Buccaneers' GM Jason Licht Quotes 4.23.20
COURTESY OF TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS MEDIA RELATIONS DEPARTMENT
(On selecting T Tristan Wirfs with the No. 13 overall selection in the 2020 NFL Draft)
"[He is a] great athlete, but just as importantly, he is a great guy. He is a hard worker. He is very smart – just a top-notch character guy, in addition to being a great player. We saw that the run of tackles happened a little bit later than we expected and then we thought that there was a chance that somebody could come up and get him. We didn't want to risk it. As Bruce [Arians] says, 'No risk it, no biscuit.' We had to give up a little capital to go get him, but in this case, we thought because of the player and the position – but especially the player – that it was worth it."
(On what separates Wirfs from the other tackles in the draft)
"We think he's a versatile guy. He's started at both right and left tackle and he's done a good job at both positions. I'm sure Bruce [Arians] can tell you more on this, but the plan right now is to put him at right tackle. He's an incredible athlete and I think he still has a huge ceiling. He also has a high floor. He's a very good player, but I think he's got a tremendous amount of upside in front of him, as well."
(On having a top tackle like Wirfs to protect QB Tom Brady)
"We're just very excited to have him as a player. We feel good about Joe Haeg. We feel good about Brad Seaton. We feel good about Donovan [Smith], so we feel like we have some good players on our team. To add a young guy into the mix that has got a chance to be a very, very good player at his position, it feels incredible. It feels great. We're just very excited. He hasn't played a game yet in the NFL, so we'll have to see how it goes. We're not anointing him as a future Hall of Famer yet, but we're just very excited to work with him, especially with the type of kid that he is. I'm sure he's going to come in and know he's got to earn his keep."
(On there being no consensus on how to rank the top four offensive tackle prospects in the 2020 NFL Draft)
"When [people] say there wasn't a consensus, I would say [they're] saying there wasn't a consensus among the media and the mock guys. We rank every player. At the end of the day, our job – Bruce [Arians] and I and our staff – is to rank them, so we did have an order, but we liked all four tackles that have gone so far. All I can tell you is it was very, very close and we're just thrilled to death that we got Tristan."
(On if having QB Tom Brady in the pocket made it necessary to draft a tackle for the right side of the line)
"I would say no. It doesn't matter who is playing quarterback, you want good tackles. I would say no. I would say we would always prioritize that position as one that we would want to make sure that we try to solidify. It doesn't matter who is playing quarterback, you've got to be able to keep them upright. I know the fact that Tom [Brady] is up there in age, people are making a little bit bigger deal out of that. Yeah, we do want to protect him, but any quarterback that is back there, we want to protect."
(On if he feels Wirfs can play both right tackle and left tackle at some point during his NFL career)
"We will take it one day at a time. I can't predict what's going to happen 10 years from now, so we'll take it one day at a time. But one of the things we liked about Tristan is that he's very athletic and that he's played both spots. He's done a hell of a job at both spots. I guess the future – we'll have to see. I don't have a crystal ball in front of me right now, but like I said, one of the reasons that we had him as high as we did is that we thought he had a chance to be able to play both spots. But right now, we are focused on right tackle."
(On how rare it is to find an offensive lineman with the athletic ability and skill-set that Wirfs has)
"It is pretty rare. He ran in the mid-to-low 4.8s in the 40 [yard dash], which is not why we drafted him where we did, but it is an indication of how athletic he is. My six-year-old son Theo, the first thing he asked was, 'Is he faster than Devin White?' I had to say no, but he was amazed at how fast he was. He's got very good quickness, very good feet. He's got very good agility. He can run, which is a great asset for an offensive tackle to have, but it's not the number one thing. We like the fact that he comes out of a program where they're known for developing offensive linemen. Kirk Ferentz and his Brian, who I've worked with, and the entire staff there are very good coaches, so it's a big plus when you can get a guy out of a great program like that. They know how to work. There will be a seamless transition into B.A.'s (Bruce Arians') offense and B.A.'s style, so those were a lot of the things that we liked."
(On if they had called other teams before the San Francisco 49ers when attempting to trade up in the draft)
"Well, we did make a lot of phone calls in this. We received a lot of phone calls, too, over the last few days. I've been keeping Bruce [Arians] abreast at this and we've talked through a lot of this. We were on the phone with the 49ers well before their pick. We had been talking with them for a few days along with a few other teams. When you make that call when they're on the clock, you don't have to start the conversation from square one. They knew that we'd be interested [and] I knew there were a lot of teams trying to move into San Francisco's spot, so it was an easy conversation, 'This is what we'd be willing to do and the haggling had been going on for a few days.'"
(On how Wirfs reacted when Licht told him that he was going to be drafted by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
"I'd say that he's a low-key personality – that's one of the things I like about him, he's a typical offensive lineman from the Midwest, which I have an affinity for. I probably saw a little bit more spike in his voice than I had since we had been talking to him at the combine. He is very excited. I told him that, 'You're a Buccaneer. You're going to be playing for Bruce Arians and you're going to be playing with Tom Brady and the whole host of other great players that we have.' He said that he couldn't be happier."
(On the steps to prepare a rookie to step in a protect Tom Brady )
"It is something that we have talked about. It is going to be a challenge depending on when we can get started. I'll go back to what I said before – and I think Bruce [Arians] would echo it – if you bring in guys that are smart, work hard, and come from programs that have great coaches like he's had, it gives yourself a better chance than taking guys that are raw, developmental, need more time, and come from programs that have been less successful. That was one of the attractions to Tristan."
(On where Wirfs can improve)
"Every player, especially every rookie that you take, no matter if you take them number one or the last pick in the seventh round they all have strengths and weaknesses. I would focus on the strengths that I've talked about with Tristan. Every player can get better, especially offensive linemen. They can play with better leverage, they can work on their leverage, their hand use – those types of things. I think Tristan, one of the things that we saw that we actually liked about him is that there is a lot of room for improvement. Sometimes with a player that you take, that you know he's got the bend, you know he's got the athleticism and if he could play with it with a little more consistency he's going to be an even better player. But that could go for just about every offensive lineman that's been taken so far. I think that I wouldn't necessarily call them weaknesses, but things that he can improve and every player can improve. We've got a tremendous staff. Especially with Bruce [Arians] being an offensive coach and Goody (Harold Goodwin) and Joe Gilbert. We feel very, very confident that'll get the most out of him."
(On trading up and what it says about their strategy)
"We're not always going to be looking to give up our picks to move up. Sometimes you have to take a look – if you give up a fourth, what are you going to get in the fourth round? Hopefully we're going to get a great player, but it doesn't always turn out that way. To be able to ensure that we get the player we all love thus far and what we've seen and what he is as a person and a player, I think it's well worth it. It's across the board with Bruce [Arians] and I and our staffs. We felt like was something worth doing. There's plenty of draft to go. We can maneuver through the board – we could pick up some extra picks like we have done in the past. Right now I'm feeling really good."
(On interaction with Tristan Wirfs throughout the draft process and what he liked about his answers to his questions)
"Felt very good. He's very sharp – comes across very serious. Loves football. Wants to be the best and do everything that he can to be a better player – very coachable. Didn't spend a whole lot of time with him because of that, with the climate that we're in right now. I know that Goody and Joe, our scouts, spent a lot of time with him virtually throughout this process. They've been telling us about the times that they've talked with him, the interviews, and watching tape with him – the intelligence – and all those things. We feel like we've hit a home run right now. But like I said, he hasn't played a down yet, so we're ready to get to work with him."
(On the level of confidence Buccaneers fans should feel after all moves made in the offseason and drafting Tristan Wirfs)
"I think I can speak on behalf of Bruce [Arians]. The moves that we've made, they should be very excited. How could you not be excited to have Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski to go along with Mike Evans and Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard? The list goes on and on. We're very excited about the players that we've added to this team in the last year and then beyond that to, there should be a lot of excitement in the air. I know I'm excited."
(On how he envisioned the draft unfolding)
"I know I say this and we say it all the time, but we have to prepare for every scenario. You can't write down on a piece of paper, 'This is the way it's going to go.' It never turns out that way, so you have to prepare for every scenario. We thought that there might be a chance that Tristan [Wirfs] would be there in striking distance for us, and we prepared for that scenario. I couldn't tell you this is exactly the way we thought it was going to go but we're happy it did."