Buccaneers: Grading the 2016 Free Agent Class
By Bailey Adams
Robert Ayers (Grade: B+)
Much like the aforementioned secondary problems heading into the 2016 free agency period, the Bucs had an issue to address with their pass rush. They looked to solve at least part of that problem by signing former New York Giant Robert Ayers to a three-year, $21 million contract. $10.5 million of that was guaranteed money for the veteran defensive end, but the deal looks like a pretty good, at least through year one.
Ayers didn’t necessarily have the impact that the team hoped he would, considering he was coming off of a 9 1/2 sack season in 2015. He struggled with injuries early on in the year, leading him to miss four games. When he returned, though, he was a force to be reckoned with. Five of his 6 1/2 sacks came after he returned from injury. That includes a three-game streak of picking up a sack.
The signing of the 31-year-old looked like a bust at first, when he missed four games early in the season, but his productiveness in the last 10 games of the season was a good sign. He was able to spark his sack numbers, but also provide consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks, something that Tampa Bay has struggled with for years. And, he seems to have endeared himself to Bucs fans in a big way. The defensive line still isn’t where it needs to be, but as the Bucs continue to build, Ayers is certainly a great piece to have.