SR’s Fab 5 is a collection of inside scoop, analysis and insight from yours truly, PewterReport.com publisher and Bucs beat writer Scott Reynolds. Here are a few things that caught my attention this week at One Buc Place and around the NFL:
FAB 1. LICHT IS MASTERING THE DRAFT
In just three years at the helm in Tampa Bay’s war room, Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht has learned to master the draft. In his first three years, Licht and his staff of scouts have drafted at least seven quality starters in wide receiver Mike Evans and tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins in 2014, quarterback Jameis Winston, offensive lineman Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet and middle linebacker Kwon Alexander in 2015, and kicker Roberto Aguayo in 2016. That’s a haul.
Offensive lineman Kevin Pamphile and running back Charles Sims are steady contributors from the 2014 draft, and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves, defensive end Noah Spence and fullback Danny Vitale all have the chance to become starters during their rookie campaign. After the 2016 season, the Bucs could have as many as 10 desirable starters from the last three drafts – many with Pro Bowl potential.
Getting six starters – two per draft – is quite a feat. Finding 10 is what general managers dream of.
Just as important as knowing which players to draft, is learning how to maneuver within the rounds to get them. Knowing when to trade down, when to stay put, and when to trade up are all skills the 45-year old Licht has quickly mastered.
All of those skills were on display in the first two rounds this year’s draft, too.
In the first round, Licht traded down two spots, picked up an extra fourth-round pick, and drafted Florida cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III.
Then he resisted temptation and stayed put for the player he and the Bucs targeted in the second round in Eastern Kentucky defensive end Noah Spence.
Licht then boldly traded up in the second round for Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo, which raised some eyebrows and sparked some controversy.
Licht will be the first to tell you, it’s not just him making these decisions. It’s also his able personnel staff, and he values the educated opinions of every single one of them from the higher-ups like director of college scouting Mike Biehl and new director of player personnel John Spytek, to those of the Bucs’ scouting interns.
But every Bucs scout and personnel man takes his lead from Licht, whose former protégé, Jon Robinson, received high marks for his first draft as general manager of the Tennessee Titans this year. To get an inside look at Tampa Bay’s 2016 draft, I returned to Licht’s office for a very insightful sit-down interview this week.
I didn’t spend time asking Licht for his analysis on each of Tampa Bay’s draft picks because he covered that ground at the podium on draft weekend in his press conferences. Instead, I wanted to get inside Licht’s thought process regarding the draft and discuss why and how he made the moves he made. We began by talking about the maneuvering involved in the first and second round.
Hargreaves comes to Tampa Bay with a ton of positives, including quickness, supreme footwork, smooth hips, great ball skills and a competitive nature in both run and pass defense. But I asked Licht point blank if having three 5-foot-10 cornerbacks on the field bothered him in a division full of big wide receivers like 6-foot-3 Julio Jones, 6-foot-4 Devon Funchess and 6-foot-5 Kelvin Benjamin, assuming Hargreaves, Brent Grimes and Alterraun Verner won starting jobs in training camp.
“Vernon is 5-foot-10 and a half, by the way,” Licht pointed out. “You would be concerned if you didn’t believe in their skill and you didn’t believe in them as players. When you go into it saying, ‘Our corners have to be 6-foot or taller,’ a lot of times you are limiting the players you can bring in and you are pigeonholing yourself into taking corners that don’t have quick transition, that don’t have quick change of direction, that don’t have great ball skills. They just have size. It works for certain schemes where they can get away with a guy that they’re asking to get on the line of scrimmage and not let the receiver get off the line. I don’t think that’s what we’re asking our corners to do full time.
“We’ve done our research. There have been almost as many corners under 5-foot-11 make the Pro Bowl in the last 15 years than there have been corners taller than 5-foot-11. There have been more instances of [taller guys] making Pro Bowls because it’s the same guys making it, but with individual corners there are plenty of them (under 5-foot-11 corners). In Philadelphia we had Sheldon Brown and Lito Sheppard. Bobby Taylor was very tall at 6-foot-4, and Troy Vincent was too at 6-foot-2, but those are kind of outliers. Size does matter to a certain degree, but sometimes the best players don’t fit into your size requirements.”
But Hargreaves wasn’t the absolute clear-cut selection with Tampa Bay’s ninth overall pick. If he was, Licht would have stayed put and picked him at No. 9. Instead, he found a willing trading partner in Chicago to move down two spots.
Bears general manager Ryan Pace wanted to move from No. 11 ahead of the New York Giants, which had the tenth overall pick, to draft Georgia rush linebacker Leonard Floyd because Chicago had received information that Floyd was going to be the Giants’ first-round pick. With Floyd drafted by Chicago, the Giants turned to the secondary, but drafted Ohio State cornerback Eli Apple instead of Hargreaves.
The Bucs dodged a bullet, although there was another player Tampa Bay had rated highly, and drafted Hargreaves. So what would have happened if Hargreaves had become a Giant?
“If it came down to that we had a player that we were very excited about as well,” Licht said. “We were a bit more excited about Vernon. You roll the dice a little bit [when you make that trade], but you always try to be prepared. With every trade you make in the days leading up to the draft [you debate], ‘Would we trade back one spot, and what we would trade for and what would be on the board?’ What if we traded back two spots, what would have to be on the board?’ When we did that trade with Chicago, we knew that we had to have two players we liked and I had to know what Chicago was taking.”
With research and intel gathered from Tampa Bay’s scouts in the days leading up to the draft, Licht’s assertion that the Bears were going to take Floyd – and not Hargreaves – was correct.
“Everything in life is relationship-based,” Licht said. “So you can make trades with teams you have great relationships with. If you feel comfortable with them and they feel comfortable with you it can happen. Ryan Pace and I go way back. I was on the road with him at LSU the day he made his first school call as a scout. He was a scouting assistant. I helped show him the ropes a little bit and we’ve been friends ever since. I know him. We felt good about that trade.
“I had a few calls for No. 9. There were some teams we wouldn’t trade with, such as teams within our division. It wouldn’t make sense to go down [too far] to a certain level because we didn’t have enough players that we felt comfortable taking [in the first round].”
Licht wouldn’t say who the other player Tampa Bay was considering was. The guess here is that it was either Apple or Louisville defensive tackle Sheldon Rankins, who was selected with the 12th overall pick by New Orleans.
Although Licht technically traded down out of the top 10, the Buccaneers have owned a top 10 pick in his first three years as general manager. To say he’s sick of picking that high – and the losing that comes with it – is an understatement.
“Yes!” Licht said emphatically. “Maybe I’ll trade back into the top 10, but I’m tired of it. I don’t want to see us on that TV ticker with us in the top 10 again. I want to be in that last tier on the ticker.”
With Hargreaves in the fold, Licht and the Bucs weren’t done on the first day of the draft. They were eagerly watching the draft unfold to see which players might be available in the second round when Tampa Bay selected with the 39th overall pick. The player the Bucs were targeting was Spence, who Tampa Bay regarded as the best pure pass rusher in the draft.
Prior to the Falcons game in Atlanta, Licht had been to Jacksonville State University in Alabama to see Spence play. He underwhelmed in that game, failing to register a sack and finishing with just three tackles, but that would be only one of two games Spence didn’t record a sack in during his lone season with the Colonels. Yet Spence finished the 2015 season with 11.5 sacks and 22.5 tackles for loss and Licht didn’t let that one game influence what he saw on tape over the course of a season.
Tampa Bay hasn’t had a double-digit sacker since legendary defensive end Simeon Rice in 2005. The Bucs believe Spence could change that and there was some thought to trading up into the end of the first round or near the top of the second to get him. The reason? Tampa Bay had a first-round grade on Spence.
I didn’t think Spence was going make it to the 39th pick in the draft.
“Originally, I would say I was in that same opinion of yours,” Licht said. “Then in the days leading up to the draft, the more and more work we did and the intel that we gathered, there was a pretty good chance he would be there for us. I was very tempted to get up there and get him, but I have a great staff. I keep telling you that, and I had some great opinions telling me I could sit back and be patient. They were right in this case.”
Because Licht was patient and stayed put to get Spence, he reserved the Bucs’ ammunition to trade up in the second round to get Aguayo. Licht and head coach Dirk Koetter, who is a huge believer in strong special teams, had been targeting Aguayo during the offseason and wanted him badly. So badly that the Bucs used the fourth-round pick they acquired from Chicago in the first round trade to deal up for the Florida State kicker.
And with that trade came controversy as Licht shocked the league, the media and some within the Buccaneers fan base by drafting a kicker in the second round.
“Not a lot of people will ever admit that a kicker is worth a first-round pick,” Licht said. “I’m going to be jumping for joy when a few of the people in your business (the media) realize that some are.”
That’s right, the Bucs had a first-round grade on Aguayo.
FAB 2. INSIDE THE BUCS’ SELECTION OF AGUAYO
Bucs general manager Jason Licht didn’t just learn a lesson about the value of a good kicker last year after the trade for Kyle Brindza backfired when he missed three field goals and an extra point in a 10-point loss to Houston, in addition to missing two field goals and an extra point the following week against Carolina. His appreciation for Pro Bowl-caliber kickers truly began after a harsh lesson from legendary New England coach Bill Belichick from Licht’s second stint with the Patriots from 2009-11.
“In New England, Bill Belichick made us scouts list our roster from 1-53 and we had eight practice squad guys and we had some guys on I.R., but he wanted us to rank our guys from first to last,” Licht said. “None of us had the kicker, Stephen Gostkowski, in our top 10 – even though he was an excellent kicker. After we were done, Bill said, ‘Nobody wants to put Gostkowski in our top 10? Why, just because he’s a kicker?’ Bill made us “rethink that” and he got his point across. He said, ‘You tell me 10 other players that are more important than him!’
“It was an eye-opening moment for me. I had been around Adam Vinatieri and Gostkowski and those are two of the best. I know how good of a feeling that is to have a guy like that when you know that a lot of the games are going to come down to field goals – a lot of the games come down to the kicker.”
New England’s first two Super Bowl victories came down to two Vinatieri field goals in the last seconds. Finding a franchise kicker was a critical piece of the puzzle that Licht and his scouts are putting together to get the Bucs back to the playoffs. While Connor Barth and the injured Pat Murray were good kickers, the team had determined that neither was a franchise-type kicker.
Tampa Bay spent a third-round pick on Martin Gramatica in 1999 and he helped the Bucs win Super Bowl XXXVII. The Patriots drafted Gostkowski with a fourth-round pick in 2006 and the four-time Pro Bowler helped New England win Super Bowl XLIX.
Not since Sebastian Janikowski was drafted 17th overall by Oakland in 2000 has a kicking prospect been rated as highly as Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo was this year. In addition to winning the Lou Groza Award as a redshirt freshman in helping Jameis Winston and the Seminoles win the national championship, Aguayo set FBS records with 157 points scored and 94 extra points without a miss. He made 21-of-22 field goal attempts in 2013 (95.5 percent).
As a sophomore, Aguayo made 27-of-30 field goals (90 percent), and while his numbers dipped last year to 26-of-30 (80.8 percent), he never missed a field goal inside of 39 yards or an extra point at Florida State.
Yet when Licht and the Bucs were scouting Aguayo by NFL standards, they did some interesting, outside-the-box research and discovered he was actually perfect on all of his field goals the last two years.
“Obviously, it’s harder to kick in college because of the wider hashes,” Licht said. “His percentage the last two years – he was 100 percent on field goals if they were kicked from within NFL hashes.”
Aguayo’s credentials screamed first-round talent. The Bucs’ interviews with him and those around him at Florida State, including Winston, also signaled that he was a rare talent.
“Roberto is wired differently,” Licht said. “He’s very confident. The folks at Florida State said, ‘He’s one of the leaders on our team.’ You just don’t run across that often at all with kickers. Just the way he carries himself, he’s different. He’s more of a normal teammate as a kicker. He’s a core player and a leader. He has a certain confidence about him. You just like being around him.”
Everybody likes being around kickers that make all of their kicks, and with extra points becoming more difficult due to last year’s rule changes, having a franchise kicker in the vein of Vinatieri and Gostkowski warranted Licht trading up to get Aguayo.
“We had Aguayo ranked high – pretty high,” Licht said. “We moved up into the second round to get him, so that should tell you something about where we had him ranked.”
Barth was released shortly after the Bucs selected Aguayo in the draft, and Murray was cut on Thursday. Aguayo is Licht’s franchise kicker and Tampa Bay’s first official starter from the 2016 draft class.
In hindsight, ask Belichick to re-draft all of his picks in 2006 and Gostkowski would have been drafted higher than running back Laurence Maroney, who was New England’s first-round pick that year, or any of New England’s picks that year.
Ask Belichick if Gostkowski is worth a first-round pick and he would answer with a resounding, “Well, of course!”
FAB 3. TAMPA BAY RAKING IN FIRST-ROUND TALENT
Some Bucs fans and media pundits criticized Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht for trading a fourth-round pick to move up and get Florida State kicker Roberto Aguayo, especially seeing the value of what a fourth-round pick could be in last year’s rookie sensation, middle linebacker Kwon Alexander.
Even though I didn’t need any convincing about the justification for trading up to get Aguayo, Licht, who absolutely loves draft-based research, came armed for our interview with some interesting statistics to buttress and fortify his position.
“In the 2005-15 drafts in the fourth rounds, there were 390 players drafted in the fourth round,” Licht said. “Twenty percent of those went on to become starters or Darren Sproles-type players. I consider Sproles as a starter even though he doesn’t really start. He’s a key player. Thirty-seven percent are career backups like Louis Murphy.
“Forty-three percent are out of the league, and 27 percent of those never logged a game in the NFL. You have a better chance of getting a guy in the fourth round that is never going to see a game than you do to get a starter.”
As good as Licht, director of college scouting Mike Biehl and Tampa Bay’s scouts are, they know the analytics of hitting on fourth-round picks every year and finding more Alexanders don’t work in any team’s favor.
“Kwon is an outlier,” Licht said. “He’s like a Lotto ticket – getting a starter in the fourth round. And it’s less and less [likely] in the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds. We had Kwon rated so high on our board that we thought he was going to go in the second round. Sometimes it doesn’t go like that. In our case, we had Kwon evaluated correctly. We actually had him as the 28th-ranked player on our board.
“To get him in the fourth … I just didn’t think we would. After flip-flopping fourths to move up and get Ali [Marpet] in the second, Kwon was one of a bunch of players we didn’t think would be there. When we got to the fourth round, the whole bunch wasn’t there, but Kwon was still there. That’s why I got antsy and went up to get him as fast as I could.”
The Bucs had Alexander as the 28th-rated player in the 2015 draft, which is classified as a first-round pick, and Licht expected he would be drafted in the second round shortly after Tampa Bay drafted Marpet. He was stunned to find him available in the fourth round.
“Nobody had him as a middle linebacker, either,” Licht said. “They had him as a Will because he’s 227 pounds. I’m just glad we got him, but this also came into play when doing this research on picks when we planned on drafting Roberto. There was a chance that Roberto wasn’t going to be there for us in the third. But if you play the percentages, there really was a high chance he was going to be there in the third. Yet there were some teams I was worried about in front of us and behind us, and all it takes is one to move up. For a team to move up in the third for a kicker, they aren’t going to take any heat for it. They’re not.”
So Licht made the bold move to do the unexpected and trade up in the second round to get the only kicker that carried a draftable grade.
“So going into the draft, if I picked up a fourth, I was going to use that fourth to go get Roberto,” Licht said. “Now a lot of people were out there saying, ‘That’s Kwon! You gave up a Kwon!’ But it’s highly unlikely that’s the case and the research bears that out. Now we think [fourth-round pick] Ryan Smith can be a player. Don’t get me wrong. But we had Ryan ranked higher than a fourth-round pick [on our boards], too.”
What most fans don’t understand is that NFL teams’ real draft boards don’t resemble the “follow the leader” rankings from notable draft gurus. In fact, the Bucs have drafted seven players they had ranked as first-round caliber talent in the last two drafts alone in Winston, left tackle Donovan Smith, Marpet and Alexander in 2015, and cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III, defensive end Noah Spence and Aguayo in 2016.
“We think we got four last year,” Licht said. “That’s the goal – to get multiple first-round draft picks each year. When it’s all said done, to look back and say, ‘We got multiple first-round picks in this draft’ – that was the goal.”
Time will tell if these seven live up to Tampa Bay’s initial draft rankings.
FAB 4. THE LESSONS LICHT HAS LEARNED ABOUT THE DRAFT
When former Buccaneers head coach Lovie Smith recommended the Glazers hire Jason Licht as the team’s general manger to replace Mark Dominik in 2014, he did so with the knowledge that Licht came with tremendous scouting experience and exposure to some of the league’s best personnel men. I wanted to ask how the influence of people like Jimmy Johnson, Bill Belichick, Tom Heckert and Steve Keim shaped Licht’s views and approach to the NFL Draft.
Licht entered the league in 1996 as a scouting assistant under Heckert in Miami where Johnson served as the team’s head coach and chief personnel man at the time.
“Jimmy Johnson had so much passion for the draft and personnel,” Licht said. “That’s where he spent the majority of his day. He was like a G.M. that also happened to be a coach instead of the other way around in some cases. He loved the draft. He loved to wheel and deal. He wasn’t afraid. He had been in the media, but he didn’t care what the media thought. He didn’t care what the repercussions were for doing something a little outside the box.
“The Herschel Walker trade in Dallas, the way he valued picks – he was just ahead of his time. Being around that and seeing the wheeling and dealing – even though I didn’t know what he was doing at the time, I can look back and study it – I was just a fly on the wall, but it was really cool to be around.”
With Licht trading up to get the likes of guard Ali Marpet in the second round and middle linebacker Kwon Alexander in the fourth round in 2015, and moving down to get cornerback Vernon Hargreaves in the first and trading up in the second round to get kicker Roberto Aguayo this year, it’s clear he got his penchant for draft maneuvering on the phone from “Trader Jimmy.”
After a two-year stint in Carolina from 1999-2000, Licht went to New England from 2001-05 where he was a part of two Super Bowl winning teams under Belichick, who also served as the head coach and personnel guru. Licht would come back to work for Belichick from 2009-11, and during both stints, he learned an awful lot about talent acquisition and setting up a team’s draft board.
“Bill and Jimmy talked a lot actually,” Licht said. “When I think of Bill, I think of him saying, ‘We’re not talent collectors. We’re putting the right 53 together – not necessarily the most talented 53’ – and just understanding what that meant.
“I think from Bill, I learned about having a clean draft board without 300 names up there on draft day. Chipping it down to whom the guys were that we actually wanted, that could actually make our team and help us. I remember one year we cleaned the draft board down to just 75 players going into a seven-round draft. Us scouts said, ‘Are we going to have enough players to draft? What’s going to be there in the seventh round?’ We got down to the seventh round and there were two players left out of 75 and it was [wide receiver] David Givens and we took him. He went on to have a pretty good career.”
Most Bucs fans might be surprised to learn that Tampa Bay – and most NFL teams –have fewer players on its draft board than the 250-something that will actually be drafted instead of more. There were actually 253 draft picks this year, including compensatory draft picks. So how many players did the Bucs actually assign draftable grades to this year?
“We had 135 this year,” Licht said. “Usually if you go back and study each draft there are 100 players in each draft. After the 100 mark, it’s kind of a hodge-podge whether they make it or not.”
Very interesting stuff, right?
Licht left New England from 2006-07 to work for Heckert again, this time in Philadelphia as the Eagles’ assistant director of player personnel and then the team’s vice president of player personnel. What did he learn under Heckert?
“The inclusive approach of having scouts and coaches work together,” Licht said. “To be on the same page and that it’s inclusive until it becomes time not to be inclusive.”
That’s definitely a practice that Licht employs with the Bucs. The last couple of years he has sent position coaches on the road with the team’s college scouts to attend pro days and private workouts to not only get to know the draft prospect through first-hand knowledge and interviews, but also to strengthen the bond and trust between Tampa Bay’s coaches and scouts.
Before becoming a general manager for the first time in 2014, Licht studied under Steve Keim in Arizona and served as the Cardinals director of player personnel in 2012 and the vice president of player personnel in 2013. While in Arizona, the Cardinals heavily researched and rolled the dice on talented, but troubled defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, who developed into a Pro Bowl safety.
“Steve is awesome,” Licht said. “I learned about making sure everybody is on the same page and vested in the picks, but then not being afraid to do something outside of the box. Bruce Arians is the same way. He wants to take his guy and not be worried about what others think.
“Belichick was the same way, too. I always tell our scouts, ‘If you guys have a first-round grade on a guy the 49ers took and he turns out to be a bust, I’m not worried. I’m not going to judge you on that. There are so many factors that go into whether that player will be successful or not. It could be the city. It could be the staff. It could be the team. It could be all that stuff. I’m only worried about our picks and how you evaluated the players that we took.”
Licht certainly adopted his “no risk it, no biscuit” mentality from his good friend Arians, who drafted 156-pound speed receiver J.J. Nelson in the fifth round last year, and raised eyebrows in drafted Robert Nkemdiche, an enigmatic defensive lineman from Ole Miss in the first round this year.
Licht knew there would be some criticism that came with an outside-the-box idea like drafting a kicker like Roberto Aguayo in the second round. But like Keim and Arians, he didn’t care.
Conventional wisdom be damned.
“If we love a player we’re going to go get him,” Licht said. “Don’t worry about it. Go get him. Don’t worry about how other teams have him ranked, either. If you read that this guy is a sixth-round pick and you take him in the second. It doesn’t matter. Get your guy.”
FAB 5. SR’s BUC SHOTS
• Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht is no stranger to welcoming pressure. He admits he thrives on it. In our sit-down in his office, I asked him when he began to embrace performing under pressure.
“I can’t really pinpoint it,” Licht said. “It was when I was young, athletically. I’m not trying to sound like I was anything special, but those ‘got to have it plays’ – those were when I was the most focused. In school, I was a procrastinator like most everybody. It just seemed like when it came time to get it done, I would focus more. It’s just the way I’m wired.”
Licht and I are kindred spirits in that regard. I feel I’m at my best working under pressure, especially writing this 5,000-7,000-word column each week. I’m typically working on my SR’s Fab 5 until 2:00 a.m. each Thursday night, then get up around 5:30 a.m. to add some finishing touches on and photos before it debuts around 9:00 a.m. each Friday. But Licht grew up enduring a different kind of pressure.
“I grew up with a very simple life and we couldn’t afford a lot of things,” Licht continued. “I had a great life, though. Great parents. I love them to death. But I didn’t have what everybody else had and there was always pressure and stress [economically]. I saw the way my dad was – and I mean that in a positive way with him working all the time. I am always better off under pressure. When it’s calm my wife always makes fun of me. After the draft is when I’m edgy and I’m anxious. She always says, ‘I hope this year you can relax and have that ‘Ahh moment.’ But I don’t. I always need to be doing something.”
• Although the draft and picking the right players for the future of the franchise can be quite stressful, Licht makes sure to enjoy the process, too.
“We like to have a lot of fun,” Licht said. “If you can’t make fun of yourself and if you take yourself too seriously this isn’t the right business for you. I love watching tape and I love seeing around here getting everyone’s opinion and arguing players. It’s one of my favorite things to do – getting John Spytek in here, Mike Biehl, Coach Koetter and disagreeing with them and trying to prove your point. I will spend time putting cut-ups together just to say, ‘Watch this! Now tell me what you think!’ And they’ll do the same thing with me. It’s a bunch of fun.”
• I did ask Licht about the one draft prospect I knew the least about – Oklahoma linebacker Devante Bond, who was Tampa Bay’s first sixth-round pick. The 6-foot-1, 236-pound strongside linebacker is thickly built and timed faster for the Bucs than his reported 4.7 time at the NFL Scouting Combine.
“We timed him at 4.64,” Licht said. “He’s good at coming off the edge and he did that at Oklahoma. He’s a good athlete and he’s a stouter guy. He’s athletic. He plays hard. He has a burst. He’s looking good in his drops. He has upside, basically. He hasn’t played a whole lot.”
After racking up 17 sacks and 27 tackles for loss at the JUCO level as a sophomore, he recorded 29 tackles and four tackles for loss as a junior for the Sooners. An injury forced him to miss four games during his senior year, but he did have five starts and finished with 43 tackles, seven for loss and three sacks.
“He didn’t play much at Oklahoma [due to injuries],” Licht said. “It’s not like he’s a three-year starter and he’s pretty good and collects a lot of tackles. This guy has upside, though. I don’t think he’s played his best football yet.”
Bond will receive some mentoring from veteran Sam starting linebacker Daryl Smith, who is 6-foot-2, 250 pounds. As long as he maintains his speed, the Bucs won’t mind if Bond adds some more bulk to hold up on the line of scrimmage as the Sam plays over the tight end in Tampa Bay’s 4-3 Under scheme.
• Licht discussed adding massive defensive tackle A.J. Francis to the roster this week. The third-year player out of Maryland stands 6-foot-5, 330 pounds and is easily Tampa Bay’s biggest defensive lineman. Francis has spent time with Miami and Seattle.
“Might as well get a look at as many guys as we can this time of year,” Licht said. “He’s got a big body and he’s played nose. He’s fairly athletic for a big guy.”
Licht also likes undrafted free agent defensive tackle Travis Britz, who hails from Kansas State where he recorded 24.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks and blocked five kicks during his career as a three-year starter. Britz was signed last week after a try-out at the team’s rookie mini-camp.
“Britz has done some good things,” Licht said. “We like him.”
• Licht also shared some names of undrafted rookies to keep an eye on during OTAs, mini-camps and training camp.