January 29, 2021 | 3:10 PM
When Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht orchestrated the signing of Tom Brady in free agency ahead of the 2020 season, it wasn’t his first time being associated with the six-time Super Bowl winner.
Licht, 49, worked for the Patriots in one of his early NFL roles prior to the start of the Bill Belichick era.
“I got my first job with the Patriots in 1999,” Licht said in a press conference earlier this week. “It was my first full-time scouting job for a club. We went 8-8 that year. Pete Carroll was the coach. He was let go, and then Bill Belichick was hired and went right into draft meetings the minute he walked into the building.
“I got to know him through those meetings,” said Licht. “A little intimidating, but he ended up giving me a promotion after that.”
During Belichick’s first few weeks as Patriots coach — following the protracted “border wars” that ensued after his resignation from the Jets and subsequent trade to New England — Licht helped assemble the team’s plan for the 2000 draft.
Among the names being considered in Foxborough was a quarterback from Michigan, Tom Brady.
“I did not personally scout Tom,” Licht recalled. “I was a Southeast area scout at the time. I listened to the conversations about him and we watched tape together, but I can’t take any credit for Tom being drafted.”
Still, Licht had some interesting historical insight into what proved to be the greatest value pick in NFL draft history (New England selected Brady with the 199th pick).
“I do know that Coach Belichick really had his eye on him for a long time,” said Licht. “We took him in the sixth. We didn’t need a quarterback at the time. [Belichick ranked] him much higher than that — he and Scott Pioli had him much higher than that on the board. The conversation started with, if I recall correctly, the third round, and he was still sitting there in the sixth and they took him.”
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