“We’re going to spend wisely.” That was a quote from Jason Licht on Jan. 23, 2014, in his first press conference after getting introduced as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ new general manager. Less than two months later, the team spent a total of $86.3 million on defensive end Michael Johnson, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, cornerback Alterraun Verner and tight end Brandon Myers on the very first day of free agency.
While it is always exciting to see your favorite team make a huge splash in free agency, especially after finishing with a 4-12 record the previous season, this was not the approach that Licht promised. One year later, the spending spree backfired. The Buccaneers had an even worse season and a handful of the big-name signings were swiftly released from the team. In 2015, Licht and head coach Lovie Smith went back to the drawing board and spent their more than $30 million in cap space wisely.
Much like last offseason, there are issues which needed to be addressed, but the Buccaneers couldn’t make the same mistakes again. Last year, there were four signings on the first day. This year, there was absolute silence.
Two days into the free agency period, the Bucs finally got to work, inking Bruce Carter, Henry Melton and Chris Conte. Personally, I was a fan of these signings, but for many, these moves wouldn’t be seen as “making a splash,” considering the three contracts combined are less than $10 million towards the 2015 payroll. However, this is how you spend wisely. Conte, Carter and Melton are solid, inexpensive and most importantly, well-versed in the Tampa 2 scheme.
One week after signing those three players, the Buccaneers reached a one-year deal with former Dallas Cowboys cornerback Sterling Moore, further shoring up their secondary. And that’s it.
Nearly a month into the free agency period, Licht and Lovie have moved slowly and been steadily frugal. For some Bucs fans, it’s probably discouraging to see all these big-name free agents come in for a visit only to sign with another team, but this year, the organization is going about it the right way.
There’s no need to rush and invest big money in a player who is just a household name and/or may not understand the system. Obviously, this approach isn’t foolproof. The Buccaneers still have to address their offensive line woes, but there are still options available out there. The Bucs will continue to take their time, look at all their options and sign solid players at economical prices.
In 2014, the Buccaneers were the hare. This year, they are the tortoise. Now who won that race?