Skip to main content

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Bucs Will Have Trade-Up Strategies Ready When Draft Begins

GM Jason Licht would prefer to make as many picks as possible in the 2024 draft, but if a trade in the first round emerges as a possible strategy, the Bucs will have a pre-formed plan to handle multiple scenarios

In March, at the NFL's Annual Meeting in Orlando, Tampa Bay Buccaneers General Manager Jason Licht discussed the third-round pick his team had received from the Detroit Lions in exchange for cornerback Carlton Davis. Licht described that added draft capital as a valuable asset the Buccaneers could use to add young talent to the roster or as "ammo" in a potential trade up scenario.

Those passing thoughts of March have turned into full-on strategic sessions in April. Licht doesn't necessarily want to spend a Day Two pick to jump up from the 26th spot in the first round, but he is going to be ready if that changes on draft night and if a trade opportunity arises.

"In the past, our trade ups and trade downs, we've started that process typically around now," said Licht, speaking at his annual pre-draft press conference exactly two weeks before the start of the NFL's 2024 Draft. "We are too, right now. You don't want to make rash decisions – at least I don't – on draft day, emotional decisions that can come back and bite you. You want to be as clear minded as you can when you're putting that together."

Licht described a chart that he and his staff put together in the weeks before the draft to take away the uncertainty of what can and should be done when the draft clock is actually ticking. The chart covers different scenarios and the actions the Bucs would take under each one; Licht described one in which the Bucs were 10 picks from being on the clock and there were three coveted players left. Is that a point at which you should explore trading up, or is it a point at which you should hold? Conversely, if the list of coveted players is not shrinking fast, is there a point at which the Bucs should consider trading down and picking up some more draft capital? Licht will know all these things by the time the first round begins.

Licht has made small trades up plenty of times over the first 10 Buccaneer drafts he has governed, though more commonly on Day Two than in the first round. In the 2020 draft, he sent a fourth-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers (and got a seventh-rounder back) in order to move up one spot to number 13 and secure future All-Pro tackle Tristan Wirfs. With three other blue-chip tackle prospects already off the board, Licht didn't want to risk letting another team jump over the Bucs to the 49ers' spot. It is likely that he had started making phone calls to several teams ahead of the 14th spot when Wirfs started to get into the Bucs' range.

This year, those conversations could start happening about 20 picks in if the idea of trading up starts to gain steam. Again, though, the preferred scenario is to stay put and get one of their targeted players without giving up another draft pick.

"I'd say around pick 20, we'll know if we want to start attempting to move up or not," said Licht. "I would say right now, I like the thought of the way I really have a lot of trust in my staff – both the coaching staff and the scouting staff – and how we've been operating. Those picks seem pretty important to me, right now."

Indeed, Licht said on Thursday that the Buccaneers have "a lot of needs" on their 2024 roster, and even described that as being a good thing. As he noted, Tampa Bay was on the verge of making the NFC Championship Game last season, taking a tie with the Lions into the fourth quarter in the divisional round, and there are multiple places where the 2024 roster could end up being better than that team. As such, hitting as many needs as possible in the draft would be preferable to using multiple picks to get one player. Licht could also compound those assets by trading down, as previously noted. He has done that in the first round three times already, making small jumps back before drafting Vernon Hargreaves in 2016, Vita Vea in 2018 and Logan Hall in 2021.

It all depends on how the picks unfold before them on the first night of the draft, and that's virtually impossible to predict when you are picking that late in the round. But the Bucs have homed in on a small handful of prospects they believe have a shot at getting into their range; how many of them get close will likely determine whether or not starts making phone calls to fellow general managers.

"I would say that the biggest challenge, at least for me, is you're trying to target who might be there," said Licht. "We say this all the time – we say it to all the prospects that are coming in and visiting – no one knows how this is going to go. If somebody is telling you they know where you're going, they're lying. Only one team, right now, knows who they're taking, probably – and maybe they don't. Right now, we have five to seven guys we think might be there. Then you start kind of falling in love with them and you're like, 'Okay, one of these guys is going to be there, and we're going to be so happy.' Then, there's the chance that none of them are. I think that's the hardest part about picking down there late."

Related Content

Latest Headlines