MOBILE, Ala. — After three weeks of searching, the Bucs on Tuesday found the general manager who will work hand-in-hand with new coach Lovie Smith.
That man is Jason Licht, the Arizona Cardinals' vice president of player personnel and a part of four Super Bowl teams in his 19-year NFL career.
"Jason is a seasoned NFL personnel veteran who has worked with some of the most accomplished individuals in professional football," Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer said in a statement. "His strong player personnel background provides the ideal complement to Lovie Smith's philosophy as our head coach."
Licht, who turns 43 next month, is in Mobile for evaluations at the Senior Bowl. He had been in "wait and see" mode with the Bucs as recently as Tuesday's morning practice.
He replaces Mark Dominik, who was fired along with coach Greg Schiano last month after a five-year stint running the team's operations. Like Smith, Licht will have a four-year contract and the task of getting the Bucs back into the playoffs.
Licht will be a general manager for the first time. He has an extensive background in scouting and personnel; this season will be his 20th in the NFL. He was a finalist for the Bears' GM job two years ago, and interviewed with the Dolphins for their current opening.
Licht returned to Arizona in 2012 after three years as the Patriots' director of pro personnel. He also worked with the Eagles from 2003-07 and had one season as a personnel executive with Arizona in 2008. Once a walk-on linebacker and guard at Nebraska, he finished his college career at Nebraska Wesleyan in 1993-94 and started his scouting career with the Dolphins in 1995.
The Bucs were impressed by the caliber of coaches he has worked with, including six who have led teams to the Super Bowl: Don Shula, Jimmy Johnson, Bill Belichick, Andy Reid, Pete Carroll and Ken Whisenhunt. He was with the Cardinals when they lost to Pittsburgh in Tampa in January 2009, and was with the Patriots when they lost to the Giants two years ago. His lone Super Bowl win came as national scout in 2001 for the Patriots, who would win three titles in four years.
Licht (pronounced "light") will begin the process of choosing his front-office staff — he'll have the opportunity to retain existing staff, such as director of player personnel Dennis Hickey, director of pro scouting Shelton Quarles and director of college scouting Eric Stokes, who were all in Mobile for the Bucs. He could also pull from his recent stints with Arizona and New England in assembling his front office. He and Scott Cohen, the Bucs' senior personnel adviser, worked together with the Eagles for five years.
"Anyone that knows Jason recognizes not only what an outstanding evaluator he is but also a high-quality person," Arizona GM Steve Keim told the Cards' official site. "His reputation is well-deserved and speaks for itself. There's no doubt his talent and experience will be a tremendous asset for the Buccaneers and all of us here wish him nothing but the best."
While the Bucs needed only two days to hire Smith as coach, the Glazers spent 22 days on the GM hire. At Tuesday's morning practice in Mobile, Giants executive Marc Ross, another finalist who had two interviews with the team, was waiting to hear from the team.
Licht sat among a group of Cardinals scouts in morning practice at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, unsure if he'd get the call from Tampa. By the afternoon practice, the same group was congratulating him on a promotion nearly two decades in the works. His hiring was first reported by Fox's Jay Glazer.
Greg Auman can be reached at [email protected] and at (813) 226-3346. Follow him on Twitter at @gregauman.