Jason Licht found right fit in Tampa Bay

TEMPE, Ariz. – It was a matter of time before a team lured Jason Licht away from the Arizona Cardinals.

That day came Monday, when the now former Arizona Cardinals vice president of player personnel was hired by Tampa Bay as its next general manager. Hiring Licht wasn’t a gimme for the Buccaneers. He’s had pursuers before (Jacksonville last year and Miami this year) and had been turned down, finishing second to Phil Emery for Chicago’s GM job a year ago.

It has become a cliché around the coaching and front office ranks, but Licht was waiting for the right job, and that meant he would have to have control over personnel decisions. But here’s where things get interesting. According to a story by ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter on Jan. 5, new Bucs coach Lovie Smith has a clause in his contract that gives him “final say” over the 53-man roster.

So, something had to give. Or somebody.

I think it was Smith and the Bucs.

According to reports, the Bucs will indeed give Licht control of the draft and other personnel decisions. It’s the fit that Licht wanted and it obviously is in line with how Smith wants his team run.

Licht’s reputation as a top-tier evaluator precedes him and he’s known to be very detailed in his process. Licht has won everywhere he’s been. Four of his teams – the 2001 and 2007 New England Patriots, 2004 Philadelphia Eagles and the 2008 Cardinals – have played in the Super Bowl. Arizona was among the most intriguing storylines of the season in 2013. Letting a man with a pedigree like Licht’s handle the roster can provide instant dividends, especially in a transition year like this. The NFL saw that this year. If Keim wasn't available, Licht was the next best thing.

That’s what Smith and the Bucs need. That's what they got.

While Licht wanted to be a general manager, he was also happy being in Arizona. He would’ve been content going through another year of interviews and returning to build on what the Cardinals achieved this past season while waiting for the right move. Apparently, he found it. He has a good, young quarterback, a strong secondary and a solid running game to build around in Tampa.

A year ago tomorrow, Licht was promoted to vice president of player personnel and all he and general manager Steve Keim did was work with head coach Bruce Arians to construct a roster of castaway veterans, mid-level players who still had something to prove and rookies that took a 5-11 team to 10-6. His work in Arizona was nearly done – a championship would’ve been the icing on the cake, but Licht found what he was looking for.

And it’s the right fit.