Bucs will strongly consider Johnny Manziel in first round

Bucs head coach Lovie Smith, left, and GM Jason Licht, right, talked about the upcoming NFL draft during a news conference on Tuesday.
Bucs head coach Lovie Smith, left, and GM Jason Licht, right, talked about the upcoming NFL draft during a news conference on Tuesday.
Published April 30, 2014

TAMPA — Unless they get the Heisman stiff-arm from one of the six teams picking ahead of them, the Bucs will give heavy consideration to selecting Johnny Manziel in next week's draft.

Manziel impressed team officials during his visit to One Buc Place this month, coach Lovie Smith has raved about the workout he attended at Texas A&M and the off-field behavior of the enigmatic quarterback apparently is not a concern.

"He had a very impressive interview," general manager Jason Licht said of Manziel on Tuesday. "We had a great day with him. Lovie and him have Texas roots. We enjoyed every minute that he was here. Sharp guy."

Licht said he is confident Smith and his staff could handle whatever challenges come along with Manziel, who has had to answer questions about his thirst for celebrity and the nightlife after winning the Heisman Trophy as a freshman.

"He's the Heisman Trophy winner," Licht said. "A lot of the situations he's been in you can't blame him for. If I were young and had a Heisman Trophy on my mantel, I'd probably be in a lot more trouble than the next guy. So I think we're just going to make the best football decision, what's best for our football team and I think Lovie and his staff can handle the rest of it."

The Bucs own the seventh overall pick and at least four teams picking ahead of them have a glaring need at quarterback — the Texans (first overall), Jaguars (third), Browns (fourth) and Raiders (fifth).

The Bucs' biggest holes, however, might be at receiver and guard. Having traded Mike Williams to the Bills, they're looking for a No. 2 receiver opposite Vincent Jackson. Pro Bowl guard Carl Nicks, who has played nine games in the past two seasons, is recovering from foot surgery and hopes to be ready by training camp.

But there also doesn't seem to be a long-term answer at quarterback.

Smith targeted Bears free agent quarterback Josh McCown, who signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the Bucs in March. McCown is 34 and only started five games last season. The Bucs already believe he is a better option than backup Mike Glennon, who went 4-9 and threw 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions as a rookie.

"I don't know how much of a priority it is," Smith said of drafting a quarterback. "We're going to keep that option open, of course. There are some good quarterbacks in this draft, I think that's been documented.

"But just looking at our roster right now, we had a good chance to see our guys in action last week. Josh McCown is a good quarterback that can lead us to a lot of victories. Mike Glennon is an excellent quarterback also. Mike Kafka. I feel pretty good about our guys we have right now even though there are a lot of good options at the QB position (in the draft)."

At No. 7, the Bucs figure to draft an impact player. South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, Buffalo linebacker Khalil Mack, Auburn tackle Greg Robinson and Clemson receiver Sammy Watkins appear to be the consensus four top talents.

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The Bucs have one pick in every round except the fourth, having traded it to the Jets to complete the deal for cornerback Darrelle Revis.

Would the Bucs consider moving down in the first round to gain an additional pick or two?

"That is something that we would definitely look into," Licht said Tuesday. "And we've already reached out to teams, and if our player isn't there we'd really be open to conversations about moving back and picking up picks.

"But the bottom line is, we have to find a trade partner. The thing is, you just don't know how this is going to fall until draft day. You can try to speculate, try to guess, but there are going to be some surprises."

Could the Bucs be one of them?

"At that seventh spot, we feel like we're going to get a pretty good player there. How about moving up? What do you think about that?" Licht said.