Licht discusses upcoming NFL Draft

by Gary Shelton on April 20, 2022

in general

Licht looking to bring in help for Bucs.

Wednesday, 2 a.m.

You can argue that they need a defensive tackle more than an offensive guard.

You can debate whether they need an edge rusher more than a tight end.

You can argue that they need a defensive back more than a running back.

The simple answer, says Bucs' general manager Jason Licht, is that it all depends on who is available, and how the scouts feel, and what the coaches think, and a dozen other moving parts.

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"You have to trust your board," Licht said Tuesday. "You can't push players – like I said before – of a perceived need too high just because you need that position. Otherwise, they're going to trump other really good players at different positions. We could take a player literally at just about any position on our team and I think if they're a great player we're going to be happy we did it.

"So it's a delicate balance of wanting to win now and also looking into our future. As a general manager, my staff, we have to have our eye on the future a little bit, too. We obviously want a player that's going to come in and impact us and have a good year and help us win a Super Bowl this year, but you just never know until you get the player in the building. You can do all the work you want, you just never really know how it's going to work out."

The Bucs go into the draft with a new coach and, potentially, a few new starters. Rob Gronkowski, Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul are all unsigned. That, along with the ascension of defensive coordinator Todd Bowles to head coach, have put a different flavor on the draft.

Licht had a media session Tuesday. Along the snippets:

(On whether Bowles has changed the philosophy of the draft: ""The philosophy hasn't changed. It's just been meeting more with Todd [Bowles] now as the head coach, more one-on-one and more in some group settings, too. Bruce [Arians] has still been involved; he's been in our meetings. I meet with Bruce periodically and he's going to be involved here as we put the final touches on our draft, too. Our philosophy hasn't changed – we still want to bring in really good players."

(On preparing to trade up or trade down): "That process usually doesn't start until the week of [the draft], usually even a couple days before. You put some feelers out here and there if you run into your colleagues at the Owners' Meetings, or what have you, that you'd be interested. But right now, sitting at 27, you don't know what players are going to come down yet. You don't know if you're going to be in a position that you're going to want to move up or really move back yet. So you start having those conversations next week, usually playing the game of the what-ifs."

(On the Bucs' interior defensive line): "We obviously think very highly of Vita [Vea], Will [Gholston]. We think Nacho (Rakeem Nunez-Roches) is a very good player. And we've got some young guys that we've had in here that we feel pretty good about. [They] have a chance to ascend and get better. You always want to upgrade your trenches. It's a position that we'll continue to look for, but we have the draft, we have a period after the draft, there's still trades. The trade deadline's not for months and months away. So there's different avenues and different paths that we can take to upgrade there and upgrade our depth and get more players in there."

(On if the re-signing of Leonard Fournette would keep the Bucs from drafting a running back): "Obviously, getting Leonard back was great. Anytime you can have a three-down back on your roster it poses challenges for a defense. We felt like Ke'Shawn [Vaughn] took some big steps last year and we gained a lot of confidence with him. And then with Gio [Bernard] – good change-of-pace back, good hands, some value in the return game as well. But no, it would not stop us from taking a back."

(On the class of tight ends): "I'd say it's pretty solid. There's some good players. There's never as many tight ends as there are receivers or running backs or offensive linemen, but I would say it's pretty solid."

(On the chatter that Brady could join the Dolphins in a year): “I make of it as chatter, just like you said. We’re focused on putting our team together here with the draft and we’re all excited. We’re all in lockstep here – Tom, Todd [Bowles], myself, Byron [Leftwich], the entire coaching staff on this season.”

(On the shape of the secondary): “Well, we’re healthy. Right now, we’re healthy. So, we want to keep it that way. We had a lot of these young guys play very well two years ago when we won the Super Bowl, and I don’t think that talent went away. So, we’re healthy now. We’ve added players like Logan Ryan [and] Keanu Neal that we’re excited about bringing some veteran leadership back there. I think we’re in good shape.”

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