TAMPA — Bucs general manager Jason Licht quickly hustled away from Saturday’s late-afternoon media session eager for the draft to end so he could start gathering undrafted free agents.
With good reason.
Licht appears to enjoy more success with undrafted choices than late-draft picks.
Among Licht’s key pickups over the years: tight ends Cameron Brate and Antony Auclair, running back Peyton Barber and former Bucs receiver Adam Humphries.
“That’s a good question,” Licht said when asked about his differing success rates. “A lot of those players that we sign and we give … signing-bonus money to, they kind of come from the same pool as those late-draftable guys. You draft guys that are (on) your board … and the guys that we sign and we go after hard are still on our draft board.
“Maybe I should have drafted the guys that we signed as free agents and signed the guys that we drafted. They’re basically this close to each other on the draft board.
Moments later, Newsome High graduate Bruce Anderson, a 5-foot-10, 210-pound running back who was a part of three Division I-AA national championship teams at North Dakota State, signed as an undrafted free agent. Anderson showed his pass-catching abilities during his pro day at North Dakota State, and the Bucs are in need of a third-down pass-catching back.
Anderson averaged 7.5 yards a carry last season, totaling 924 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. He also had 199 receiving yards and three touchdown catches.
As a junior, Anderson ran for 1,216 yards and 12 touchdowns, and had 156 yards and three touchdowns receiving.
Here are the other signings of undrafted free agents by the Bucs based on the players’ confirmation on Twitter and various media reports.
South Carolina G Zack Bailey
Charleston DE Kahzin Daniels
Boston College S Lukas Denis
Mississippi State QB Nick Fitzgerald
Indiana LS Dan Godsil
Ole Miss WR DaMarkus Lodge
UCF P Mac Loudermilk
UConn QB (Athlete) David Pindell
Fordham TE Isaiah Searight
Ferris State WR Malik Taylor
Wisconsin-Whitewater C Nate Trewyn
Richmond WR Cortrelle Simpson
Offensive line goes unaddressed
The Bucs did a competent job of pass protection in 2018 but struggled in run blocking. The right side of the line was particularly questionable.
Yet the Bucs didn’t draft an offensive lineman this year. Licht said the decision in part was related to new coach Bruce Arians and his staff being pleased with the development of 2018 third-round pick Alex Cappa and fourth-year pro Caleb Benenoch.
“I say time and time again, we’re not lining up tomorrow to play regular-season Week 1, so we still have time,” Licht said. “I know that Caleb has been doing some good things, and he has in the past for us lining up at tackle.
“You can’t address every position … that you may have some concerns (with), whether they vary from big concern to small concern.”
Maybe they did need all those DBs
The Bucs turned heads by drafting three defensive backs — cornerbacks Sean Bunting and Jamel Dean, and safety Mike Edwards — in the second and third rounds. That may seem like they’ve overstocked that unit, but the numbers make sense for them.
Last year Tampa Bay started the season with six cornerbacks and four safeties. It won’t be difficult to reach those numbers this year given that the Bucs currently have six safeties and eight cornerbacks on the roster.
The difference is that the 2018 roster included veterans such as cornerback Brent Grimes and safety Chris Conte.
Now, after drafting five defensive backs in the second and third rounds over the past two years, the Bucs will be decidedly younger at those positions no matter who they keep.
And with a new coach, the players chosen this season will be given every opportunity to make the roster.
Compiled by Times staff writers Thomas Bassinger, Eduardo A. Encina and Rick Stroud contributed to this report. Contact Ernest Hooper at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @hoop4you.