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Tampa Bay Buccaneers

GM Licht excited to see results of Bucs’ overhaul

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Published:   |   Updated: June 17, 2014 at 06:50 AM

— Jason Licht and his wife Blair still have a lot of unpacking to do before training camp begins as they move into their new Tampa Bay area home.

But the new general manager of the Buccaneers has a strong sense that most of the heavy lifting has already been completed.

Licht has worked closely with head coach Lovie Smith in overhauling a Tampa Bay roster that finished 4-12 last season, extending the franchise’s playoff drought to six years. The Bucs were very active in free agency and half their starters could be new when the regular season opens Sept. 7 at home against the NFC South champion Panthers.

“I’m super excited right now,’’ Licht said at the conclusion of Tampa Bay’s mandatory minicamp. “It’s a lot different than I thought when I first took the job. I didn’t know I’d be this excited in June about the team and our prospects. There’s a great energy in the building. I know there’s a few spots we’d like to add some depth to, but we have a lot of avenues and time to get that done.’’

One area of lingering concern is at the guard position, where former Pro Bowler Carl Nicks has been limited to only nine games in the past two years due to an array of foot problems.

Nicks, a high-priced free-agent addition from New Orleans in 2012, said he believes he’ll be ready to participate when camp opens July 25.

The major offseason additions — quarterback Josh McCown, rookie wide receiver Mike Evans, defensive end Michael Johnson and cornerback Alterraun Verner — have raised expectations for Licht and Smith.

“Things are really coming together,’’ said Licht, who served as director of pro personnel for the Cardinals in 2013. “Everyone saw what Kansas City did last season (improved from 2-14 to 11-5) ... why can’t it be us? Last year in Arizona we went 10-6. We made some strides and it seemed like people wanted to throw a parade for us, but the fact of the matter is we failed because we didn’t make the playoffs.

“Being 10-6 would be great for the Bucs this year, but the goal is making it to the dance. If we had any other goal, I’d be very upset.’’

Licht is impressed by Smith’s attention to detail and his meticulous planning in the year off since Smith was dismissed as coach of the Bears.

“Lovie knew he was getting back in the league,’’ Licht said, “and he put a lot of thought into every single hire he made here in Tampa. It’s an outstanding coaching staff, a group of guys who work well together. You can tell how much Lovie thought about his next staff during his paid year off. There’s a reason every single guy is here.’’

Licht is quick to acknowledge the Bucs roster wasn’t devoid of talent when the new regime arrived in January. Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy and outside linebacker Lavonte David are elite young players, while wide receiver Vincent Jackson and running back Doug Martin each made the Pro Bowl in 2012.

“We’ve got a whole new coaching staff, a whole new system and a whole lot of new players,’’ said Licht, “but it’s safe to say we’re very excited about some of our holdovers, too. Those guys will have a lot of say in determining how far we go this season.’’

ikaufman@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7833

Twitter: @IKaufmanTBO

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