The Buccaneers have released defensive end Robert Ayers Jr. after two seasons.
Ayers started 20 games over the course of two seasons with the Buccaneers. He played in 24 games and missed four due to injury in both his 2016 and 2017 campaigns. During that time, the defensive end totaled 41 tackles and 8.5 sacks, though only two of those sacks came in 2017. His 2017 struggles were part of a season where the Bucs' defense recorded just 22 sacks on the year.
The Buccaneers signed Ayers as a free agent to a three-year deal from the New York Giants in 2016. The signing came as Ayers finished up a two-year contract with New York and a 2015 season where he set his career record and led all Giants' players with 9.5 sacks. In his two years with New York, he racked up 14.0 total sacks and 105 tackles.
A former first-round pick, Ayers was selected 18th overall by the Denver Broncos in the 2009 NFL Draft out of the University of Tennessee. He spent five seasons in Denver, recording 105 tackles and 12.0 sacks in 72 games.
The move comes as Tampa Bay finished last in total sacks in 2017 and total yards given up with 6,049. The Buccaneers have made a few moves so far in free agency, signing defensive linemen Beau Allen, formerly of the Philadelphia Eagles, as well as Mitchell Unrein, who came from the Chicago Bears. Tampa Bay has defensive end Will Gholston locked in until 2022 and the line is still anchored by veteran defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who is under contract with the Bucs until 2022 as well.