Bucs GM Jason Licht: Jordan Whitehead leaving was my mistake, glad to have him back

The Buccaneers drafted safety Jordan Whitehead in 2018, had him for four years, and then let him walk in free agency with the Jets in 2022. This offseason, the Bucs signed Whitehead back, and General Manager Jason Licht is kicking himself for ever letting Whitehead leave.

Licht said on the Loose Cannons Podcast that he was trying to responsibly manage the salary cap when he decided not to offer Whitehead a contract as lucrative as the two-year, $14.5 million deal he got with the Jets. But almost immediately Licht realized that he shouldn't have let a player of Whitehead's quality walk, and getting him back in free agency this year was a big win for the franchise.

“With Jordan, it was a mea culpa,” Licht said, via the Tampa Bay Times. “We had to draw the line at some point. And I made a mistake. I’m glad we got him back. It was a mistake that I regretted the minute we let him walk. Luckily, I had a chance to get him back. And nobody’s happier than him, [safeties coach] Nick Rapone, [head coach] Todd Bowles, myself. He’s going to make a big impact for us this year.”

At the time the Bucs let Whitehead walk, they weren't in great salary cap shape and were trying to balance the chance to win another title with Tom Brady against the possibility they'd find themselves in cap hell after Brady retired. As it turned out, the Bucs were able to win the NFC South in the first year post-Brady, and then to find the cap space to bring back a player they wished they hadn't lost.