TAMPA — With only six selections in what scouts believe is one of the deepest talent pools in NFL draft history, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are already working at a disadvantage as the 2014 draft approaches.
Bucs general manager Jason Licht is willing to do what’s necessary to correct that situation, even it means abandoning the seventh overall pick.
“That is something that we would definitely look into,’’ Licht said Tuesday. “And we’ve already reached out to teams. If our player isn’t there we’d really be open to conversations about moving back and picking up picks.’’
The Bucs have one pick in every round but the fourth, where their selection now belongs to the New York Jets, who secured it earlier in the offseason as part of the Darrelle Revis trade the Bucs made last year.
A fourth-round selection is one pick the Bucs would like to get back if at all possible, but Licht said it’s still too soon to know if he can work a deal to get that or any other pick the Bucs may be seeking.
The wealth of underclassmen in this year’s draft is one reason for his uncertainty. With 98 players entering the draft following their junior year a lot of teams may want to sit tight and take advantage of the draft’s value.
The depth of the draft “may make it more difficult” to do a deal,’ Licht said. “It all depends on the flavor they want. If a team loves a player around where we’re at and they don’t want to miss out on him, well ... .
“The bottom line is, we have to find a trade partner. The thing is, you just don’t know how this is going to fall until draft day. You can try to speculate, try to guess, all we know is there are going to be some surprises.’’
One surprise may come courtesy of the Bucs. When asked about the possibility of trading out of the top 10 to add more picks, coach Lovie Smith suggested the Bucs might go in a different direction.
“How about moving up, what do you think about that?’’ Smith said. “But (trading down) would make sense. With what happened in free agency and what we know about our roster right now, we like that options as much as anything.’’
The Bucs used free agency to bring in more than a dozen new players, including projected starters at right defensive end (Michael Johnson), cornerback (Alterraun Verner) and under tackle (Clinton McDonald).
They also added projected starters at quarterback (Josh McCown), left tackle (Anthony Collins) and tight end (Brandon Myers), but they still have some holes to fill, particularly at wide receiver and guard.
The Bucs may be able to fill one of those needs simply by staying put at No 7. Several draft analysts have suggested the Bucs could easily grab Texas A&M wideout Mike Evans, the draft’s second-rated pass catcher, at that spot.
But this draft is believed to be deepest at the receiver position, where some general managers have suggested that starting-caliber players could be available as late as the third or possibly even fourth round.
Guard, meanwhile, is a position where the best players usually don’t start coming off the board until late in the first round and sometimes last until well into the third or fourth round.
That’s why trading down may be the best option for the Bucs, who could add another pick in the early or middle rounds and still fill what seems to be their most glaring areas of need.
Of course, the Bucs aren’t ready to commit to that course of action just yet. To hear Smith tell it, they’d be just as happy to stay put in the first round as they would be to trade down.
“We think there are a lot of good players further down in the draft,’’ Smith said. “But at that seventh spot, we feel like we’re going to get a pretty good player there, too.’’
Whoever the player is that the Bucs take at No. 7 - should they opt to stay there - he will almost certainly have to be capable of stepping in and contributing immediately, Smith said.
“There’s no rebuilding around here,’’ Smith said. “We’re trying to put together a roster to be able to win as quick as we possibly can. The seventh pick, he normally plays fairly soon.”