Jason Licht spent a boatload of money in his first year as general manager with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and almost every player he signed that year turned out to be a bust. In subsequent seasons he mellowed, and mostly looked at second- and third-tier free agents whose possible busting would be less destructive to the team’s performance.
Licht learned that approach from his time with the Patriots, supposedly, though why he then failed to apply it in his first year remains a bit of a mystery. He explained to Jenny Vrentas of The MMQB that he certainly made mistakes, though, and what he does better now.
“I made some mistakes my first year,” Licht says. “The difference in a player that’s making ‘X’ amount of dollars (higher) to making this much (lower), what’s the difference in his talent level? The Patriots do a great job of saying, The difference in money doesn’t make sense to pay for this difference in talent.”
This is, of course, absolutely right. Cap space and draft picks represent limited resources you should spend as efficiently as possible. If a player doesn’t represent enough added value, just say no — a lesson many teams fail to learn, especially when it comes to trading draft picks.
Which makes it somewhat curious that Licht spent a late second-round pick on a kicker, after trading up in what was a pretty poor value trade, too. That was probably the worst-value move any team made in last year’s draft. After all: even if Roberto Aguayo hadn’t struggled as a rookie, how much better could he really have been than, say, a free agent or sixth-round kicker?
Aguayo aside, there’s also one other problem with this reasoning: if you need a starter, you need one. You can complain about value for money, you can complain about maybe spending it elsewhere, but at the end of the day you need to go out and get someone to play snaps. And sometimes, that just means you need to overpay.