The Bucs were never going to spend huge sums of money this off-season on free agents. The talent wasn’t there, and the team has seen too many expensive purchases blow up in their face for them to make unnecessary splashes. Instead, the team was looking for moderately priced veterans with well-rounded skill sets to help them find some balance. In Robert Ayers and Brent Grimes, they achieved that.
With Jacquies Smith and Will Gholston the Bucs have defensive ends that specialize in one particular aspect of their position: Smith the pass-rusher and Gholston the edge-setter/run-stopper. Both are young players, but lack the polish at this stage to consistently play three downs. The team recognized this, and it was apparent in their approach to free agency. They struck out on well-rounded Charles Johnson, but hit a veritable triple on Robert Ayers. Ayers will without a doubt start from day one not only because of the money he’s making, but because of his ability to move around the line both inside and out, set the edge, and rush the passer. He’s the versatile veteran lineman that the team has sought since Michael Bennett walked.
The teams cornerback situation was similar. They have a big, plodding cornerback in Jonthan Banks who’s best suited to cover similarly big receivers, and a smaller, quick-twitch cornerback in Alteraun Verner who’s best suited for nickel duty and covering the smaller route technicians around the league. Enter Brent Grimes. Grimes doesn’t stand tall at 5’10, but he plays big and has the hops to get up and make plays on the biggest of NFL receivers. Sort of like this:
His athleticism combined with his short-area quickness, veteran savvy, and ball skills allow him to cover receivers of every shape, and gives the team some much needed versatility and stability.
Neither Ayers nor Grimes represent complete fixes to their respective ailing position group, but both are critical first steps in fixing the overall product. Bucs fans should be pleased with both additions, but also expect the team to continue building and strengthening these groups through the draft.