Buccaneers general manager search: Lionel Vital to remain with Falcons

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Once considered the frontrunner to be the Buccaneers' next GM, Vital is returning to the Falcons - could this be a sign that the search for the next general manager is almost at its conclusion?

The Buccaneers search for a new general manager has been a lengthy process, with different candidates being reported as the favourite for the position. First, it was the  Chiefs' director of player personnel, Chris Ballard; however, Ballard went on to decline the opportunity to be the Buccaneers' next GM. With the Bucs' first choice candidate choosing to stay in Kansas City, it was Lionel Vital, who held the same position as Ballard for the Atlanta Falcons, who emerged as the hot name.

Last week, a different angle to the story emerged: once the general manager search reached the "ownership stage", the buzz around Vital starting to fade, in favour of Giants' VP of Player Evaluation Marc Ross and Cardinals' VP of Player Personnel Jason Licht.

Well, you can now take Vital's name out of the hat completely. According to D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Vital stated at today's Senior Bowl practice that he is staying with the Falcons. Unlike with Ballard, who chose to remain with his current team, Ledbetter implies that the decision came from the Buccaneers' end, though the vagueness of the wording could leave it open to interpretation.

If that is the case, then ownership informing candidates the team are going in another direction points to a new general manager being announced sooner rather than later. Having already missed all of the East-West Shrine Game practices, and now the first day of Senior Bowl practices, the extended nature of this search is at risk of putting the next GM at a disadvantage come draft day - especially as the Bucs' own director of player personnel, Dennis Hickey, might not even be with the team much longer. As, despite Lovie Smith's control over the 53-man roster, it will be the GM who has final say over the draft, the Glazers simply cannot afford to delay making a decision for much longer.

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