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Buccaneers Extend the Contract of GM Jason Licht Through 2019

The overseeer of five drafts as general manager of the Buccaneers, Jason Licht has been rewarded by ownership with a contract for a sixth season, Ira Kaufman of JoeBucsfan reports.

Multiple sources confirm that Licht now has a deal in place to remain with Tampa Bay at least through 2019.

At the NFL owners meetings in March, Bucs co-owner Joel Glazer lauded the infusion of young talent Licht has stockpiled.

“I think one of the positive signs in any situation is re-signing your own players,” Glazer said. “And when you start getting on a trend that you’re re-signing your own players, that means you are drafting well. If you’re drafting well, generally that means you’re going to start having success.

“So you saw Cameron Brate and Mike Evans [re-signed]. We got a couple of young guys with contracts that are coming up that we know we’re going to want to keep. So that to me is the most positive sign of, you know, what’s happening with the general manager.”

Licht, 47, replaced Mark Dominik as GM in 2014, a few weeks after Lovie Smith was named head coach. In his first draft as head of football operations, Licht selected Evans, who has posted at least 1,000 receiving yards in each of his four pro seasons.

Injury to Bucs First-Round Pick Vita Vea Not as Bad as First Feared

Bucs first-round pick Vita Vea watched practice Tuesday with a boot on his left foot, pushing himself around on a scooter, but coach Dirk Koetter said the prognosis on his calf injury is better than was once feared, Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

“Vita, it was better than we thought,” Koetter said. “What Vita described when it happened was what you would think if a guy tore his Achilles, which would be a year-long injury. Thankfully, it was not that. It’s a calf injury and he’s going to be out for right now but it’s not what it could have been. So, in that respect, we’re better off than we thought we were.”

Asked for a timetable for Vea, still nearly six weeks before the regular-season opener, Koetter would only say he’s out “for a little bit,” promising to give an update “in a little bit.”

Buccaneers Part Ways with Starting Right Guard J.R. Sweezy

The Buccaneers made an interesting roster move on Friday, as the team has released starting right guard J.R. Sweezy, Jenna Laine of ESPN reports.

Sweezy had missed OTAs and mandatory minicamp recovering from a leg injury. A source told ESPN that Sweezy has officially been cleared to resume football activities.

After Logan Mankins retired, the Bucs signed Sweezy to a five-year contract worth $32.5 million in 2016. But after Sweezy missed that season while recovering from back surgery, the Bucs restructured his contract heading into 2017.

He started 14 games for the Bucs last season and was due to make $6.5 million in 2018. We will see the depth that the Bucs have on the O-Line with the release of Sweezy.

Uber Driver Thinks That Jameis Winston’s Apology Over Incident “Needs Some Work”

The Uber driver allegedly groped by NFL star Jameis Winston issued a statement on the importance of believing women reporting sexual misconduct, a day after the football league suspended the Buccaneers quarterback for three games, Talal Ansari of Buzzfeed reports.

“My experience should highlight the importance of believing women when we have the courage to come forward about sexual assault,” she said in a statement to BuzzFeed. “Perhaps that night could have been prevented if others had been believed before me.”

The driver previously told BuzzFeed News she was hailed to the lively party scene of downtown Scottsdale, Arizona, to pick Winston up around 2 a.m. on March 13, 2016. She filed a complaint with Uber soon after the ride, writing that “apparently a big athlete in the nfl” reached over “and put his fingers on my crotch.”

As a result of the complaint, Uber suspended Winston’s account.

The NFL’s suspension came after officials determined the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner violated the league’s personal conduct policy, the NFL said in a statement.

The quarterback had denied the allegation, which was first reported by BuzzFeed News in November.

In a statement on Thursday, Winston did not deny the allegation, but apologized to the driver “for the position I put you in.”

“I’m glad to see the NFL discipline Jameis Winston,” the driver said in her statement. “I do appreciate his apology even if it needs some work.”

Buccaneers Backup Ryan Fitzpatrick Ready to Reach Elite Company in 2018

Buccaneers backup Ryan Fitzpatrick is no one’s idea of an elite quarterback but his long time career and consistency are about to put him in some elite company according to Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk.com.

Because of starter Jameis Winston’s looming suspension, the 36-year-old Fitzpatrick is slated to start the first three games of the 2018 season for the Bucs. Fitzpatrick also started three games last year while Winston was injured. And Fitzpatrick has started at least three games every year since 2008. If all the other quarterbacks projected to be starters do so as well, Fitzpatrick will be one of only eight QBs who have starteed at least three games a season from 2008-2018. The other seven are Drew Brees, Joe Flacco, Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, Ben Roethlisberger and Matt Ryan, at least three of whom-Brees, Rodgers, and Roethlisberger-seem destined for the Hall of Fame .And all but Rivers have made at least one Super Bowl appearance.

Not bad for a seventh-round pick out of Harvard way back in 2005. Fitzpatrick barely saw the field his first three years in the league but has since had a prolific and very lucrative career and has had four 3000-plus seasons. He may not be elite but he is smart, durable, and wealthy.

Could the Buccaneers Take a Flier on Running Back Adrian Peterson?

The Bucs might take a look at former stud Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, who last season played for both the Arizona Cardinals ain nd ended the year with the New Orleans Saints.

Here’s the report about Tampa reportedly showing interest in Peterson, who is telling anyone that will listen that he’d like to play again this upcoming season.

According to Florida Football Insiders, “Tampa Bay may be ready to take a small gamble on bringing the future Hall of Famer in for one last try.”

The Bucs were one of the teams showing some interest in Peterson last year before he ended up in New Orleans. Recently, the former All-Pro revealed he wants to play another half decade, if that’s possible.

Last season was a mixed bag for the longtime veteran. He struggled during his tenure with the Saints before showing some signs of life with the Arizona Cardinals, who made a mid-season trade after losing David Johnson for the year.

Bucs Coach Mike Smith Says TB Defense Has to Be Better in 2018

Bucs fans may still be tempted, but there’s no need to tell Mike Smith how disappointing Tampa Bay’s defense — last in the NFL in sacks, last in passing yards allowed — was last season, Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times reports.

“It’s got to be a hell of a lot better than what we put out there last year,” Smith said Wednesday, asked how much better his defense must be. “I’ve said it many times. The numbers are not anywhere close to what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to be more consistent in everything we do, and it starts in the meeting rooms, in building trust with one another across the board. That’s the most important thing.”

The Bucs have helped Smith out by addressing the defense extensively in the offseason, first in signing end Vinny Curry and tackles Beau Allen and Mitch Unrein, then trading a third-round pick to get Pro Bowl end Jason Pierre-Paul.

In the draft, three of the first four picks were on defense, with defensive tackle Vita Vea in the first round and cornerbacks M.J. Stewart and Carlton Davis in the second round, plus two more defensive draft picks.

Smith said he was encouraged by how his defense continued to fight last year, through injuries and two five-game losing streaks, and that speaks to the character of the players he’s counting on to turn things around.

“The way that we played, how poorly we played, to show some resiliency at the end, that says at the core that we have some really strong-willed football players,” Smith said. “I think we’ve added guys that are strong-willed into the defensive meeting room, and they’re also better football players.”

Can the Bucs Go From Worst to First in 2018? Pro Football Weekly Discusses Their Chances

There’s been plenty of buzz around the Bucs since the NFL Draft nearly two weeks ago, as many think that the turnaround for the team will be swift, and not the long drawn out process that it’s taken for the team to start winning.

Today Pro Football Weekly’s Eric Edholm put out an article ranking all eight last place teams from the 2017 season, and if there’s a chance they can make it all the way to first place in 2018.

According to the article, the Bucs have the Fourth best shot to unseat the Saints for the Division title in 2018 – a feat that won’t come easy.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)

Everyone’s chic NFC South pick a year ago went into the dumpster, which then was embalmed with a few gallons of turpentine. They started out 2-1, then dropped four close games in a brutal October stretch and never really got back on track. Still, this was a team that was pretty competitive most Sundays despite being terrible at winning close games (3-7), mostly because it put itself in a lot of early holes — Tampa was outscored 288-193 in the first three quarters of games — and shot itself with turnovers.

Jameis Winston endured an injury-plagued season, DeSean Jackson was a bust after signing a big contract, the running backs provided zero burst to what was an unbalanced offense and the pass rush was virtually nil. That’s what placed head coach Dirk Koetter and defensive coordinator Mike Smith squarely on the hot seat.

But Winston is healthy again, and signs point to an improved run game with the signing of center Ryan Jensen and the drafting of Ronald Jones II, a big-play machine. The defensive front was almost completely remade with the additions of veteran defensive ends Vinny Curry and Jason Pierre-Paul and interior help alongside Gerald McCoy with first-round space eater Vita Vea and free agents Beau Allen and Mitch Unrein.

Is this team good enough to challenge both the Saints and Falcons, not to mention their fellow playoff participant Panthers? That’s highly debatable. But if you told me that the Bucs were to turn things around and finish above .500, I wouldn’t be shocked a bit.