INDIANAPOLIS — A new coach, a new general manager, and come tonight, a new logo. None of it will matter if the Buccaneers don’t start moving in a new direction.
After a seven-year Tampa Bay playoff drought, general manager Jason Licht and coach Lovie Smith will begin in earnest today the task of altering the course of the franchise. Licht and Smith will spend the better part of the next week evaluating prospects at the NFL scouting combine in preparation for the draft.
“The better teams in the NFL, the ones that compete in the playoffs year after year, they are the teams that draft the best, and that is what Lovie and I and our staff are going to do,’’ Licht said.
Licht and Smith have referred to themselves as “partners’’ in this venture, though Smith has final say over the roster.
A self-proclaimed “meathead’’ who likes to watch football and won’t be disrespected if you call him a scout, Licht’s work at the combine will be critical to the Bucs’ cause.
“The coach has to tell (the general manager) what kind of players he wants, and it’s my job as general manager to make sure that we, me and my staff, bring those players to him,’’ Licht said. “We have to find the right fits.’’
Licht and Smith agree there are intangibles they want in future Bucs.
“The player has to be a player that we like on tape and grades out at the right price, but he also has to be extremely passionate, intelligent, and have good football character,’’ Licht said.
The Bucs have the seventh overall pick in May’s draft, with the consensus that the talent pool is especially deep.
“It’s one of the deepest drafts we’ve seen in years,’’ NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said. “It’s definitely one of the best wide receiver drafts I’ve seen in years.
“And it’s not just the playmakers where it’s deep. There are probably three offensive tackles that could go in the top 10, and there are three quarterbacks that could go in the top 10.’’
The Bucs have two of the top 38 picks, so they have a chance to quickly build on their talent base.
“We already have a lot of core players on this team that I am very excited about, but our philosophy is to build through the draft,’’ Licht said. “That is where you find your stars.’’
ROSTER MOVE: Tampa Bay signed former Rutgers linebacker Damaso Munoz, who spent three seasons with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League.