The Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a pretty controversial draft, with kicker Roberto Aguayo and defensive end Noah Spence in the second round. While we've dissected Aguayo to death, we haven't spent a lot of time talking about the off-field risks Spence presents. He was kicked out of Ohio State over his abuse of ecstacy.
The Bucs saw him fall to the second round, even though he was arguably the best pure pass rusher in the draft. Licht certainly felt that way, or so he said after the draft. And today he told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk on NBC Sports Radio that they weren't surprised he was available at the time.
"I wouldn't say we were surprised. My staff advised me that he would be there. He was one that, once again luck is involved, he was there for us."
They loved him on the field, and were comfortable after doing their due diligence on him off the field.
"We were as comfortable as we could get with him, after meeting him several times, having our director of security meet him several times." Licht said of Spence. "We feel that we have a very strong locker room, especially on defense with Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David, some of those guys."
Licht compared Spence to Cardinals defensive back Tyrann Mathieu, who was kicked out of LSU after repeatedly failing drug tests. Mathieu has had an outstanding NFL career since being drafted by the Cardinals in the third round of the 2013 NFL draft, making the Pro Bowl last year and being named a first-team All-Pro twice. Licht was the Cardinals' vice president of player personnel when they drafted Mathieu, and he thinks both he and Spence love football.
"[Spence] loves football," Licht said. "It was taken away from him, he learned a lesson, he doesn't want that to happen again."
Licht said as much immediately after taking Spence as well, making a distinction between a bad and an immature player.
"You have to feel comfortable with the person. You can't just make a quick decision on whether or not he falls into one of those categories. You have to spend time, you have to do your research, you have to go back into his life and you have to sit down with him, obviously, and talk with him. But if you feel comfortable and you feel good about it, then you can't sentence a guy for life for some mistakes that he's made in the past."
As for Roberto Aguayo, Licht didn't downplay spending a fourth-round pick on trading up for him, even though they'd gotten that pick through a trade down.
"We got the extra fourth-round pick with plans of moving up. It made it a little bit easier to do. I know we still gave up the fourth-round pick, we know you can get some good players in the fourth, we got an outstanding one last year, but it doesn't always work out that way."
Indeed it doesn't. The Bucs are confident Aguayo will work out, just as they are confident that Spence will. Both should play big roles on the Bucs' expected resurgence as a power in the NFL.