Bucs’ change comes fast, furious in beginning of free agency
TAMPA, Fla. — Hear that, the change being spoken, lightning-quick action in free agency remaking the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
"We’re not simply talent collectors," general manager Jason Licht said. "We’re finding the right fits."
Hear that, reflection on five moves made with more promised to come, the break-neck developments the start of Lovie Smith’s vision gaining focus?
"It’s about establishing our foundation a little bit more," Smith said.
A day like Wednesday was needed for a franchise that was lost last year. There were Licht and Smith at One Buc Place, sitting alongside four of their free-agent signees — defensive end Michael Johnson, cornerback Alterraun Verner, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald and tight end Brandon Myers — and the meaning of the moment was obvious.
Welcome, new day.
Smith and Licht were hired in January, but this week marked the true start of their tenures. Buckle in and hold on tight. Enjoy the wild ride that is the seven-day-a-week, 12-month NFL beast — Tampa Bay style — with Smith and Licht as your guides.
"Oh, it’s awesome," Licht said of the day. "It’s great. It’s better than I anticipated. It’s probably one of the more exciting days I’ve had in my career after a couple of the most stressful days I’ve had in my career."
Catch your breath, Mr. GM. What’s to come? More names coming and others changing zip codes, change as common as beach days around the Bay Area this time of year.
Quarterback Josh McCown will be introduced Thursday afternoon, perhaps others. And already, the Bucs have waved goodbye to two-time Pro Bowl guard Davin Joseph and five-time Pro Bowl cornerback Darrelle Revis, cut Wednesday afternoon before he was due a $1.5 million roster bonus.
This much is clear: Smith and Licht aren’t messing around. Licht has spoken about a plan to enter free agency with aggression, and yeah, he wasn’t kidding.
"Coach Smith and his staff are good people," Johnson said. "Good things come to good people. When you do things the right way day in and day out, good things just happen for you. I’m just thankful to be a part of that. I’m excited to see what all we do. It’s going to be a lot great things coming this way, so just hold onto your seat."
Hold onto your Twitter account, too.
Expect more makeover to come. There were enough players throughout One Buc Place on Wednesday — signed and unsigned — to stage an OTA workout on the fields nearby. Among the confirmed free-agent visits yet to tie their futures to pewter and red: offensive tackle Anthony Collins, center Evan Dietrich-Smith, linebacker Dane Fletcher, wide receiver Ted Ginn and cornerback Charles Tillman.
That’s music to Bucs’ fans ears, after recent results burned their eyes.
Look, some call NFL free agency Christmas in March, though the feel-good tag comes with a humbling caveat. Usually, bad teams are the movers and shakers, and being labeled a "free-agency winner" is a hollow reward, like "earning" a top-10 draft pick year after year.
But the Bucs knew they had to sprint in these hours to have a fighters’ chance next fall. Certainly, any sane fan would excuse Smith if he only delivered six or seven victories next season.
Most of the time, little worth admiring is built overnight — contrary to what the Philadelphia Eagles or Kansas City Chiefs lead you to believe — and this reconstruction job in Tampa should take a few years.
But since Tuesday, the Bucs appear on their way: Focusing on players who fit Smith’s system, being smart about the salary cap, seeking value in the market.
Hear that, words about a plan becoming action, a coach’s philosophy launched?
"I think any time you want to improve your team at a certain stage, you want to have success with that," Smith said. "And for us, yes, we had been looking forward to free agency for a while, and I like what we’re able to do."
No surprise, the men at the table with pressed suits — plus a few more Benjamins — are believers too.
Johnson: "I’m very thankful to be here and be a part of what they have going here with the new staff and new regime."
Verner: "To be able to spend the next few years here and help build a championship team is just something that’s very intriguing."
McDonald: "It’s going to take a lot of focus, but I think we have the right people to do it and get the job done."
Myers: "I’m just excited to get started to get this thing going in the right direction."
The movement came fast, with warp blink-and-you’ll-miss-it speed.
Hear that, statements about a correction underway, with reason to believe better days are ahead?