Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht gave one of his former first-round draft pick, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, a much-needed vote of confidence when addressing the media at the NFL Scouting Combine on Wednesday. Before addressing Hargreaves, Licht was first asked about the cornerback position in the 2018 NFL Draft where the Bucs could have a chance at Alabama’s multi-purpose defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick, who can play safety, slot cornerback and outside cornerback.

“We always look for versatility at every position where that’s an asset,” Licht said. “The corners that can play both inside and outside, they come in handy, especially if they can play them both well. Those are players that every team values high. Some guys are really good outside, but can’t play inside. Some guys are really good inside, but can’t play outside. Some guys are a blend of both, and those guys have their value in this league.”

Licht said the Bucs are still high on Hargreaves and like the versatility he has as he started his second season playing outside, but after he struggled in the first couple of games he moved inside to slot corner where the team believes he thrived before a hamstring injury placed him on injured reserve.

Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves and S Chris Conte - Photo by: Getty Images

Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves and S Chris Conte – Photo by: Getty Images

“We were very happy with Vernon in his rookie year,” Licht said. “We thought he was trending up. Last year he had a couple of setbacks. He would be the first to tell you that. By no means are we giving up on Vernon. He has a lot of talent. I thought at the end of the season before he got hurt and put on IR with his hamstring that he was showing glimpses of what he was his rookie year. Vernon fits that to us – he fits the definition of the guy that can do both.

“He actually enjoys playing inside just as much as outside. It’s not a situation where he’s telling us where he wants to play. He’ll do anything. I had a lot of positive conversations with Vernon at the end of the year and I’m excited where his mind is right now. I think he’s going to have a pretty good year this year.”

The Bucs struggled at the cornerback position where Hargreaves and fellow second-year cornerback Ryan Smith were targeted often and endured some growing pains, while veteran Brent Grimes missed three games due to a shoulder injury. The team wants to re-sign Grimes, who turns 35 in July, and is trying to work on a contract extension as he is slated to be an unrestricted free agent on March 14, but may be contemplating retirement. Grimes, a former Pro Bowler, tied for the team lead with three interceptions last year, and has seven interceptions and 35 pass breakups in his two years in Tampa Bay.

“Brent really has enjoyed his time in Tampa so far and we really like Brent and value Brent,” Licht said. “We would like to have Brent back.”

Regardless of whether the Bucs re-sign Grimes for another year or the team’s confidence in Hargreaves, adding more talented cornerbacks to the roster through free agency and the draft remains a priority of Licht, especially in the rugged NFC South division where Tampa Bay has to face Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Cam Newton twice a year.

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About the Author: Scott Reynolds

Scott Reynolds is in his 27th 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 spent six years giving back to the community as the defensive coordinator/defensive line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]
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stlbucsfan
stlbucsfan
4 years ago

Having confidence in VHIII is fine just make sure he starts the season in the slot and without the ability to pick which depth he will play off the receivers. We drafted a nickel CB with a top 10 pick, terrible selection given players that were available but certainly a player we can salvage. I think Grimes has played very well during his time in Tampa but consider me a minority in that I think it’s time to move on. The great organizations move on from older players before their production slips. Grimes MIGHT have 1 good season left but… Read more »

Cody
Cody
4 years ago

Let’s give VH3 one more year before we give him a bust label. Dude had no pass rush against three of the top QBs in the league in our division. Only a few are calling out Jameis for a bad year when most of us know that he wasn’t supported by any type of run game.

TBChucky
TBChucky
4 years ago

Hopefully Vernon can pay Licht back for his patience by turning it around on the field. I’m definitely rooting for him. If Buckner can get some dogs to apply pressure it’d really help his cause..

Buc 1976
Buc 1976
4 years ago

What do we expect him to say. Basically a top 10 pick.

Buc-Up
Buc-Up
4 years ago

How letting him play press coverage instead of 5-7yards off the receiver? He doesn’t have the make-up speed to catch a receiver when they run by him. He doesn’t have Grimes’ recovery speed.

Pete Wood
Pete Wood
4 years ago

VH is the poster child for why it’s often better to trade down when you have a pick around eight to twelve. He’s the only first round pick that I didn’t like the past four years. Bucs deluded themselves into thinking he was worth a #11 pick. They would have been better trading down into the twenties. Truth was there were a bunch of guys lumped together after the first few elite picks. Better to get some extra picks and spread the risk than trying to figure out which of the interchangeable guys would rise to the top. Oh, yeah,… Read more »

FLBoy84
FLBoy84
4 years ago

Regardless of whether VH3 plays inside or out, still think we need to grab three CB’s through a combination of both free agency and the draft.

scubog
scubog
4 years ago

I was never impressed with Hargreaves when he was a Gator and wondered why there was so much hype about him. I was told by a Gator alum that he was playing hurt his final year in college so I took a wait and see approach. I’m still hopeful he regains his confidence and more hopeful that the team generates a pass rush.

mjmoody
mjmoody
4 years ago

VHIII is a great example of picking for need. I think he can be a solid nickel player, which means the Bucs selected a 60% player in the top 10. It’s an important position to lock down. Lots of 3rd downs get converted out of the slot position. So bring your game young man. Just a thought: isn’t Scott’s DT recommendation kind of similar to this scenario? (If we even play the 34 Under 60% of the time?) I”m not bashing Scottt, It’s just a concern of mine.

tnew
tnew
Reply to  mjmoody
4 years ago

Great point on drafting for need. Especially, with early picks. Once, Ramsey was off the board the CB position really fell apart. Not sure what they saw with VHIII as his measurables just don’t point to a number 11 pick. If he can be converted to a slot corner and learn to blitz off the edge, he can be salvaged. Needs to spend some time watching Ronde Barber film and understand he can play 15 years if he embraces that role, otherwise, he might not make a second contract. I understand the desire to allow him to play press coverage,… Read more »

jimmy_fowler
jimmy_fowler
4 years ago

Wanting a player to have some versatility makes sense if they are a squad/rotational player, where they may need to help out in a couple of different positions, and need that versatility to stay on a roster.

A #11 overall pick, however? I want him to be great player at his given position, not a jack of all trades.

josh
josh
4 years ago

Well no surprise you’re not going to give up on him yet, you wasted a first round pick on him…. From what i have watched VHIII is a bust. I hope he proves me wrong, but i’d be surprised if he does!

owlykat
owlykat
4 years ago

VHIII has as much speed as Rhonde Barber and needs to watch Rhonde’s tape on how he played the slot and up on the line of scrimmage to stop the run. Rhonde didn’t become a star until his third year and Vernon can too in his third year!