Thursday, April 19, 2018
Sports

GM Jason Licht expects 'significant major progress' in 2016

BOCA RATON — Should the Bucs be a playoff team in 2016? General manager Jason Licht stopped short of saying that Monday when asked what reasonable goals are as Tampa Bay tries to improve on its 6-10 record from last season.

"With this team, we want to see significant major progress, playing in meaningful games late in the year, knocking on the door," Licht said during a break at the NFL league meetings at the Boca Raton Resort and Club. "We are striving for major progress. We want to be playing our best at the end of the season."

The Bucs were 6-6 last season and in the hunt for a wild card, but dropped their last four games to fall out of contention, leading to the firing of Lovie Smith and the promotion of offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to head coach.

Not a problem: When the Bucs signed Pro Bowl CB Brent Grimes two weeks ago, the move came amid speculation that some NFL teams might have not pursued Grimes to avoid the potential distraction of his outspoken wife, Miko, who is active on social media and occasionally critical of teammates and management.

Licht was asked about whether that was a factor in the Bucs' decision to sign Grimes, and had a smart response about what's ultimately important to a general manager.

"I think a bigger distraction is losing and not playing good defense," Licht said. "We had met Miko and (Brent and) his family and have enjoyed every minute of it. I don't see any problem. We didn't have any discussions about it, to be honest with you."

Grimes has plenty of coaches on the Bucs' staff who have worked with him — and his wife — and can vouch for what he would bring.

Koetter and defensive coordinator Mike Smith worked with him in Atlanta with the Falcons and linebackers coach Mark Duffner spent time with him with the Dolphins the past two years.

That message was well-received online by Miko, who quickly tweeted out her message back: "i LOVE my GM! he's about winning, not gossip & bs! winners wanna win so they sign winners. losers keep bums around & make excuses for losing."

No thanks: A year ago, the Bucs had considered free agent DE Greg Hardy despite his off-field issues, ultimately bowing out just before he signed with the Cowboys.

Asked if there was interest again this year in the free agent, Licht said it hasn't been an option.

"We haven't talked about Greg Hardy," he said. "We like (newly signed) Robert Ayers. He was a player we targeted."

Pro Bowl bracketologist: Bucs LB Lavonte David was always good for a big pick here and there, but it's still impressive that he ranks second overall in espn.com's celebrity portion of the site's basketball NCAA Tournament Challenge.

David correctly picked 12 of the Sweet 16 teams — he foresaw the ACC's showing, with North Carolina, Virginia and Duke joining the Big 12's Kansas in his predicted Final Four. David is predicting a UNC win over Kansas in the final.

Mourning a loss: Licht said he talked with Ravens coach John Harbaugh and general manager Ozzie Newsome to pass along condolences on the death of CB Tray Walker, who was killed Friday in a motorbike accident in Miami. Walker, 23, was struck by a sport utility vehicle at an intersection in his hometown.

Asked if the team had any reminders for its players about being safe in the offseason, he said the sad news already did that.

"I think they all got the message with the unfortunate incident," he said. "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. … It's just really unfortunate."

Contact Greg Auman at [email protected] and (813) 310-2690. Follow @gregauman.

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