Free Agency 2016

Buccaneers Upgrade Defense by Signing DE Robert Ayers and CB Brent Grimes

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After a few slow days at the start of free agency for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, general manager Jason Licht struck twice on Friday as the Buccaneers upgraded their defense by signing former New York Giants defensive end and former Miami Dolphins cornerback Brent Grimes.

“Robert is a versatile pass rusher who can play a variety of positions along the defensive line and has been successful both from the interior as well as the edge,” said Licht. “He has posted 20 sacks over the past three years, is coming off the best season of his career and is an ideal fit for our 4-3 defensive system. Experienced pass rushers who can provide consistent pressure and disrupt an opponent’s passing game are critical to our defensive success and Robert will do all those things, along with providing veteran leadership.”

In 2015, Ayers set career highs in sacks (9.5), tackles for loss (11) and forced fumbles (2). His team-leading 9.5 sacks in 2015 are the most by any player that entered free agency this offseason and his 22 quarterback hits were the 12th-most in the league last season. Ayers recorded at least one sack in each of the final five games, with his 7.5 sacks in Weeks 13-17 standing as the second-most in the league during that time. He has been one of Pro Football Focus’ top six 4-3 defensive ends each of the past two seasons.

Ayers (6-3, 275) comes to Tampa Bay after two seasons with New York (2014-15). He originally entered the league as a first-round selection by the Denver Broncos in the 2009 NFL Draft and spent his first five seasons in Denver (2009-13). In his seven-year career, Ayers has played in 96 regular season games, with 39 starts, totaling 204 tackles, 41 tackles for loss, 26.5 sacks, 11 passes defensed, six forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries. He has also played in six career postseason contests, with one start, notching nine tackles, three tackles for loss and 3.0 sacks.

Although that is a huge number of sacks last year in just 12 games, you do have to take into account that the Giants defense finished last in the NFL in yards allowed and last in passing. Teams simply threw more against the Giants (29th most pass attempts) than most other teams, therefore he had more chances for sacks.

The Bucs also potentially upgraded the secondary by signing Grimes, who had a down 2015 campaign in Miami.

“Brent is the kind of playmaking defensive back that will make an immediate impact in our secondary,” said Licht. “Brent is a four-time Pro Bowler who will come in and provide an immediate upgrade at a position we felt we needed to address this offseason. His familiarity with our defensive system, combined with his aggressive style of play, makes him an ideal fit for us.”

Grimes (5-10, 185) comes to Tampa Bay after three seasons with the Miami Dolphins (2013-15). Prior to his time with Miami, Grimes spent six seasons with Atlanta (2007-12) where current Buccaneers defensive coordinator Mike Smith served as the Falcons head coach from 2008-12. In his nine-year career, Grimes has 90-of-106 regular season games he has played in, totaling 401 tackles, 99 passes defensed, 26 interceptions (357 return yards, two touchdowns), two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

“I am very excited to be able to continue my career playing in a defensive system and for a defensive coordinator that I am very familiar with,” said Grimes. “Tampa Bay has a great core of players on both sides of the ball and I am looking forward to doing what I can to help re-establish the Buccaneers defense as one of the best in the league.”

A four-time Pro Bowl selection (2010, 2013-15) and a 2014 Second-Team Associated Press All-Pro, Grimes’ 26 interceptions are tied for the seventh-most among active players. Since joining Miami in 2013, Grimes has totaled 13 interceptions, tied for the fourth-most in the league during that time. A two-time Defensive Player of the Week (NFC Week 15, 2010; AFC Week 9, 2014), Grimes was named the NFL Alumni Defensive Back of the Year following the 2011 season.

The biggest issue with Grime is figuring out if last season was the start of a sharp decline in play, or just a one-year blip, as he had to play under multiple systems with the dysfunctional Dolphins coaching staff.

Another issue will be keeping his wife Miko under control as far as her badmouthing the team.  Numerous league sources told Football Insiders that they “wouldn’t touch Grimes because of his wife.”

She often spoke out via social media and through her radio show about the Dolphins coaching staff and quarterback Ryan Tannehill.

It’s obviously a potential distraction that the Bucs were willing to take a chance on.


About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.