo pick didn’t ruin the Bucs’ 2016 draft class, which features key defenders like starting cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, the team’s first-round pick, and defensive end Noah Spence, the second-rounder selected right before Aguayo. And it didn’t ruin Licht’s reputation. With the talent Licht has stockpiled since joining the Bucs in 2014, to suggest otherwise is foolish.
What about hitting on first-round picks like wide receiver Mike Evans, quarterback Jameis Winston, Hargreaves and likely tight end O.J. Howard? Evans, a Pro Bowler with three straight 1,000-yard seasons to start his NFL career, is one of the top 5 wide receivers. Winston, who made the Pro Bowl as a rookie and became the first NFL quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards back-to-back in his first two NFL seasons, is already the most talented quarterback the franchise has ever had.
What about finding some third-day steals in middle linebacker Kwon Alexander and guard Kevin Pamphile? How about mining some undrafted free agent gems like tight end Cameron Brate and wide receiver Adam Humphries, in addition to some hopeful prospects like nickel cornerback Javien Elliott, tackle Leonard Wester and running back Peyton Barber?
Finding so many valuable contributors after the second round makes occasionally missing on a second-rounder tolerable.
Licht has even fared well in the tricky world of free agency, signing the likes of defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, cornerback Brent Grimes, defensive end Robert Ayers, Jr., punter Bryan Anger, running back Jacquizz Rodgers and wide receiver DeSean Jackson as well as a few others. Licht also re-signed Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David, too.
ESPN’s Trey Wingo – among others – was quick with some hot takes following Aguayo’s release, suggesting it was the worst draft pick in the history of the league.
It's officially the worst draft pick in NFL history. Traded UP to get a kicker in 2nd round .. didn't make it to a 2nd season https://t.co/JqNBo5Te30
— trey wingo (@wingoz) August 12, 2017
It's officially the worst draft pick in NFL history. Traded UP to get a kicker in 2nd round .. didn't make it to a 2nd season https://t.co/JqNBo5Te30
— trey wingo (@wingoz) August 12, 2017
Absolute nonsense and it makes Wingo look foolish. What about the host of first-round busts – top 10 picks – that didn’t do squat in the league?
What about Bo Jackson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1986 draft, that didn’t even sign with Tampa Bay and opted to play baseball instead?
It’s not like Aguayo was worthless in a Tampa Bay uniform. He certainly missed his kicks, but he did make the game-winning kick at Carolina and was 4-of-4 on his field goals in the Bucs’ 19-17 win at Kansas City. Take away those two victories and Tampa Bay is 7-9 in 2016.
Licht whiffed on Aguayo. That’s a fact.
He also lost the gamble he made on tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins, his first ever second-round pick, from the 2014 draft class.
It’s one thing to make mistakes. All GMs do.
But it’s another thing to admit them and quickly move on from them for the good of the team. Holding on to mistakes too long only compounds them and makes them worse.
Licht continues to show a willingness to move on, as he did when he cut most of the 2014 free agent class just a year after Tampa Bay underachieved and went 2-14 in Lovie Smith’s first year as head coach. Guys like quarterback Josh McCown, left tackle Anthony Collins and defensive end Michael Johnson were players that Smith coveted while watching football in his basement in 2013, the year he was out of football after being fired in Chicago.
Licht followed orders and signed those players, but stood up to Smith a year later and said they needed to go. It was the right thing to do for the franchise even if it made Licht look bad after his first year on the job.
Bucs GM Jason Licht with ex-coach Jon Gruden – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
The Glazers appreciate Licht’s willingness to move on from mistakes quickly, too. They share the same approach and the same vision. That’s why they have moved on from Raheem Morris, Greg Schiano and Smith to get to Koetter after just two years in each regime.
If you want to criticize Licht, fire away. But he’s the best general manager Tampa Bay has had since Rich McKay. That point can’t be debated.
“This is an exciting time for Tampa,” former Bucs head coach and ESPN Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden told PewterReport.com. “The expectations are huge and I hope that Monday Night Football game when I get to come back in December is a big one.
“I give Dirk Koetter credit, I give Mike Smith credit, and I give Jason Licht credit for working together and all doing a hell of a job in leading this team back.”
Licht is a big reason why you, the team and many in the media and the Bucs fan base are thinking playoffs in Tampa Bay this season, too. That’s worth remembering while debating the debacle of a forgettable second-round pick.
Scott Reynolds is in his 23rd year of covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as the vice president, publisher and senior Bucs beat writer for PewterReport.com. Author of the popular SR's Fab 5 column on Fridays, Reynolds oversees web development and forges marketing partnerships for PewterReport.com in addition to his editorial duties. A graduate of Kansas State University in 1995, Reynolds enjoys giving back to the community as the defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: email@example.com
Bad pick, yes. Worst pick ever, what about Ryan Leaf?
Scott, no it was a bad gamble. I’m sorry but you are a Nole’s apologist. Should have offered a 2nd round pick to any team on draft day that had a good kicker. Why gamble on a college kicker when you could have gotten an established kicker instead? Never draft a kicker before the 6th round. Top 10 kickers of all time were mostly undrafted.
I agree. I was criticised for going absolutely bat $hi7 crazy when the trade up to draft a kicker was announced. If you are drafting one of the greatest kickers or punters in college football history you can use a 6 rounder. All other kicker should be UDFAs. The only time you can draft a kicker high is if you have already won a few Superbowls and are in the playoffs every year(Pats). When you are trying to build a team you cannot waste precious draft picks.
However, Licht has done a great job overall.
76 I agree:
Roberto could have been drafted fourth rd.
I’m you know scott is a k state fan right? So how’s he a nole apologist?
Yes, you are right. My apologies to Scott but he was a big defender of this pick from day 1. I believe onebof the Pewter guys is a big Noles fan
Mark Cook is the Noles fan. I am a K-State fan. And yes, I was on board with this pick from Day 1. It didn’t work out.
Is it worse when we picked the wrong guy (Booker Reese instead of whats his face), traded back up to get Reese, and they both ended up being hot garbage?
Actually the guy that they mistakenly picked was Sean Farrell. He had a decent career. Had they left it alone instead of compounding the problem of trading back up for Booker Reese, it would have been OK.
It was stupid for so many reasons and it’s not about saying I was right he was wrong. Just glad he cut him now instead after he lost us more games.
Take away the risk and stupidity of using a 2nd pick on a kicker it never made sense even if Aguayo was really good or above average for a team that’s not deep with so many needs! Maybe the Patriots could use a 2nd round pick on a kicker but with our needs come on man!
Great write up with actual examples of why our faith in Licht shouldn’t be shaken. Like you said, he’s made mistakes. All GM’s do, especially first timers. I think his biggest mistake was overvaluing how good the team was going into the 2016 draft. Hence the gamble on drafting Berto. But, his good decisions vastly outweigh his bad ones. If ASJ and Berto go down as his biggest mistakes, we’ll be in very good shape.
Blame is on Aguayo. Some players choke when they come into the NFL. Unfortunately he will be out of the league before the end of this season; someone might give him a chance and then realize why we cut him. Life is not perfect and we learn from our mistakes. Go Bucs
I just listened to Dirk Koetter’s presser and he addressed the Aguayo release. He said “the NFL is a production business”. Jason Licht was in the room when Aguayo was let go.
Both men understand that you have got to win (produce) in the NFL or somebody else gets your job. Koetter and former HC Smith won games in Atlanta, but never won the championship and they were both simultaneously released. The Bucs haven’t won yet and if they don’t sooner than later, Jason Licht won’t be here either.
Doesn’t matter if he’s a good guy and amid the shortcomings like Aguayo, he’s done some good things. Heck, Lovie Smith who was fired and deservedly so, did some good things – for one, he hired Jason Licht, he hired Dirk Koetter, and perhaps most importantly – Lovie agreed to tank for QB Jameis Winston and then gave his blessing for Winston to be drafted despite the media attention regarding Winston’s conduct at FSU and the objections of Buc notables like Tony Dungy his own mentor.
I’ve said all of that to say this. There is no reason not to follow Jason licht at this point in his tenure – he has more plusses than minuses. But he must win and that’s more than 9-7 seasons. I like Jason Licht, but if he stays, it because he won and he won big! Go Bucs!
I applaud taking the chance Licht on him in the first place and also applaud that he has now moved on. All the haters, congratulations, you must be smarter than me and an NFL GM. Had Aguayo gone perfect last season, which was almost as likely as what he did finish with, would anyone have said we could’ve got an UDFA to do the same? Ridiculous! Also, lost respect for Trey Wingo. Seriously? Worst draft pick in NFL history? It’s a shame for Roberto that he either a) totally lost confidence or b) couldn’t make the transition from college to the NFL. I wish him the best of luck and hopefully he gets another chance somewhere, sometime.
CDN, it wasn’t just the BUCS fan that was ridiculing this pick but it was widely rediculed by the general public and media outlets. The fact that other GMs didn’t go near this guy on draft day tells you something. Not to say that Litch hasn’t done some good things and I give him credit for recognizing his mistake and moving on. But let’s not sugarcoat it, it was a huge mistake, just like trading for Brindza. Don’t understand his problems when it comes to evaluating kickers.
I have a hard time understanding why you think that the root cause here is Licht’s inability (as you charge) to evaluate kickers.
Roberto Aguayo set the all time NCAA scoring record, connected on over 96% of his kicks, played on a national championship winner. Everything about Aguayo blared that he was a very good kicker in college. But he turned out to be a bad kicker in the NFL … not because he was beating up his girfriends, hanging out with hoods, smoking dope, or because he was a certifiable head case. He just could not kick in the NFL the way he did in college.
You’re blaming the wrong guy. The guy who did not perform was Aguayo. That happens, lots of college stars never make it in the NFL. Everybody knows that.
The pick was OK but not trading up for. Also the fact that he traded for Brindza, a 50% FG kicker in college just because he had a strong leg. Meanwhile Matt Bryant made the Pro Bowl last year
Don’t ignore the fact that the trade up for Aquayo was already paid for by the trade down for Hargreaves. The extra pick obtained by Licht in trading down to get the very same player he was going to take anyway was the one used to trade up from the 3rd round to the 2nd round.
In other words, Licht was playing with house money, not his own.
That part always gets left out of the rants by those who hated the Aguayo pick.
Naplesfan, I don’t think that is a good argument. Once you obtained the draft pick, it is your not to be wasted and viewed as “house money”. You took a gamble trading down so you paid the price already. That is like saying, I won the lottery with a $1 ticket, and now I’m going to keep the $1 and blow the rest on one spin of the wheel at Vegas.
Yes the best kickers in the league right now are UDFAs. Tell me the last kicker that was drafted before round 4 that eas any good. Hint, it is not Janikowski.
Thank you Jason. Takes a real man to admit he was wrong. Over all he’s made some great picks, keep up the good work.
owlykat disagrees with you.
We lost a QB in our first game. Our OL is suspect at best – admit it, Marpet is the only Buc you’d draft if OL were chosen as part of Fantasy Football. And despite that glaring need obvious to (nearly) all we trade up to draft a kicker, the cardinal sin of the NFL, in the second round no less?!? If that is JW going down later this year, will PR still be making excuses for JL? Will the rest of the team or the Glazer boys? Fitz may end up being the #2 but we all know what he rally is, and isn’t.
Yes we’ve done enough right to be hopeful and I am, but we’ve made our share of mistakes too, expectations are higher now, can’t afford many more boneheaded moves like this one and expect to keep one’s job.
Worse pick ever? NO. But it could be the stupidest pick ever. Wasting a draft pick to move up. Taking a position with very little upside (and tremendous downside) with a premium pick is just plain stupid.
Please stop saying what a great drafter Licht is.
2014 Evans fell to #7 where he was predicted. The Bucs needed a WR. Everyone knew that was the pick. Remember Odell Beckham Jr & Aaron Donald went 12 & 13.
2015 Winston was the #1 pick overall. The Bucs needed a QB. Even picking Mariota would have been a good pick.
2016 Licht does a good thing trading down to pick up an extra pick. Then wasted it on trading up for Aguayo. Hargreaves was not good last year. He might turn out to be good. BUT Laremy Tunsil fell to them and they passed. I would rather have a LT to protect the most important asset (Winston) then a piece part on defense. If the Bucs had Tunsil at LT, move Smith to RT (more natural position) and Dotson to G (more natural position).
2017 OJ Howard falls into the Bucs lap. Is there anyone on the planet that would not have taken Howard at #19?
I would guess that 90% of the people on this message board, would have done at minimum what Licht did with those 1st round picks. And I venture to say many would have done better.
I feel you’re willfully overlooking all the non 1st round picks he has made that have contributed over the last 3 years. You don’t build a winner in the 1st round. You build it 2nd-5th. Alstott, Donnie Abraham, Barber, Lynch, Gramatica, Dexter Jackson, and Brian Kelly all drafted in those rounds.
-Charles Sims – 3rd round (Huge contributor in 2015. Needs to stay healthy)
-Kevin Pamphile – 5th round (Starting LG)
-Donovan Smith – 2nd round (Starting LT)
-Ali Marpet – 2nd round (Starting RG & now C)
-Kwon Alexander – 4th round (Pro Bowl worthy starting MLB)
-Noah Spence – 2nd round (Promising rookie year)
-Ryan Smith – 4th round (CB depth at the moment)
-Caleb Benenoch – 5th round (Started 1 game on OL & potential RT starter)
-Devante Bond – 6th round (On track to be starting SAM week 1)
He’s drafted 4 starters outside of the 1st round, with a potential 5th in Bond and probable 6th with Spence. Every GM misses on picks. But Licht’s drafts have been substantially better than Dominik’s. Not to mention you make it seem like drafting a player in the1st round is bust proof. Evans, Winston, VH3 could have all been busts. You’re being overly harsh.
You named a bunch of guys but the only ones that are proven are Marpet and Alexander. Jury is out on the rest on this list. Just because of some these guys are starters don’t mean they are necessary good. Sims is nothing more than a 3rd down back and may lose his job this year. Smith has been up and down. Benenoch was a disaster in the preseason game. Devante Bond, starter by necessity. That makes the wasted draft pick of Aguayo more egregious.
Donovan Smith, our franchise LT, led the league in penalties last year for an Offensive Lineman. Sheesh…
It honestly doesn’t take a genius to not pick a kicker in the second round and “slumping” Connor Barth is bullshit. Same guy that kicked 3 50yarders for us. Lovie and licht being dumb wanting a bigger leg for kickoffs when a punter can do that literally stuck in the stoneage. You release our most accurate kicker in bucs history for kyle brindza. That roster move still bothers me to this day I was saying it was a terrible decision to run Barth out of town and 2years later still not solved
I don’t care who you are or what you may have done in the past. When you take on a new level of responsibility you always have a learning curve to push through.
I have seen growth for Koetter, Licht and Winston so far. The next year (or two) should tell the story. I am very hopeful for the long tenure for them because of what I have seen so far. My judgement in not superior to the rest of you out there so, yes, It is always possible that we will back in rebuild mode in a couple of years. But, I don’t think so.
Many of the people Licht has brought in are high character guys. Many are guys who just love playing the game. This can mean as much as the raw talent each has. All have to be team players. This may sound trite or cliched, but it remains true.
If you are trying to balance “win now” against “build for the long run” you have your work cut out for you.
If this team can have ten wins and make it to the play-offs as a wild card, that will be a real accomplishment. We have a tougher schedule than last year and there are no bad teams in the NFC South.
O well. I’ve honestly believed from the start that this “terrible pick” nonsense was overblown. Sure, it was a bad pick, but all gms have bad picks and bad choices. Its the great ones that do exactly what licht has done with those bad picks…move on from them ASAP and not brood over them. Licht has hit on so many other picks and has put this team in the best position its been in years that there is honestly zero reason why anyone should doubt licht , regardless of if he traded up for a kicker. It is what it is. Doesn’t set us back, doesn’t do any harm, doesn’t mean anything other than it was a bust. Jameis winston and co. are going to be just fine…as for trey wingo…just let him talk, hes the worst anchor in the history of anchors and gets by with brown nosing. His opinion means very little
Take a deep breath Matador, that was a third string or practice squad player at best on the offensive line when Griffin got injured in the third quarter. Geeeessshhh.
Talk about hysterical.
One of the good things about letting Aguayo go is I hopefully won’t have to listen to all these armchair GMs go on about the pick endlessly throughout the season.
Then again I probably will. They are the same ones who seem to pick out scapegoats on the team and blame everything wrong with the Bucs on them.
The draft is a crap shoot and every team has its monumental failures. Would it have been any worse of a pick if Licht had picked a safety with the second round who couldn’t play safety cut could play outside LB.
I may be wrong, but half of the first round picks in the NFL are out of the league by their fifth year.
Time to move one and quit whining.
Man, SR and many others here just don’t get it, do you? It’s arguably the worst draft pick in NFL history, and the results of other picks don’t really have anything to do with that fact. What makes the Aguayo trade up pick so awful is (1) the result, yes, but more importantly (2) a terrible, terrible process that went into it. “In a league in which games are often decided by a field goal or less, finding a reliable kicker in the clutch is almost as important as finding a franchise quarterback,” is a laughably dumb thing to say for several reasons. First, no, not that many games are decided by a field goal or less. Secondly, and most importantly, IT JUST ISN’T THAT HARD to find a kicker who makes his kicks at a reasonable clip. And the difference between the greatest of all time and league average is pretty minuscule for a kicker – something like 4.5 points spread out over 16 games. And remember, you don’t get to pick when those extra 1.5 FGs come – it could be a clutch game deciding FG, but it could just as easily (actually, it’s much more likely that it would) come in a relatively meaningless moment of the season. AND the NFL performance history for great college kickers is absolutely miserable.
So you have a position that (1) we can verify beyond doubt does not translate college production to the NFL well at all, (2) isn’t worth all that much even if that production does translate, and (3) it’s relatively super easy to find strong production from late round draft picks, UDFA’s, and crusty veterans no one even cares about (see: Nick Folk).
Sure, guys like Ryan Leaf, Jamarcus Russell, and Dexter Jackson may have had higher expectations and hurt their teams more than Aguayo did. But the pick itself was incredibly stupid. The thought process that went into it, the decision making process – was genuinely terrible. So maybe it wasn’t the worst pick of all time, but it’s easily one of the dumbest. Incredibly high downside with very low upside in the best case scenario = a miserably bad decision. Whereas the choice to take a Ryan Leaf was obviously totally defensible – he was an elite prospect at the most valuable, most important position in the sport. Seeing Leaf as a worse pick is just ridiculous if you’re only evaluating the decisions themselves, and not getting too hung up on the results.
Results which, by the way, obviously don’t do Berto any favors. When you lastly factor in how horribly bad he is at his job, yea – one can easily argue that Aguayo is on a short list of the worst draft picks of all time.
All of that said – I agree with the headline. Licht has done enough right that I’m overall pretty satisfied with him as GM right now. His willingness to move on from mistakes is an admirable, underrated strength. I like him overall. But to defend the Aguayo pick at all is truly dense. One almost has to actively try to latch onto arguments completely full of emotions and fallacies to buy that it was a good idea at the time. A straightforward, objective consideration of the facts of the matter reveal beyond doubt that it was a stupid pick. There’s no reason to try to put makeup on this ape – it was really, really ugly. Call it what it was. And for the love of God, Licht – learn from it. Don’t do this again. Find your kickers in the 7th round, after the draft, or on the FA scrap heap. Literally any other approach is really, really stupid. You are setting yourself up for failure and disappointment if you do something like this again.
But, again – good job overall for Licht. I really mean that.
Bad pick, but I like the fact that our GM thinks outside the box.
Although wasting a No. 2 pick on Aguayo was a bad decision, it hardly qualifies as the worst pock in NFL history.
There are a slew of QBs chosen at No.1 who didn’t make the grade, Ryan Leaf, Vince Young, our own Josh Freeman to name just a few, who would all qualify as worst picks.
Not only do they carry the stain of wasting a high pick, when they fail to materialize into the QB and leader of the team. it usually set the team back five years. See Josh Freeman.
So even with all of your convoluted logic, it is you, sir, whose hysterics won’t allow you to “get it.”
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