Bucs have a favorite for No. 1 pick, but keeping 'all options on the table'
INDIANAPOLIS—Jameis Winston? Marcus Mariota? A trade down? Tampa Bay GM Jason Licht said Wednesday that they want "all options on the table" for the Buccaneers' No. 1 overall pick in this year's draft.
There is a frontrunner, though ... even if no one outside the Tampa Bay front office knows who it is.
"We have a favorite," Licht admitted, "but we want to let the process play out."
Coach Lovie Smith made clear that the Buccaneers are comfortable, at least at the moment, with the thought of Winston as the potential face of their franchise. Smith also went almost out of his way to praise Mariota, noting that the knock on Oregon's former QB for playing in a "college system" may be misguided.
"In Marcus’s case, he ran an offense most [NFL] teams don’t run," Smith said. "But I have seen him scramble around, make decisions and make most of the throws he'll need to make in the NFL."
Licht confirmed, to no one's surprise, that the Buccaneers would meet with both Mariota and Winston—as well as dozens of other prospects—this week.
"We'll have plenty of meetings," Licht said. "I don't know if 15 minutes (the time allotted for each team-player talk at the combine) will be enough for either of them. ... We're using a lot of resources. A lot of resources to dig into every player's background. We'll cross every T and dot every I before we make a decisions. ... Character is important to [Smith] and it is important to me."
A lingering X-factor in the Buccaneers's draft discussions is the status of 2013 third-round pick Mike Glennon. The recent release of veteran Josh McCown left only Glennon and futures-contract signee Seth Lobato on the depth chart at the QB position.
Glennon started 13 games in his rookie season and another five last year. He's compiled a 5–13 record in those outings, with 29 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions.
"The plan is to move forward with Mike Glennon," Smith said. He later qualified that statement with a less-enthused outlook, adding, "You look at our roster, Mike is the quarterback's on our roster."
Said Licht: "We like Mike Glennon. We want him to be a part of our future."
Of course, that future for Glennon could be as a backup for either Mariota or Winston, should the Buccaneers opt to stay at No. 1 and grab a quarterback.
"You’re always going to look for the franchise quarterback," Smith said, perhaps another indication that Glennon does not fit the bill. Just this past December, Smith declared that McCown—signed after Smith took the Buccaneers job last offseason—gave Tampa Bay its best chance to win.
Smith's and Licht's comments about Glennon seemed to fall somewhere between Tampa Bay truly hoping to hang onto the third-year QB and an attempt to generate even a tiny bit of trade value. In other words, while neither member of the Buccaneers' brass revealed outright that a QB will come off the board No. 1, reading between the lines might push one toward that conclusion. Instead, Tampa Bay will stick to avoiding any "This isn't the pick" talk, shying away from comments that would eliminate Winston, Mariota or any other viable prospect as a possibility up top.
"We're leaning toward using the pick," Licht said. "But we'll let it play out. It would be a little [early] to say, 'This is the pick.'"
For now, the Buccaneers have a player in mind. And a long way to go.