Bucs hire Cardinals’ Jason Licht to be new general manager

TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ search for a general manager is over.

On Tuesday, the team announced that it had hired Jason Licht, a former vice president of player personnel with the Arizona Cardinals, for the position. FOX Sports NFL Insider Jay Glazer first reported the news.

According to Glazer, Licht will have control of the draft and other personnel decisions. Licht will work alongside new coach Lovie Smith, whose contract includes a clause that gives him final say over all personnel matters on the Bucs’ 53-man roster.

"We are excited to welcome Jason Licht as the new general manager of the Buccaneers," Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer said in a release. "Jason is a seasoned NFL personnel veteran who has worked with some of the most accomplished individuals in professional football while contributing to success in New England, Philadelphia and Arizona. His strong player personnel background provides the ideal complement to Lovie Smith’s philosophy as our head coach. We look forward to working with Jason and Lovie as we set the foundation and chart the course for the future of Buccaneers football."

Building a legacy

Licht, 42, began his NFL career with the Miami Dolphins from 1995-96, where he served as an assistant in the college and pro personnel scouting departments and as an offensive assistant/quality control coach. He was a member of the Carolina Panthers’ scouting staff in 1998 before leaving in 1999 to spend a four-year stint in the New England Patriots’ player personnel department.

"Jason did a tremendous job in two different stints with the Cardinals and we knew it was only a matter of time before he would become a GM," Cardinals President Michael Bidwill said. "We know that he will do a great job in Tampa. At the same time Steve (Keim) has developed a very deep bench in our personnel department to prepare for this event and will continue to make that area a strength of the organization."

Licht joined the Philadelphia Eagles as the team’s assistant director of player personnel in 2003. In 2006, he was promoted to the club’s vice president of player personnel. Two years later, he became the Cardinals’ personnel executive, before leaving prior to the 2009 season to become the Patriots’ director of pro personnel. He held that title for three seasons before he re-joined the Cardinals as director of pro personnel. In January 2013, he was promoted to his most-recent role.

Licht, in 18 NFL seasons, has worked with teams that produced a combined 164-124 record. Named as the fifth general manager in Bucs history, he has been part of nine playoff appearances, eight division championships, four conference titles and one Super Bowl crown.

The working relationship between Licht and Smith will be worth watching closely. Shortly after Smith was hired Jan. 2 to replace the fired Greg Schiano, the coach addressed how he planned to cooperate with a future general manager on personnel matters.

"First off, I look at it as a marriage and as a big group making the decision," Smith said on Jan. 6. "Of course, as a head football coach, most things stop at your doorstep. … Once our owners decide who, exactly, will be (general manager), I look forward to getting with them and making decisions together that are going to lead us to a championship."

Licht beat out Marc Ross, the New York Giants’ vice present of player evaluation, for the position vacated when Mark Dominik was fired Dec. 30 with Schiano. Lionel Vital, the Atlanta Falcons’ director of player personnel, also was considered a possibility.

Together, Licht and Smith will try to revive a franchise that has fallen on hard times. The Bucs finished 4-12 last season, their third consecutive losing campaign and fourth in five years. The year included three MRSA cases, eight consecutive losses to start the season and a dramatic divorce with former starting quarterback Josh Freeman.

Tampa Bay’s playoff drought has reached six seasons. With a new GM and coach in place, the Bucs can begin crafting a strategy to change their course.

You can follow Andrew Astleford on Twitter @aastleford or email him at aastleford@gmail.com.