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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

3 Takeaways from Jason Licht's Combine Press Conference

Critical decisions loom for the Buccaneers in shaping their future, beginning with the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis. Here is an overview of top quotes from the podium

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

The 2023 NFL Scouting Combine is in full swing in Indianapolis as NFL scouts, executives and personnel evaluate the top draft-eligible college players on a physical, mental and medical basis. The Bucs' personnel department will formulate decisions that will impact the club's future. During the Combine and the subsequent weeks, the Bucs will be mulling over two main questions: Who to target in the upcoming draft and which of the 23 pending unrestricted free agents they will retain. With the salary cap limitations heading into the 2023 season, this Bucs' mantra in the draft process is restocking for the future to generate a sustained period of success. As is tradition, every general manager and head coach who attends the Combine in Indy spends an allotted period of time at the podium over a two-day media span where a variety of pressing questions are discussed. From pending free agents to roster construction, here are a few insightful tips from the Bucs' architect behind the curtain, General Manager Jason Licht.

Juice Is flowing

It is no secret that the Buccaneers are fast approaching an imperative draft that will dictate the team's long-term aspirations. In an ideal scenario, the goal for any franchise is to draft well, develop well and re-sign the players that have been productive. However, reality often fosters a different outcome. The Bucs are currently $55 million over the cap and have 23 pending unrestricted free agents, including cornerback Jamel Dean, safety Mike Edwards, wide receiver Scotty Miller, cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting and outside linebacker Anthony Nelson – all of which became success stories for the Buccaneers. With the cap limitations, Tampa Bay will not be able to retain all of them. Every year, all 32 teams in the NFL have hits and misses among their draft selections. With the Bucs' cap constraints entering 2023, drafting well is critical, garnering a "fun challenge" for Tampa Bay's personnel department. Jason Licht offered his thoughts on the pressure ahead in the 2023 NFL Draft.

"It is going to be a very important draft. I wouldn't say we go into any draft less ambitious to do well than you do others, so that has not changed but the challenge is out there for us. I have talked to all of our staff, and this is actually going to be a fun challenge. Right now, we can do some bargain shopping and we really have to nail the draft and try to find starters in different areas of the draft, which we think we can. This is the kind of stuff that gets the juices flowing for my staff right now."

Lavonte David?

Tom Brady may have become synonymous with the term "ageless wonder," however, many are forgetting the consistency and longevity of inside linebacker Lavonte David. The 33-year-old has repeatedly been underrated in the league but continues to play at a high level. In 2022, David graded as the No. 3 off-ball linebacker in the NFL per Pro Football Focus. On 96% of the Bucs' defensive snaps in 2022, David accumulated 124 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss, three quarterback hits and five passes defensed. His pursuit to the flat and quickness out of breaks, combined with his reaction skills, allowed him to meet players where they ultimately would be on screens, dump-offs, outside zone runs or jet sweeps. During his tenure, he established himself as one of the best coverage linebackers in the NFL. Jason Licht gave the team's longtime cornerstone defender his praise and voiced his desire to see David back in a Bucs' jersey in 2023.

"He is one of the iconic players of Tampa Bay. He will always be a Buccaneer and it is still not out of the realm of possibility that he could be playing for us next year. It takes two to agree to it so we will see how that unfolds…would love to see Lavonte continue to play as a Buc."

Prioritized Traits

Each year, there are many characteristics that a personnel department targets in the draft to round out their respective rosters and for the Buccaneers, Jason Licht disclosed a trait the team is focusing on: speed. Whether that comes in the form of a speed demon off the edge to harass opposing quarterbacks, a burner who can keep safeties honest to bolster the receiving corps or a corner who can match vertical threats stride-for-stride, Tampa Bay is on the hunt for a young infusion of agility. Overall, nickel packages have become prominent in the NFL as a result of the growing influx of 11 personnel. To counter, defenses have normalized adding an extra defensive back into the mix in order to add speed from a hybrid-based role. The Bucs are following the trend, evidenced by Jason Licht's proclamation: "We do need to get faster."

"We do need to get faster, and we need to be younger. We need to get some more energy. I always feel we need to build up the lines, but it does not always work out that way."

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