Licht has had a solid year for Tampa Bay

by Gary Shelton on January 6, 2021

in general

Licht seems to have it figured out./CARMEN MANDATO

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

Call it the comeback of the year. Call it a career season. Call it a fresh start.

Whatever, call Jason Licht. And tell him "good job."

Of all the rags-to-riches stories in the NFL, you can start with that of the Tampa Bay Bucs' general manager. The guy who kept drafting failed kickers, the guy who never met a second-round draft choice who anyone liked, the guy who seemed to be on a thin limb in his job, should be one of the contenders for the NFL executive of the year.

Yeah, that Jason Licht.

When last we checked, no one could figure out why Licht was still earning a check from the Bucs. Before this year, he was 34-62, less than the 38 wins of former g.m. Bruce Allen but with 20 more losses. He even had 10 more losses (and 10 more wins) than Mark Dominique.

But the Glazers trusted the keys of their franchise to Licht, and it has paid off.

Early in the off-season, Licht (with coach Bruce Arians) made a tough call to replace their quarterback. No, Jameis Winston wasn't popular, but he had thrown for 5,000 yards and 33 touchdowns, and he had just turned 26. It would have been easy to stay the course and pass on 42-year-old (soon to be 43) Tom Brady.

But the Bucs, and Licht, jumped at the chance to bring in Brady, who had an excellent season.

But Licht wasn't done yet.

In March, he signed Brady and resigned Ndamukong Suh and Jason Pierre-Paul. In April, he traded for Rob Gronkowski. Later that month, he drafted Tristan Wirfs (trading up) and Antonio Winfield. In July, he re-signed Shaq Barrett. In September, he signed Ryan Succop and Leonard Fournette. In October, he signed Antonio Brown and traded for Steve McLendon.

Yeah, just that.

Look, the guy has made some mistakes. He'll never live down his part of signing Anthony Collins or Michael Johnson in his first free agency. He traded up to draft kicker Roberto Aguayo, who didn't make it to season two. He picked Austin Sefarian-Jenkins. He was happy with Noah Spence.

And the team kept losing.

But winning is the best deodorant. This year, most of his moves paid off big. Ownership spent the money. The coaches blended the talent.

And the Bucs won.

Licht isn't perfect. We still don't know about third-rounder Ke'Shawn Vaughn or fourth-rounder Tyler Johnson, although both have shown flashes.

But, finally, the Bucs look like they have a purpose.

Finally, you can trust the brain trust.

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