FAB 4. Licht Needs To Flood Weak Positions On Bucs Roster

There has been a light drizzle at the start of free agency in Tampa Bay, but now general manager Jason Licht needs to make it rain.

I’m not talking about throwing dollar bills at free agents like he’s in the club. Licht needs to keep pouring talent onto the Bucs roster along the offensive line, at running back and in the secondary.

Actually, he needs to flood it.

Bucs GM Jason Licht, director of football administration Mike Greenberg and director of football operations Shelton Quarles - Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR
Bucs GM Jason Licht, director of football administration Mike Greenberg and director of football operations Shelton Quarles – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Licht doesn’t need to make it expensive and burn to cash. He just needs to add bodies for legitimate competition that can challenge for starting jobs – not simply stockpile the roster with undrafted free agents who will simply be camp fodder.

Licht needs to attack those positions the way he did the defensive line last year. After generating a league-low 22 sacks in 2017, Licht nearly went overboard when it came to the defensive line. After firing defensive line coach Jay Hayes, Licht started free agency by signing defensive tackles Beau Allen and Mitch Unrein. He traded for defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and then signed defensive end Vinny Curry.

But Licht wasn’t done with two new defensive ends and two new defensive tackles. Despite having defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and defensive ends Will Gholston and Noah Spence, as well as those new additions, Licht drafted defensive tackle Vita Vea in the first round and then claimed defensive end Carl Nassib off waivers in September.

Thank goodness he did all that.

Unrein never played a down due to a severe concussion. Vea missed all of the preseason and the first three games of the season with a calf injury. Curry missed four games with an ankle injury. Allen and McCoy each missed two games with a foot and calf injury, respectively.

Bucs DT Vita Vea and GM Jason Licht
Bucs DT Vita Vea and GM Jason Licht – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Despite all of those injuries, the Bucs defensive line really didn’t miss a beat and helped the team record 38 sacks. Imagine if all Licht did was sign Unrein and Allen and not draft an athletic, up-and-coming talent in Vea. Imagine if Licht stood pat with the acquisitions of Curry and JPP and didn’t claim Nassib.

At running back this offseason, the Bucs re-signed Peyton Barber, last year’s leading rusher, and added former Cardinals back Andre Ellington, who didn’t play last year due to injury. Other than that, Ronald Jones will be the new coaches’ reclamation project, Shaun Wilson is coming off injured reserve and Dare Ogunbowale is back for another training camp.

The Bucs simply need more talent here.

Jones was a second-round pick, but hasn’t lived up to it. Ellington was a sixth-round draft choice and the rest were undrafted free agents.

Tampa Bay would be wise to sign former New York Jets running back Isaiah Crowell and then draft another running back in April – perhaps Memphis running back Darrell Henderson in the second or third round. Take them all to camp and let them duke it out until it’s clear who the top four backs are.

The same thing needs to happen on the offensive line, especially at right guard and right tackle. Neither Licht nor this new coaching staff can assume that Alex Cappa can simply show up this year and magically become a starting right guard overnight. Cappa needs competition. Licht needs to flood the offensive line by signing a veteran guard and drafting another one. The same thing at right tackle where the team needs a continuity plan behind Demar Dotson.

Flood it.

Bucs QB Vernon Hargreaves - Photo by: Getty Images
Bucs CB Vernon Hargreaves – Photo by: Getty Images

Tampa Bay’s secondary needs the same attention. Cornerbacks Vernon Hargreaves III, Carlton Davis, Ryan Smith and David Rivers have a combined two career interceptions. Safeties Justin Evans, Jordan Whitehead, Isaiah Johnson and M.J. Stewart have a combined five interceptions between them. That’s seven career interceptions from eight players, which means the Bucs need more playmakers in the secondary – especially some veterans. The last thing this team needs is to start another rookie cornerback that will wind up with zero interceptions while learning on the fly and giving up first downs and touchdowns in the process.

Flood it.

Licht and new Bucs head coach Bruce Arians have an awful lot of faith in a roster that produced back-to-back 5-11. They both think that better coaching in 2019 will make the difference. Part of that is ego.

The problem with that overconfidence is that if Licht doesn’t add the necessary competition in free agency and the draft by the time the preseason rolls around and Arians’ coaching staff realizes that this player really can’t play or that player isn’t as good as they thought he was it will be too late. The draft will have come and gone and free agency will be over.

Licht will then have to cross his fingers that he and director of player personnel John Spytek can find another Jacques Smith or another Nassib. That’s quite a risk because there are rarely saviors on the street in September.

Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and GM Jason Licht
Bucs head coach Bruce Arians and GM Jason Licht – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

Licht and Arians need to take a look at the third-team player anywhere on the depth chart and ask, “Could the Bucs get by with that player for 10 games if injuries hit hard and that third-teamer ascended up the depth chart?”

Right now at running back that player is Jones or Wilson behind Barber and Ellington, and that’s a scary thought, isn’t it? This shouldn’t be

If you’re Arians and you’re reading this, remember the quarterback conundrum you faced in 2014 when Carson Palmer went down with a torn ACL after a 9-1 start in Arizona and then backup Drew Stanton also got injured? The Cardinals limped into the playoffs, going 0-3 down the stretch with third-string QB Ryan Lindley and losing in the first round of the playoffs to squander an 11-5 season.

If you’re Licht and you’re reading this, remember the linebacker scramble you had last year after losing Kwon Alexander and Jack Cichy to torn ACLs during the Cleveland game? The Bucs were forced to start Riley Bullough, Devante Bond and Adarius Glanton against the Giants and Saquon Barkley. How’d that work out?

Neither Licht nor Arians should be overconfident in this current roster. Yes, there is talent in Tampa Bay. Yes, the Bucs have underachieved for the last two years and lost some real winnable games due to poor coaching and game management.

But this is not a Super Bowl roster. Not yet. Not even close.

Bucs director of football administration Mike Greenberg
Bucs director of football administration Mike Greenberg – Photo by: Cliff Welch/PR

If cap room is an issue, Licht should instruct Buccaneers director of football administration Mike Greenberg to restructure Mike Evans’ contract to create $10 million more in salary cap room. Not necessarily to overpay players in Tier 1 free agency, which is drawing to a close, but to find some more Deone Bucannon-type and Breshad Perriman-type for Tampa Bay and sign a guy like Crowell in Tier 2 free agency – either before or after the upcoming NFL Draft.

And a veteran cornerback. And a veteran safety. And a veteran guard.

Flood those positions in free agency and the draft.

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Scott Reynolds is in his 25th 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 line coach for his sons' Pop Warner team, the South Pasco Predators. Reynolds can be reached at: [email protected]erreport.com
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Jonathan Goodfellow

Great article Scott. Feeling pretty positive this year. Here are some of my thoughts. 1. Boy is Godwin in for a great year. I was a little disappointed in him last year. Seemed to drop the ball or fumble it one to many times, but he is young, talented, a hardworker, and a team player (would rather have guys with ME and Godwin’s mentalities than the A.Browns and OBJ’s.) Godwin has already started to build a solid rapport with JW. Will still miss Humps ability to get open and make crucial 3rd down catches, but Godwin will have a great… Read more »

destinjohnny

Pewter report Crew I know Jason is a good guy and you all like him.
But it’s time you called for his job.
At the end of the day he is a below average scout who can’t build a roster.
It’s time….

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drdneast

There’s only one ball and if you have 4 talented WRs and two TE’s , someone is going to get left out. There were to many times in 2017 and 2018 when I saw both QBs force the ball into Jackson just so he wouldn’t whine, wasting a valuable down.
I’m just glad he’s gone.
Like Goodfellow, I have noted in the past that Winston didn’t have a much problem going yard with his other WRs, why was Jackson such a problem.

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Wausa

I agree with most points in the article. I do think Jamies is much better at the deep ball than you insinuate. His biggest problem by far with long passes has been with DJax. The Bucs need to fill some holes in free agency(right guard, corner, linebacker and safety) and then attack the trenches in the draft. I’d much rather the Bucs focus on defensive line and offensive line in the first four rounds rather than get a off the ball linebacker, corner or running back, even though they currently have needs at those positions. The Bucs have been very… Read more »

fredster

Despite lot people constantly bashing Licht I’ve agreed with every move Licht has made lately. I’m glad abuvs kept him on and that he helped land us Arians. I hope he drafts well this year that’s been hit or miss and a learning curve for sure. Licht was 100% right letting Kwon go. I agree and said same thing weeks ago. He is good not great and he hasn’t been the best in staying healthy. He also is not very good in coverage period anyways wish him luck he plays with lots of heart. I agree with O line assessment… Read more »

BUC-ASS-BOB

They really think Perryman is to replace DeSeanJackson ???????? Destin Jonney
You are correct it is time to get a new GM however they’re happy with the things the way they’re going that’s why they’re going the way they go.

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e

Nice article, Scott. I agree that they couldn’t overpay for Kwon. I doubt that he will play out that contract. I’m glad he’s getting paid though. Yes, FLOOD! Flood & flexibility. Draft a guy like Jonah give you solidity across the entire O-line. I personally think that Watson will end up having better numbers than Perriman by the end of the year. Give me a slower guy with route running and excellent hands any day.

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drdneast

Not only is this Winston’s prove it year, it’s Hargreaves and Spences as well. If Hagreaves ends up covering slot receivers he is already a disappointment since you don’t draft slot cover guys with high No. 1 picks.

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LordCornelius

IMO the only issue with “flooding” RB/secondary/O-line is that this draft is loaded at front 7 / DL and we are rebuilding a 3-4 defense where most of our front 7 is old outside of Vea. We should take full advantage of this. The biggest reason the Bucs have been terrible for so long is they have had a bottom 3-5 defense basically every year. The one year we had just an average defense with Winston we had a winning record despite a top 5 difficult schedule. Carolina has drafted DTs and DEs R1/R2 when they already seemed loaded at… Read more »

Buc-Up

I still believe we should’ve claimed Kareem Hunt off Waivers last season. They would’ve had him under that contract for another two years averaging less than $1 million/yr. Cleveland signed him for $1-1.1 million/yr and will have him for 8 games. They already had Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson, so he’ll be a bonus for them when he returns from his suspension. He was an absolute need here. If he comes back, balls,and stays out of trouble, then he’ll make a lot more as a Free Agent or Franchise Tag in 2020. We had a shot at one of the… Read more »

EastEndBoy

Mid-off-season report card. We’re roughly half way through the off-season hoopla (the big wave of FA is over now anyway)…so how’s our GM done: Acquired Deion Buchannon (uh huh); Brashard Perriman (oh my…not that guy); another punter (at least Anger had a great last name); re-signed a few guys most notably Barber (ok – not that exciting really) and I guess D Smith (ugh, but ok we had to). Lost: Kwon Alexander (tough loss but I can understand…leaves another hole now), Adam Humphries (ok – he was too expensive and moving Godwin should help…but now we have a hole at… Read more »

pomer1eau

The secondary is still the weakest part of this team IMO. Is Tre Boston still out there? He’s 26 and has been on 3 different teams in the past 3 seasons accumulating 160 tackles, 24 passes defended and 10 picks. Not sure why any one of those teams have not signed him to a long term deal. Am I wrong to think he’s a good safety and could help this secondary? Thoughts?

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sunshineben

then bucs are a lousy team (LOOK AT THEIR RECORD) and now have no cash with a bad team .. Yet fans still defend Light who should have been fired..how many excuses can fans make before enough is enough ?

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flarick

Scott Reynolds wrote an excellent article this week, especially the part about flooding the preseason and training camp roster with lots of inexpensive free agents. Combining a flood of low-priced free agents at running back, defensive back, and offensive line with Bruce Arians’ “two practices at the same time” preseason philosophy may just uncover some diamonds in the rough. Too often Bucs fans, and really most fans around the league I think, and sometimes even Jason Licht and his professional scouts I fear, are attracted to the latest shiny object in free agency and the draft. There are plenty of… Read more »

inspecto

Keep in mind that the more players in OTA’s and camp The less reps each player gets. That could become an issue. Hopefully with such a big staff that will not become a problem.

Go Bucs !!!

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EricNV

Great article, Scott, as usual. I’d like to see us draft front 7 defense in rounds 1 and 2, like but if Lindstrom is available in the 2nd round, we’ve got to take him. The only reason I wouldn’t draft J Williams in the first round is that LB is a critical need for us, and this draft doesn’t have much depth. I look at this year’s draft as Licht’s last chance to prove he’s a good GM, and if he gets it right in the 2nd round this year, as well as 1st and 3rd rounds, all is forgiven… Read more »

DT25

If we draft a RB in the 2nd round again, I’ll lose it. Flooding the roster with talent still requires we do it intelligently. We have A LOT of positions we need to flood besides RB…OL and LB for starters…but losing Grimes and moving Stewart to safety means we likely need to add at least one CB, if not 2. And it would still be wise to address the DL again with GMC taking his final bow this season, Unrein being released, and Gholston being essentially useless the past 2 years (and honestly, he should probably be released to free… Read more »

DT25

All that said, I’d be more willing to sign a cheap RB and then add a late round RB to the mix to figure out the best combination…but taking another RB early in the draft with the other needs on this team would be a fireable offense for Licht…and the list of those is starting to pile up a little too high already.

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EastEndBoy

I concur : we have a lot of holes on this roster, and seem to be adding more by the day…better be some incredible draft in the works.

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Horse

Good thoughts Scott. I still don’t understand why McCoy and Gholston weren’t asked to take a pay cut. Both were under performers in 2017 & 2018. My preference is to release or trade them for something; both have shown enough from past seasons they aren’t going to improve anymore because of age & injuries.
I wouldn’t structure Evans contract either; better to save that for real emergency’s. Just my opinions.

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Devasher

Another “In defense of Jason Licht” Fab 5. Let the results of 53-loss-Licht’s final season in Tampa this year play out and no amount of rationalizing by Scott Reynolds will matter. You have a two time coach of the year and Scott’s constant badgering of the coaching staff (and not the construction of the roster) will then turn into “with the Bucs cap-strapped Jason Licht managed to do his best to build a team into 6-10 in 2019 and should be retained for another year when Ryan Jensen’s can be cut without penalty.” Rate this item:Thumb UpThumb DownSubmit Rating00 No… Read more »

owlykat

If we drop to 7 in the first round and get White we don’t need Bucannon starting there because White will have Minter next to him helping him on the field play in the new scheme. Have Bucannon start at Safety and train them then later in the year if we have a rash of LB injuries he will be able to move back there. Just get a Veteran Safety that is all we really need now. Scott please watch the tape of the Kentucky Florida game and you will see the answer for backing up Barber and starting as… Read more »

owlykat

Just get a Veteran CB not Safety.

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BigSombrero

@SR -Entertaining Podcast and Fab 5 Podcast: Good listen but one tiny mistake…As you reported, the Bucs and Beau Allen restructured his base salary $4 million. What was not mentioned was he can still make the lost million through incentives, kicking it right back up to $5 million. The trade off for him was that he gets to be a free agent again after the 2019 season and go to the highest bidder. Fab 1: Hopefully Perriman can revive his career in Tampa. He was clearly a bust for the Ravens. In watching his highlight reel from Cleveland, his speed… Read more »

surferdudes

You are what your record says you are. Licht’s record is what it is, dismal. You fans can defend him all you want, but his record is way below .500. Hopefully B.A. and crew can turn this ship around, Koetter, and crew were awful coaches, but that’s on Licht too. He had the power to hire, or fire coaches that weren’t getting the job done, and did NOTHING! We have him to thank for clueless Koetter. Stop giving Licht a pass, he’s the reason we’re devoid of talent.

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EastEndBoy

@BigSombrero: Very perceptive of you – with apologies to the Licht Apologists: If Licht can claim credit for acquiring [insert whoever here], it must be pure genius. If he cuts [insert same player here], it was a “smart move” by said genius. If [insert any player here] is garbage, it was [Koetter, Lovie, SchiaNo] fault (I read on here that OLine coach George Warhop must have ruined all those great OLinemen that Licht acquired for him. LOL). If draft pick proves horrible (nearly everything out of round 1 aside, apart from maybe Marpet, Godwin and perhaps Justin Evans?), drafting is… Read more »

BigSombrero

@EastEndBoy My old handle! I agree with your thoughts about leadership claiming the good things and blameshifting the bad things. This season will be interesting, but there are big changes on the horizon. The whole organization is on a 1 year deal. If BA can’t work a miracle, and make no mistake that’s what it will be, a miracle, then it all gets blown up. Consider BA’s tasks: Have success with Byron Leftwich calling plays in his 1st year as an OC. Who’s scheme though? Bruce Arians or Byron Leftwich’s? He defended the job Leftwich did last year in AZ… Read more »

BigSombrero

I left out the fact that Ron Rivera also had a Superbowl appearance. He made it to the Super Bowl by DESTROYING the Bruce Arians Arizona Cardinals in their magical “All or Nothing” season.

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Devasher

You nailed it @EastEndBoy Towards the end of Dominik’s 28-52 half-decade of incompetence (but still one game better than Licht’s), fans and writers like Scott all proclaimed the foundation was there with Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David, Mark Barron, Johnthan Banks and Doug Martin even though that was only 5 players. Then Licht is hired, does some tinkering with the roster and voila! 2-14 and the worst team in football. By now most fans, including many writers that excused Dominik’s mistakes admit he was a failure. The same history will be written about Licht and writers like Scott will just pretend… Read more »

Alldaway 2.0

I agree 100%.

Bring in a vet G, vet OT, another vet RB, vet S, and a vet CB. Go hog wild and let them compete.

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plopes808

Bravo Mr Reynolds, Another great article I agree with on all points. For all the “losses” we’ve taken in FA so far, I believe Licht has made the right moves. I love Kwon, but $13.5mil is just crazy and Lynch will probably realize that too late. Getting rid of MeJax is a great move relating to both cap and chemistry. Perriman will provide similar speed as well as increased catch radius, which will make things easierl for Jameis. There was only one receiver with chemistry issues so the problem was pretty blatant. I also agree with “flooding” the roster with… Read more »

Ron Potter

Good article that makes solid points. DJ really had a way of making Winston’s warts look worse. When it comes to catching the deep ball from Winston, Evans and Godwin have a better connection with Winston. Less is more. I like the approach to free agency this year. The previous coaches have failed to develop talent behind our clear-cut starters, fringe positions and a lot of the defensive players. They also experienced some bad luck. For example, they gave a chance to Isaiah Johnson over Keith Tandy and then Chris Conte went down with injury… all of a sudden, the… Read more »

scubog

I always enjoy reading the Fab 4 plus the Podcast and sponsor pimping Fab 5 every Saturday morning. Of course I also get a kick out of the all too predictable comments section; some of which are longer than the article. Guys like Big Sombrero and others sure have a lot of free time spent on Pewter Report. Now Naplesfan has gone underground and I miss him. We come to know each other………at least our on-line personas, even though most of us have never met. I suspect some points of view are a bit exaggerated from reality and that the… Read more »

Captain Sly

Licht should be criticized for the position he’s in and some of the decisions he’s made. The problem I have with some of these negative commenters is that they never name a GM that hits on every coach,FA, or draft pick. I don’t like everything Licht has done but there are about 20 GM’s in the league that I’m glad are not running our team.

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surferdudes

We don’t care what the other 31 G.M.’s are doing, we care about our Bucs. Licht came in with top draft choices, and all kinds of money to spend. His first pick was a good one, Mike Evans, how could he screw that up he was the sixth pick in the draft. Still an argument could be made it should’ve been A. Donald, build from the trenches out to the skill players, he went ass backwards. It seems Licht has convinced ownership that success is signing your picks to second contracts, Marpet, Evans, Smith. I say success is a winning… Read more »