Jason Licht spoke to Roy Cummings of the Tampa Tribune, and he indicated that the Bucs won't be spending their absurd $53 million in salary cap space on big-name free agents.
"We've been doing our homework and I think there are a lot of good players that will fall into the middle market,'' Licht said. "We'll be active in that. And again, as far as the big fish go, I would never say never â that we're not going to sign anyone like that. But you do have to careful because the best players ultimately get locked up by their own teams.''
Licht is right, of course. Free agency starts in a month, and we don't know who will or won't be available. The hope is that Doug Martin will be re-signed by the Bucs before then, and Licht seems more positive in this interview that's going to happen than Rick Stroud did.
There's also the fact that when Licht did go after big-name free agents, he's failed, while the mid-range signings have been a lot more successful: Clinton McDonald, Joe Hawley, Louis Murphy, Sterling Moore and Chris Conte all did well, at least for the money the Bucs paid them. Anthony Collins and Michael Johnson, the stars of Licht's first draft class, were complete failures by comparison.
That used to be different. Mark Dominik's biggest successes were some of his big-name signings: Vincent Jackson, Darrelle Revis, Carl Nicks (until unforeseeable disaster struck). His problem was finding value and depth in free agency -- or the draft for that matter. Licht's done better in the draft, but hasn't been able to find a free agency star -- and it sounds like he's going to give up looking.
That's not necessarily a bad thing. Free agency is dangerous, it's easy to sign a bust, and it's easier to overpay even when you get a decent player. Signing depth and value free agents fits his history with the Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots. It works, as long as you keep hitting on your draft picks -- and that's likely where the Bucs will have to look to find their pass rusher.
One caveat, though. This is what Jason Licht said when he was first hired in 2014, a month before spending big in free agency:
"Our philosophy will be to build through the draft. That's where we'll get our stars. We will supplement our roster through free agency. We're going to look for value, we're going to spend wisely. The better teams in the NFL that compete year after year are the teams that draft the best."