At the NFL Scouting Combine in February, Tampa Bay Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht said that his team would listen to trade offers for the fifth-overall pick in the draft, but that reaching a deal would require the "right amount of capital." Licht also said that, ultimately, his willingness to deal down would depend upon which players are still available when the Bucs go on the clock – some he'd be willing to gamble on the possibility of losing to another team, others he would not.
The implication is that there are tiers of talent on the Buccaneers' draft board, even near the very top. On Tuesday, as he held his annual pre-draft press conference, Licht referenced another separation among those tiers: The point where it transitions from prospects considered great to those considered very good. When the Buccaneers are on the clock on the evening of Thursday, April 25, any notion of trading down will be heavily informed by how many players are left before that separation.
In other words, there is a clear limit as to how far the Buccaneers are likely to trade down, if they decide to deal at all.
"We have a line drawn at a certain number," said Licht. "It’s still a talented group, a good group. I would say after a certain number – which I won’t give – 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."
Of course, Licht and his crew will prepare for any scenario, because there always exists the possibility of a team making an offer you can't refuse. That preparation involves determining what they would want to get in a deal moving down to each spot behind them in the round, and it came in handy last year when the Bucs were able to quickly strike a deal with Buffalo, sliding from #7 to #12 and picking up two second-round picks in the process.
"We prepared last year for a trade-back scenario with every team behind us, back to 32," said Licht. 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."
The non-trade scenarios are easier to navigate because only four teams select in front of the Buccaneers. How those four picks unfold, however, will influence how motivated Licht is to deal. Tampa Bay is unlikely to be targeting a quarterback in the first round this year, so it would be in their best interests if the Arizona Cardinals selected Oklahoma's Kyler Murray first-overall, as is the consensus opinion outside of Arizona's draft room. The Bucs would be further helped if any other QB-hungry teams manage to trade up into the three picks before them. Regardless, it is already clear to Licht that the pickings will be very good for the Buccaneers in their current spot.
"I think we’ll get a very good player at five," he said. "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."