With the Buccaneers off to a surprising 2 – 0 start, there’s plenty of praise to go around. Without question, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has been a critical reason for success in the first two games with his brilliant play and passing numbers.
Also, things with coach Dirk Koetter could have gone differently at the start of this year without suspended quarterback Jameis Winston.
With the understanding that the players and their play primarily dictate success, and then coaching would be second, still another facet that deserves credit is general manager. And for Tampa Bay that’s GM Jason Licht and his staff.
Licht, who was given a one-year contract extension earlier this offseason by the Buccaneers owners, the Glazer family, has more than replenished the Buccaneers roster with draft picks and free agents.
Consider that Licht brough Fitzpatrick in as a backup and mentor to Winston a year ago, and more importantly, he also was able to get him re-signed for 2018.
That move turns out to be huge at this stage for the Bucs early success.
Further, the Bucs two top receivers are former #1 pick Mike Evans, who they took in the first round in 2014. And that was a pick where many had been speculating, that the Bucs needed QB Johnny Manziel from Texas A&M.
Clearly, Licht made the right move, as Evans is one of the top “big” receivers in the game today.
Then look at his free agent signing of DeSean Jackson in March of 2017, and while he did not deliver a year ago, he has been tremendous the first two games of this season. Credit the Bucs for having the salary cap room to give Jackson the guaranteed money, but also convincing him to sign with them. That again, is Jason Licht and his staff.
After famously taking Winston first overall in the 2015 draft, Licht also drafted to offensive lineman in the second round of the 2015 draft Donovan Smith and Ali Marpet. Those two currently anchor the left side of the Buccaneers offensive line.
In the case of Marpet, he is actually a former division three offensive lineman, who Licht traded up for in that draft and took in the second round. That looks like a brilliant move at the moment.
Of course he has swung and missed, including the 2016 draft where Vernon Hargreaves was the first round pick. And, Hargreaves has mostly been an injured disappointment. Licht took Noah Spence at defensive end in the second round and he has similarly been injured and unimpressive.
And famously, he traded up in the second round to take kicker Roberto Aguayo and what has been one of the worst draft picks in recent NFL history.
Still, you look at the signing of free agent center Ryan Jensen this past March, the trade for Jason Pierre-Paul from the New York Giants and then, the Bucs getting secondary help with defensive backs M.J. Stewart and Carlton Davis in April. And, both of those rookies were both playing extensively and well in Sunday’s win over the Eagles, so it’s tough to argue Licht’s success.
Tampa Bay has a lot of football to play to try to have a winning season and possibly make the playoffs, but clearly, they have talent to try to do it thanks to their front office.
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