The main focus at One Buc Place Monday was the addition of cornerback Brent Grimes, but not unnoticed were the two other key signings Tampa Bay made on defense this past week.
First, the Buccaneers addressed their pass rush by inking former Giants defensive end Robert Ayers to a three-year, $21 million deal on Friday, just hours after signing Grimes. Ayers is fresh off an impressive 9.5-sack, 41-tackle season, albeit during a contract-year, leaving some skeptical that he can repeat that success and not fall back into his old ways. In his first six years – five in Denver and one in New York – the former first-round pick had just 17 sacks and 164 tackles in 84 games with 28 starts.
The Buccaneers, which had been trying for two years to land a veteran edge rusher, are confident that Ayers’ last three years are a more accurate indication of what’s to come than his first four seasons.
“We’ve followed Robert throughout his career and have some coaches who know him, maybe not coached him but on visits have known him and have done a lot of research,” general manager Jason Licht said. “He’s a great person and has had a couple of good years, the last three years.”
So while it’s a little curious that the Giants were willing to shell out $85 million to Olivier Vernon and not a fraction of that number to re-sign Ayers, Tampa Bay believes they found a steal in the 30-year old edge rusher and someone who brings veteran leadership to a young defensive line.
“He brings a lot of versatility to our defense on what we plan on doing,” Licht said. “He was the right kind of guy and right kind of fit.”
Moving to the back end, Tampa Bay also re-signed Chris Conte on Sunday, giving them the same quartet of safeties from last year. While the secondary struggled throughout the 2015 season, Licht felt that Conte’s play was a silver lining in the overall effort and worth rewarding with a new contract. In a move that keeps continuity on defense, both sides were thrilled to reach an agreement.
Bucs FS Chris Conte – Photo by: Getty Images
“That was one of the things coach and I talked about at the onset of free agency, that we wanted to bring Chris back,” Licht said. “And he wanted to be here, too, so that was an easy one. He’s a very good, still young safety. When things were going well for us last year he was a big part of that. It gives us some continuity back there and he has familiarity in the scheme with (secondary coach) Jon Hoke. We’re very excited about having him back.”
So far, Tampa Bay’s defensive moves in free agency have included re-signing safeties Chris Conte and Keith Tandy, and adding cornerback Brent Grimes and end Robert Ayers. The team elected against tendering Danny Lansanah, leaving the Sam linebacker position completely up for grabs as of now.
Zach is entering his 3rd year covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as a writer for PewterReport.com. Since 2014, he's handled a large part of the beat reporting responsibilities at PR, attending all media gatherings and publishing and promoting content daily. Zach is a native of Sarasota, FL, and a graduate of the University of Tampa. He has also covered high school football for the Tampa Tribune and the NFL for Pro Player Insiders.
Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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We’re going to find out after a couple games whether Licht knows something more than all these other teams who weren’t interested in signing any of their or our Free Agency, or not.
I like the fact the Bucs kept Tandy as I feel he is a quality backup. As for Major Wright, he hasn’t made a major play that I can remember since he got here.
I’d like to know what the Bucs are going to do with DE George Johnson.
Dump him….bad hire. Forget what we owe him. Out with the bad, in with the good!!
I think Tampa will make a decision after the OTA and training camp and who they bring In.Remember fans these pros have to make impression at Tampa if not there always other veterans who would like to play again espically if they get cut, to return and make a team.go bucs and move forward.
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