Is this Jason Licht’s last season to prove himself?

In 2019 Jason Licht enters his sixth season as Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager. Frankly, Licht should be thankful that he is coming back for another season.

Not many owners bring back a general manager who has a 27-53 record during their tenure.

Licht also has hired two head coaches during his time as general manager of the Bucs. This is a rarity in the NFL as normally when the coach is fired the general manager is shown the door as well.

Bruce Arians will be the third coach to work with Licht in Tampa. He was not part of the Lovie Smith hiring process as Licht was hired two weeks after the Glazer family hired Smith in 2014.

However, he did fire Smith in 2016 and chose Dirk Koetter to replace him. Koetter’s time in Tampa was a complete failure as he compiled a 19-29 record as head coach.

Despite the poor decision of hiring Koetter Licht’s work hasn’t been all bad.
Let’s take a look at the successes and failures of the Licht regime.

First, let’s look at the positives.

Jason Pierre Paul was a huge pickup in a trade with the New York Giants. Pierre Paul played 91% percent of Tampa’s defensive snaps in 2018 and led the team with 12.5 sacks.

Carl Nassib was another good pickup by Licht.

After being cut by the Browns following the 2018 pre-season, Nassib signed with Tampa and quickly became the starter opposite Pierre Paul.  

The signing of backup quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick proved to be a good pickup as he was able to step in during Jameis Winston’s suspension during the 2018 season and lead the Bucs to a few wins.

Despite some positive moves Licht has had a lot more failures than successes in his free agent signings.

Prior to the 2017 season, Licht signed defensive tackle Chris Baker to a three-year contract worth over six million dollars per year.

The only thing Baker did well was run his mouth. He was not a team player and did not perform well on the field. The Bucs released Baker after just one season as Baker took his six million in guaranteed money and ran out the door.

JR Sweezy was another free agent bust by Licht.

The former all-pro offensive tackle signed a five-year contract worth 32.5 million dollars prior to the 2016 season.

All he did was spend time on the IR list and on the few occasions that he did suit up he was very ineffective. Sweezy was released prior to the 2018 season.

A final failed free agent move by Licht was the signing of defensive lineman Vinny Curry.

Curry was signed by Licht after a Super Bowl winning season in Philadelphia, to an eight million dollar contract.

With the Bucs Curry had a terrible season only recording 2.5 sacks and registering 21 tackles.

In addition to guiding the Bucs through trade talks and free agency Licht has been in charge of the draft in Tampa since 2014.

For Licht, there have been some hits and misses along the way.

Mike Evans was the first pick of Jason Licht as Bucs general manager back in 2014.

All Evans has done is become the Bucs all-time leading receiver in only five seasons in the NFL.

Tight End OJ Howard (2017) and linebacker Kwon Alexander (2015) were also quality picks by Licht. Both have made substantial contributions and have flashed great potential.

One pick too early to call a hit or a bust is quarterback Jameis Winston. Licht drafted Winston with the first overall pick in 2015.

Winston is still only 25 years old and has a lot of football yet to play. Thus far in his carer, Winston has not had the right coaches or the offensive system to help him succeed. That is something that Bruce Arians should finally install for him. Thus, it’s too early to call Winston a bust, but he hasn’t quite been a hit.

As for the bad, it has to start with kicker Roberto Aguayo. Aguayo will forever be linked to Licht as the worst pick in Buccaneer history.

It was bad enough that the Bucs wasted a second rounder on a kicker, but they lost two picks in the process as they traded two draft picks to move into the second round to draft him.

Aguayo would last only one season in Tampa hitting on just 71% percent of his field goals, the longest one being from only 43 yards.

This will also need to be a breakout season for running back Ronald Jones, Licht’s 2018 second-round pick out of USC.

Jones was a major disappointment rushing for just over forty yards last season.

Vernon Hargreaves is another high draft pick that seems to be a failure.  Hargreaves struggles to say healthy but when the former first rounder does play; he gets toasted by opposing wide receivers.

Licht has to have a solid 2019 draft.  There are too many holes to fill for the Bucs to have a lousy draft. The Bucs need guys to come in and be ready to contribute.

All in all the Jason Licht era could be worse. 71% of the Bucs draft choices since 2014 are still on the team, and 43% percent are starters.

However, success is measured in wins and losses. The Bucs are 27-53 under Licht, and this will be Licht’s final season in Tampa unless the Bucs can show dramatic improvement and challenge for a playoff spot in the NFC South.

 

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