Bucs say thanks, but no thanks to NFL's No. 1 draft pick

Bucs head coach Lovie Smith, left, and General Manager Jason Licht, right, answer questions about the draft at One Buc Place in Tampa Tuesday, April 29, 2014.
Bucs head coach Lovie Smith, left, and General Manager Jason Licht, right, answer questions about the draft at One Buc Place in Tampa Tuesday, April 29, 2014.
Published March 24, 2015

PHOENIX — Every team would love to have the first overall draft pick. Nobody wants to endure what it typically takes to earn it.

"We never want it again," GM Jason Licht said Monday at the NFL owners meetings. "I feel privileged, and so does Lovie (Smith), that we are able to make this decision and to set the tone of this franchise hopefully for years to come."

Has Licht recovered from going 2-14 in his first season with the Bucs? "Never. Never get over that," he said. "I'll never get over it. It'll be a driving force for years to come. I never want to go through that again."

The Bucs could recover quickly. The first overall pick could bring them a franchise quarterback — — either Florida State's Jameis Winston or Oregon's Marcus Mariota. Both have visited One Buc Place and each is scheduled to have a private workout at his school for Tampa Bay within the next 21/2 weeks.

Even though he and Smith have left open the possibility of taking another player or trading the pick, "Right now we are moving toward a consensus," Licht said.

He said no firm offers for the No. 1 pick have been forthcoming. "Just small talk right now," he said. "Anything like that would come later."

The Bucs also have been active in free agency but have changed their approach. Rather than risk big money on top free agents, they are placing more emphasis on finding players who have proven to fit the Bucs' schemes.

They signed former Bears DT Henry Melton and S Chris Conte and Cowboys LB Bruce Carter and CB Sterling Moore. All four have played for either Smith, Cowboys defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli or both in the Tampa 2 scheme.

"You limit the risk when you know what you're getting," Licht said. "It's fit and familiarity with scheme. If you have a chance to take a player that has familiarity with your scheme that you think is also a good player, it's a good situation to be in. That's the player you want to target.

"On the surface, it might not look like we're trying to hit a grand slam, but there's nothing wrong with hitting a few doubles, either."

NOT FORGETTING THEIR LINES: The weakest link on offense last season may have been the line. Despite attempting to retool that unit, the Bucs finished 30th in total offense. Gone is former Bengals free agent T Anthony Collins after only one season. Demar Dotson may be moved from right tackle to left. So far, the Bucs haven't addressed the line. "We know where the holes are and we know we still have the draft and there still are some free agents out there," Licht said. "We know we'll have No. 1 in priority in (waiver) claiming. You can't expect to fill every single need, but we want to build it the right way and the right way to build it is through the draft and the most successful way to do it."

CATCH OR NO CATCH?: The NFL tweaked its ruling on what constitutes a catch, but even under the modification, Dez Bryant's apparent grab for the Cowboys in the NFC divisional playoff game would not have been allowed. Bryant didn't control the ball long enough. The rule now states a receiver must establish himself as a runner rather than just make a football move. He also must have control of the ball and both feet inbounds. The debate has been going on since Calvin Johnson's apparent touchdown catch for the Lions in 2010 was overturned. "Once you go down that path, it becomes more subjective," said Dean Blandino, the NFL's vice president of officiating. "What is, what isn't a football move … we're not talking about a lot of plays over the course of the five seasons since the Calvin Johnson play. This allows us to consistently officiate the rule."