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Bucs add Robert Ayers, Brent Grimes to make defense better

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On Thursday, the Bucs tried to refortify their running game.

On Friday, they addressed their defense.

The Tampa Bay Bucs, who struggled to stop the pass all of 2015, took two steps to get better in free agency. They signed former Giants’ defensive end Robert Ayers and former 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 Buccaneers General Manager Jason 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.

Grimes spent five seasons playing for defensive coordinator Mike Smith in Atlanta.

“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 Smith served as the Falcon’s head coach from 2008-12. In his nine-year career, Grimes has 90 starts, totaling 401 tackles, 99 passes defensed, 26 interceptions (357 return yards, two touchdowns), two forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

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.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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