Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Buccaneers Transcript: Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Below is a transcript from Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht's media availability. Full video of press conferences can be found on Buccaneers.com.


"Just got off the field a little while ago, so this is an exciting time of year, not only because the draft is coming up and we work year-round on this, in fact, Bruce and I have been talking about the draft since the day we hired him and the scuttle around the office with the coaches and the scouts hasn't stopped, it's been non-stop, so a lot of communication about that - but then being out here and seeing the players and the extensive coaching staff on the field with them is awesome. So, a lot of communication out there and a lot of energy, so it's an awesome build up to the draft and we're all excited about it, so I'm happy to take your questions."

(On if there's been any talk on the team trading Gerald McCoy)

"You know, 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 possibly trading McCoy for a draft pick)

"You know, that's hypothetical. Right now, we are focused on the draft."

(On how his approach to the draft has altered)

"You know, I don't want to say - I haven't made any seismic shifts in the way that we do things. I will say that as you get more comfortable with your staff – your scouting staff - and you can kind of pin point where peoples strengths are and utilize those more and more every year it helps. When you have a new staff, they have different types of players that they utilize better than others, so it shifts a little bit when you have a new staff. We happen to have a staff here of coaches now that really – they did in the past too; Dirk's staff loved the draft as well, but Bruce brings a lot of experience as an assistant, as a head coach, his staff as well as Todd Bowles, so them communicating to us exactly how our team is going to look, what we plan on doing, really helps a lot."

(On if the night of the draft will be the same with Bruce Arians as head coach)

"It's the same, where the head coach and the general manager work together. I have a great relationship with Bruce. I have a good feel for him, what he likes. We've had many, many meetings together, they've all been great, very productive. It's an open door, no walls between the scouting and the coaching which is what we had in Arizona and we've had here too, but it stays the same. I just have a great feel for Bruce and what he likes."

(On what he remembers about his first draft in Arizona)

"I remember that Bruce is very passionate about certain players. We spent a lot of work with Tyrann Mathieu that year and Bruce can feel and read a player moreso than most coaches that I've worked with and that's not to put anybody else down. He's willing to give second chances to guys – not everybody, but certain guys and I remember heading into that draft, of course we had a first round pick and a second-round pick, but Tyrann was our third-round pick and just the amount of work we put into that, Bruce's time with him, our time with him and Steve [Keim's], we got a really good player there."

(On ways he has grown as a talent evaluator through previous drafts)

"Well it seems like I talk about it every year, and I do. 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,' So you've got to have players that trust each other, trust the coaches, are loyal to everybody and respect everybody, so if you can get a talented guy that you know hits on all three of those things you have a really good chance."

(On if Kendell Beckwith is cleared to practice and how his status will affect the draft)

"He's not cleared to practice. I know that I've been telling you guys were going to have an update for you, we're just – for a while now we're going through the final evaluations for that. Kendell's working with our staff, specialists around the country and we're working towards an evaluation to give you an update here shortly."

(On if Beckwith not being cleared to play will affect the draft)

"I don't know if it totally affects the draft. If you don't have a player like Kendall, if you don't think he's going to be ready, Kendall's a very good player, so I don't know if it affects the draft or not."

(On if he thinks Kyler Murray will go before pick number five)

"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 what kind of player he thinks they will draft at five)

"I think we'll get a very good player at five. I think we have a very good player. We have at least five players that we think – at least five, that if we stay in our spot that we'd be very happy with."

(On if there is a dividing line between good and great players in the first round)

"We have a line drawn at a certain number. It's still a talented group, a good group. I would say after a certain number – which I won't give [laughs] – then they kind of all are together. It's tougher than most years to really rank the let's just say top 50 players, because of that. But the flip side is what makes this draft exciting. Those players – let's just pick a number out – 20 through 50 or 20 through 60 are all very good. I think this is a deep draft. I think we're going to get good players in the second, third, fourth, fifth round. We have plenty – I have a certain number of players I want to put [on the board]. We start with 1,000 players, we whittle it down to 300, then on draft day we take about half of that and those are the players that we go into the draft, these are the guy we know, we think have the best chance of making the team. This year was harder to come up with that because we could've expanded that more and more."

(On the depth of pass rushers in the draft)

"I think it's very good. Especially the outside defensive linemen, defensive ends, outside linebackers [in the] 3-4. I think it's very deep."

(On how the defensive scheme change has altered the type of players the team is looking for)

"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 the rarity of drafting an inside linebacker with a top five pick and how much he considers perceived positional value)

"Really you have to grade the players how you feel they are in terms of just a football player. 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."

(On if he is nervous on draft day)

"I think the nervous time is leading up to the draft. You go through a thousand scenarios of what could happen and then on draft day, it's usually pretty calm. We prepared last year for a trade back scenario with every team behind us, back to 32. Didn't know if that was what we were going to ask for, what we would probably get, what was too much to ask for, what was too little to take. On draft day, right before our pick, we got a call from Buffalo. It was one of the scenarios we had worked out, so we kind of had it rehearsed. I think the stress and the nerves that you talk about happened the week leading into the draft, wondering what's going to happen. But if you're prepared for it, you remain pretty calm."

(On if he avoids having his heart set on a player)

"You try to. I've been in draft rooms where you have your heart set on a guy, you didn't get him, you – not reluctantly take a player, but your fall-back player is who you get and he ends up being a great player and the guy you had your heart set on ended up not being a great player. Sometimes if you end up putting too much emotion into a player, you can make a mistake."

(On if the team has evaluated any quarterback prospects)

"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 if Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson's contract extension impacts the quarterback contract market)

"Well, I mean it's gone up pretty high the last couple of years, right, wrong or indifferent. I think it's probably going to continue to do that. It's a very important position."

(On the expectations of a linebacker drafted in the top five)

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

(On the rarity of linebackers being drafted in the top 10)

"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."

(On the expectations for a rookie player)

"It's tough to expect your rookie no matter where you take him to come out and just have an All-Pro/Pro Bowl year. I remember when I first started this, my bosses always told me, "You have to give them three years." Then it was two and now everybody expects them by Week 2 to be Player of the Week, making highlights and making Top 10 on ESPN SportsCenter. So, the expectations are growing, so – you do want these guys to contribute right away. I am excited what we are doing here with Bruce. He wants to give these guys as many reps as possible and you guys will see it with the two practices going on at the same time, which I saw in Arizona when he worked with [Cardinals GM] Steve [Keim] and [Cardinals President] Michael [Bidwill] there. Instead of a guy getting 10 reps at the end of the period, he was going to get 65 and that player development phase that we wanted to make sure we put an emphasis on, Bruce and I, that is a very important part of the development of a player."

(On clarification of his statement on the 2019 Draft's strength being in the defensive line class)

"[In terms of] numbers and quality."

(On whether he believes he could find value in edge rushers in the second or third round)

"I think you can, I think you can."

(On utilizing existing defensive players within the new scheme such as corners Vernon Hargreaves and Carlton Davis)

"I'm very excited about [Buccaneers DC] Todd [Bowles]'s scheme, seeing it first hand and talking it through with him the day that Bruce was hired. He's got an attacking mentality, the defense is going to attack, it's a pressure defense and those guys are better suited for that."

(On whether he believes the roster is more talented this year than last year at this time)

"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 whether players such as Hargreaves and Noah Spence were not fits in past schemes)

"For whatever reason, take Noah for example, his rookie year – for a rookie, coming out and having five-and-a-half sacks. We were excited about the direction he was going. He had some injuries. He was really essentially a DPR [designated pass rusher]. You can have a DPR on your roster if you're a 4-3 team. I just happened to think, we knew at the time, that he was probably better suited for a 3-4, but we still saw the value where we took him as an edge rusher, sub-rotational DPR. So, I don't think it really delayed his development. I just happen to think in his case that playing in a 3-4 is probably what he is more ideally suited for."

(On a memorable moment during his time as the GM for the Buccaneers during the draft process)

"Man, there has been a lot. I would say when moving up into the second [round] and taking [Buccaneers guard] Ali Marpet and finding out that we have some people above me who had relatives at his draft party and had no idea. So, it was just kind of a cool thing of how ironic that was."

(On the key transition that edge rushers have to make from college to the NFL)

"Well, they have to know that when they get to the NFL, they are going against a pretty good player day in and day out and then every week. You can't get by on talent alone. You've got your talented athletic edge rushers, who really don't give 100 percent effort and try to get by simply on talent and those guys usually fade, especially if they don't have any element of power to their rush if they are strictly speed rushers. Then you have the hard-charging, try-hard, full of effort guys that usually tend to make it just because of their effort because they are tough to cut because you want that effort on your team, but they are not necessarily talented, but they still stick around. So, if you have the guy that has talent and gives effort every play, then you've got JPP [Jason Pierre-Paul]."

(On why Bruce Arians has told Gerald McCoy not to come to offseason workouts)

"That you'd have to ask Bruce."

(On evaluating Gerald McCoy if he is not at offseason training)

"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 whether he has spoken with McCoy about taking a pay cut)

"Any conversation we have with Gerald, I am going to keep private."

(On whether evaluating the running back position has changed with the arrival of Bruce Arians)

"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 collective 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 emphasis one thing over another, but nothing has really changed."

(On whether they are most impressed with Ronald Jones out of everyone on team or just running back position)

"I said collectively the coaching staff, the scouting staff, the players, yeah."