Could the Bucs be looking at linebackers?

by Gary Shelton on April 17, 2019 · 0 comments

in general, NFL, Tampa Bay Bucs

Licht prepares for another NFL draft./CARMEN MANDATO

Tuesday, 2 a.m.

Perhaps it says as much about the questions as it does the answers, but don't expect the Bucs to ignore the linebacker position in this season's NFL draft.

Bucs' general manager Jason Licht had his annual say-little pre-draft press conference Tuesday, an exercise in muddying the water, and a great deal of the questions centered about inside linebacker, where Davin White of LSU and Devin Bush of Michigan are expected to be available.

The Bucs, who lost Kwon Alexander to free agency, could use a dominant inside linebacker.

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“Really, you have to grade the players on  how you feel they are in terms of just a football player," Licht said. "Maybe that’s not perceived, but some years it ends up being that. I don’t think a five-foot-10 quarterback has ever gone in the top five. It’s just different year-to-year. I don’t think you can take the perceived notion that you shouldn’t take a certain player of a size or a certain position at a certain point. We’ll rank the players like we think they can make an impact for us.”

Yeah. But a linebacker? Fifth? Would you take one that high?

“You’re thinking that he’s going to be a special player and make an impact," Licht said. "To say that he’s Ray Lewis, I think that that’s a little tough to say.

“The linebacker position is gaining some momentum in terms of how much they’re getting paid. No matter who you’re taking at five, you’re expecting him to be a great player at some point. You don’t want him to walk on the field with the expectation that he’s Brian Urlacher right away. Any player you’re taking a five you’re expecting to be a very good player.”

Licht addressed other subjects, as well.

-- On defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and whether he might be traded:

“You know, that’s hypothetical. Right now, we are focused on the draft.

“I talked about Gerald at the combine. I talked about him, answered some questions at the owner’s meetings and there really hasn’t been any developments. Gerald’s on our football team, so just going to hopefully keep this to pre-draft questions.”

-- On why coach Bruce Arians told McCoy to stay home from workouts: “That you’d have to ask Bruce.”

-- On how the team could evaluate McCoy if he is not at workouts: “There are other ways to evaluate a player. Gerald is not here, but there are plenty of players around the league that aren’t at this voluntary part of the offseason and Gerald is the last person I would worry about. He is a consummate pro, he has always been one and he works very hard.”

-- On working with new coach Bruce Arians:  "The talent part isn’t the most difficult part to evaluate, it’s what the player is all about and how willing he is to put in the work, what kind of a teammate he’s going to be. So you can kind of separate the guys that don’t have the talent to make it. The guys that do have talent, you rank them into how talented they are, but then the tough part is reading the player, Bruce doesn’t live by a lot of mottos — ‘No risk it no biscuit’ — but one thing that he does adhere to that I took from him in Arizona is, ‘Trust, loyalty, respect,’

-- On whether Kyler Murray will be drafted before the Bucs' fifth pick: “I can’t answer that. You never know what happens on draft day; that’s what makes it made for TV. I’ll keep that opinion to myself, but he very well could. If he does or doesn’t it affects what happens behind the number one pick, so we just have to be prepared for all the scenarios.”

--On how a new defensive scheme my impact the draft: “Not as much as you think because of Todd (Bowles’) system, were it’s a little bit interchangeable. I’m sure we’ll get some base 4-3 looks, obviously some 3-4 looks. You play 70 percent as nickel, so that doesn’t change. But he’s very good at fitting — if a player isn’t the ideal at whatever position it is, he does a great job of changing things to where it becomes ideal for it. You probably look for a little bit different-type of defensive end than you would in a 4-3, but those old 4-3 defensive ends now become outside linebackers. They can’t all do it, but a lot of them can. It gives you more of a pool of players at outside linebacker than if you are in a 4-3, just because there’s more of those undersized guys in college than there are true, prototype six-foot-five, 300-pound, 35-inch arms defensive ends in a 3-4.”

-- On ranking the quarterbacks: “We evaluate the quarterbacks every year as if — we try to go into an exercise of, ‘If we didn’t have a quarterback, who would we want?’ We happen to have a quarterback that we all very much like right now, but we still evaluate the quarterbacks.”

-- On whether the roster is more talented than a year ago: “I’d like to think so. We think we have a talented team, but we know that we have some pieces that we need to add, too. We need to add to it. We are not a finished product yet and we have the draft coming up, we have moves that we can make all the way up through training camp. So, you have to keep that in mind too.”

-- On the running back situation: “Well, you are still looking for a guy that has talent, has vision, quickness and speed and power. Nothing has really changed. I will say this, that Bruce feels very good about our running back situation. He has gone on record talking about Peyton (Barber) and I would say that our — probably right now, the guy that we’re all collectively the most impressed with right now is Rojo (Ronald Jones). Just his attitude, his willingness to do extra and you can just see the confidence rising in him. So, I don’t know if anything has changed in the way that we look at running backs. We may emphasize one thing over another, but nothing has really changed.”










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