Buccaneers' GM Jason Licht Quotes 4.24.20
Updated: Aug 17
COURTESY OF TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS MEDIA RELATIONS DEPARTMENT
(On choosing to select S Antoine Winfield Jr. in the second round rather than taking a running back)
"Well I guess I would say that we obviously had Antoine Winfield graded pretty high. It's also a position that we wanted to address in the draft. We felt that as the draft rolled along that we'd be able to hopefully get a running back that we liked that we had graded at a high value and that's the way we did it. We felt the safeties were coming off pretty quick and if we left Antoine sitting there on the board, he wouldn't be there. We feel very good about the decision we made here and we're excited to have Antoine here."
(On how much Winfield's versatility allows for Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles to use him creatively)
"Well, it's one of the things that we really loved about Antoine. I hate doing comparisons to players in the NFL right now because he hasn't stepped foot on the field in the NFL, but some of the reasons that we liked Budda Baker and Tyrann Mathieu – and I'm not putting him in that category yet – but we feel that he has the ability to play free and strong [safety]. We play interchangeable in our scheme. He's dropped down to nickel and done a really nice job there too. So, [when] you've got a safety that can do all of those different things, it really raises his value. He's a very smart guy, a very intense guy, who loves football and we're just excited to get him here and get him rolling."
(On how he envisions RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn fitting into the Buccaneers offense)
"The idea is to get him here and see what he does best. We know that he's got good speed. We know that he can catch the ball. We know that he's good in space – he's been very productive there. He's also a very intense person just like Antoine [Winfield] in terms of his demeanor and in terms of his football character and passion – one of the things that we really, really loved about him. He is very smart. I think he's capable of playing on all three downs so you can't have too many good backs. You can't just rely on one good back. If you have a guy who can do multiple things, it makes him even more valuable to your team. We'll see how it goes. We have to get him here, and we'll get him in the mix and we'll see how it all shakes out. We're excited to have him, as well."
(On if not having a fourth-round draft pick increased the priority of getting a running back in the third round)
"Well, yeah, we felt like it was very important. By no stretch of the imagination am I going to say that we reached at all because he was sitting right there, right where we were picking and it just matched up with what felt like we needed, which was another running back to get in the mix with RoJo (Ronald Jones II). RoJo, Dare [Ogunbowale], T.J. [Logan] – we feel like we've got a pretty good group right now."
(On if he feels there is a chance the team may look to move up on the final day of the draft)
"We'll have to see how it goes. This was a great draft in terms of having players that we like that fit our needs. That doesn't always happen that way. Starting in the first round with a pretty good group of offensive tackles – a very good group. Then at safety, then at running back – there are still some really good runners out there. It's a deep group of receivers. There are still some offensive linemen that we like. There are still some defensive linemen that we like. But we felt like the positions that we wanted to address this year, this draft really matched up with that, so we were fortunate in that respect."
(On if he was surprised to see Vaughn still available at pick No. 76 knowing what kind of running back he was in the SEC)
"Yeah, I was a little surprised. Coming off of his junior year, we had even higher grades on him than we did this year. I think they lost a few players [and he] wasn't as productive. It's one of those years that every program goes through – a little bit of a retool. There were a lot of backs this year that played behind some – because of graduating seniors and having to play young guys – their offensive lines weren't quite what they were at one point. It's no disrespect to this program at all, it just happens everywhere. You have to kind of do your evaluation based off the entire career of the player, the past two years especially. We felt like what we're getting is what we've seen in 2018 and 2019."
(On if Winfield's leadership ability was something that attracted the Buccaneers to him and if he can step in and be a leader in the secondary)
"Yeah, most definitely. But he's also a very bright guy and knows that he's not going to step in right away and do that. He's going to lead through his actions, but he is the – I hate [to use the term] – alpha male of his team and so is Ke'Shawn [Vaughn]. They know that they have to come in and earn their stripes and earn the respect of their teammates, but once their actions on the field start showing up, it's going to be pretty easy for everybody to realize that this guy is a leader. We felt today in terms of their ability – we've talked about that – we like that. Their leadership and just their presence in the locker room were a couple of things that we loved about these guys."
(On if the team's decision to wait until the third round to draft a running back rather than taking a 'more prominent' back in the second round was a credit to how much the team values RB Ronald Jones II)
"Well yeah, we love Ronald. We think Ronald's going to take another step this year. In terms of what you're saying about a prominent back, I guess that would be the way that you see these guys ranked in the media and things like that. We try to evaluate players based on our coaches, our scouts and how we like them. Sometimes a guy can be – and I'm not picking on any player in particular – but sometimes everybody thinks that a player that's talked about the most is a better player. Right now, we'll see how it goes, but we're happy with the guys that we got. Like I said before, the run on the safeties happened pretty quick – before and after we took Antoine – so we felt like we made a good decision there and we're excited about it."
(On how challenging it is to balance trying to win now but also considering using a draft pick and roster spot for a developmental quarterback)
"If there's a guy that you really like and you feel has a good chance to develop, you're going to want to take him. But we feel like we're going to get some years out of Tom [Brady], we like Blaine [Gabbert] and we like Ryan Griffin too. Like I've said before, it's got to be the right guy and we also had some other parts of our roster that we needed to address. We'll address that when we feel like we need to, but right now we haven't so far at this point, but we still have a whole day of drafting left to go."
(On how the COVID-19 situation may have enticed teams to take prospects that have bigger personalities or clear leadership ability)
"I think we went about it the same way, trying to engage every player's personality, but also their intelligence and how they come across when we interview them. That's just a small part of it. I think we put a little bit more focus on the player on the field, the field evaluation, and our scouts do an incredible job all year gathering information on the other traits of a player that we look for. I have said before that we may have put a little more emphasis on making sure that we are getting guys that can get up to speed quicker, that can adjust and adapt quicker in the NFL environment, but we weren't going to overlook players that have developmental upside for the future either."
(On if the Buccaneers expect S Justin Evans to be healthy enough to participate in training camp)
"We do and we think, if he gets healthy, at that point we're going to have a hell of a competition there because Justin is an extremely talented guy. We are not writing Justin off whatsoever."
(On how tough it is to put aside the name recognition when evaluating a player who has NFL pedigree)
"I think that's pretty easy. Over the years we've all come across guys – as we get older in age here – we evaluate players and we evaluate their sons at some point too. Sometimes they're a player, sometimes they are not as talented. It's pretty easy. Antoine stood out on the field whether or not his name was Winfield or Smith. That was pretty easy. I will say it is good to have those bloodlines and good to know when a player has a father like Antoine does, that has the experience. It is an asset in his favor that he knows what the NFL is all about."
(On if Winfield Jr. will be used in the return game and if he sees him as a player that can move all over the defense)
"Absolutely – yes to both. We like some of the players that we have that have been contributing in the return game, but he's going to be added to the mix there. Like I said before in terms of his ability as a safety, he is an interchangeable guy that can play both – he can play the high, he can play the post, he can play free [or] strong and he can play the nickel. He's been making plays, you know, seven interceptions [last season] playing at all of those positions. He's extremely smart, he's fast, he's got great burst and acceleration and he's a really good foot athlete, and super instinctive. Those are all things for us to be excited about and see when he gets here and we start playing again."