Licht wants 'significant, major progress' from Bucs in 2016
We had the chance to catch up with Bucs general manager Jason Licht on a wide range of topics Monday afternoon at the NFL league meetings in Boca Raton.
-- On the team's expectations for how much they can improve in 2016 after going from 2-14 in 2014 to 6-10 last season:
"We are striving for major progress. We want to be playing our best at the end of the season. We want to be playing our best when we're knocking on the door. Just like last year when somebody asked me what our goal was for Jameis (Winston), it's just to get better every week. With this team, we want to see significant major progress, playing in meaningful games late in the year, knocking on the door."
-- On free agent defensive end Greg Hardy, who the Bucs had considered a year ago despite his off-field problems, and whether the Bucs are considering him as an option again this spring:
"We haven't talked about Greg Hardy. We like Robert Ayers. He was a player we targeted."
-- On his job changing now that he has full control over the Bucs' 53-man roster, as opposed to splitting personnel authority with head coach Lovie Smith the previous two years:
"It's still the head coach and the GM working together with our staffs, getting on the same page. The approach is still the same. I don't see it being much different. Fortunately we have the same vision, the same types of players we want to bring in, so that makes it easy. ... It's been kind of fun showing (Dirk Koetter) some of the things he didn't know. It's been great working with him because he put his faith in me, and he's told me that from Day One: 'You ultimately are picking the players, but I want to work together with you.' ... We've had the same vision and that became apparent during the interview process ... We feel like it's worked out well."
-- On the idea of pairing the Bucs' veteran free-agent signings -- DE Robert Ayers, CB Brent Grimes and LB Daryl Smith -- with prominent draft picks and letting the newest Bucs learn from the guys who are the oldest:
"They're guys that can come in and help us, guys that can help our young guys that we hope to bring in," he said.
-- On whether the signing of three 30-plus defensive players is a sign the Bucs think they can win this season:
"Well, I think these guys can play, otherwise we wouldn't have signed them, gone after them, targeted them. No matter where your football team is, you always have to have a longterm plan. Whether you bring some bridges in or not, you're still looking longterm. These players that are perceived as bridges, I think they're going to help us in the longterm, like Logan Mankins was invaluable to us, the tone he set in the offensive line room with those two rookies, it's going to carry on throughout their careers."
-- On the battle now at right tackle, where veterans Demar Dotson and Gosder Cherilus return, as well as third-year pro Kevin Pamphile:
"Dirk has said we're going to get the best five out there, and we've got some options. Still feel pretty good about our situation, especially with the addition last year of (center Joe Hawley) and Gosder. Dot will be back now and full-go and Kevin is still a very valuable guy that can play actually all five positions. We've got some options and we're going to put the best five out there."
-- On cornerbacks Johnthan Banks and Alterraun Verner getting a fresh start this fall with new coaches after and up-and-down 2015:
"You get a new coaching staff, new coordinator, new head coach, new scheme, they should feel that way, like it's a fresh start for them."
-- On the tragic death of Ravens corner Tray Walker in a motorbike accident in Miami prompts the Bucs to remind players about their safety in the offseason:
"I think they all got the message with the unfortunate incident. I'm sure it's something we'll remind them. That was a tragedy and I feel bad. Thoughts and prayers go out to their family and team. We've talked to (GM) Ozzie (Newsome) and (coach) John (Harbaugh). It's just really unfortunate."