Robert Ayers

Free Agent DE Robert Ayers Retires

Our second retirement of Tuesday afternoon comes from Robert Ayers, a nine-year veteran who played for the Broncos, Giants and Buccaneers. Ayers announced his retirement via Facebook highlight montage.

Ayers never made a Pro Bowl but was a key starter for all three franchises for which he played. The defensive end’s most productive seasons came later in his career, when he ran off a stretch of four straight five-plus-sack slates beginning with his age-28 campaign. The first of those seasons, 2013, ended with a Super Bowl XLVIII appearance with the Broncos (a Super Bowl in which, interestingly, fellow July 16, 2019 retiree Chris Maragos also played).

A 2009 first-round pick out of Tennessee, who came to the Broncos as part of their trade package in the Jay Cutler trade, Ayers was known as a plus run-stopper but only registered 6.5 combined sacks in his first four seasons. In his fifth, he produced 5.5 sicks and parlayed that into a two-year Giants deal. A nine-sack 2015 season with Big Blue led to Ayers’ top payday, a three-year Bucs deal worth $19.5MM. He recorded 6.5 sacks with the ’16 Bucs.

Several teams worked out Ayers in 2018, and the Lions employed him for a day late last summer. But he did not play in a game last season and will ultimately leave the game at age 33.

For his career, Ayers compiled 34.5 sacks and started 59 games, serving as an edge counterpart to the likes of Von Miller and Jason Pierre-Paul. He also registered three playoff sacks, taking down Ben Roethlisberger twice in the Broncos’ overtime victory in a 2011 wild-card game and and dropping Tom Brady once in the AFC title game two years later. The latter effort helped an undermanned Denver defense to a dominant win.

NFL Workout Updates: 10/30/18

Here’s the latest from the workout circuit. All links to veteran NFL reporter Howard Balzer’s Twitter account, unless otherwise specified.

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Detroit Lions

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Falcons To Sign Michael Bennett

The Falcons are signing former Jaguars defensive tackle Michael Bennett, sources tell Tom Pelissero of (on Twitter). Bennett, a former sixth-round draft pick out of Ohio State in 2015, played in 13 games for the Jaguars in 2015 and one game in 2017.

The Falcons needed some interior depth after Grady Jarrett suffered a sprained ankle on Sunday. So, the Falcons are turning to Bennett, who has talent, but has also been dealing with calf and pectoral injuries over the last two seasons.

In addition to signing Bennett, the Falcons also worked out defensive ends Robert Ayers and Kony Ealy on Tuesday, Pelissero hears. A deal could still come together for one of those players, but interior depth was the priority for Atlanta.

Vikings Work Out Houston, Ayers

With Everson Griffen out indefinitely, the Vikings are looking into help along the edge. On Monday, the team auditioned Lamarr Houston and Robert Ayers, according to Tom Pelissero of (on Twitter).

Houston, 31, is looking to catch on with his fourth NFL team. He split last season between the Bears and Texans, compiling 17 tackles, five sacks, and one forced fumble in 10 games (one start). While the veteran has clearly lost a step, he could still provide the Vikings with some leadership and depth.

Ayers is known for his run-stopping ability at defensive end, but it’s not clear whether he’s healthy at the moment. After starting 20 games for the Bucs over the 2016 and ’17 seasons, he was released this offseason. The Lions picked him up in August, but wound up releasing him the next day.

The Vikings have dropped their last two games and have not won since the season opener against the 49ers. Things won’t get any easier this weekend when they take on the Eagles in Philadelphia, so they may want to pick up some reinforcements where they can.

Dolphins Work Out Robert Ayers, Kony Ealy

The Dolphins’ deep defensive end corps took two big hits on Sunday. William Hayes suffered a season-ending knee injury in Miami’s win over Oakland, and Andre Branch will also miss time.

Miami intends to sign a defensive end, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes, adding that both Robert Ayers and Kony Ealy worked out for the Dolphins on Tuesday. These two were among several defensive ends that auditioned for the Dolphins today, according to Jackson.

Ealy could not make the Cowboys’ 53-man roster after spending the 2017 season with the Jets. The former Panthers second-round pick played three years in Carolina before being traded to New England, which did not work out. The Dolphins would be Ealy’s third AFC East employer, in the event they went in this direction.

Ayers has been one of this era’s better run-stopping defensive ends. He started 20 games for the Buccaneers between the 2016 and ’17 seasons. The Bucs cut him this offseason. So did the Lions, who only employed Ayers for one day.

This is Ayers’ first known workout since that preseason cut. As a nine-year veteran, Ayers would add more experience to a D-line chock full of it. Branch, Cameron Wake and Robert Quinn reside on the Fins’ front, with second-year man Charles Harris in the equation, too.

Lions Release DE Robert Ayers

Well, that was fast. After signing defensive end Robert Ayers on Monday, the Lions announced on Tuesday that he has been released. 

Ayers, 33 on Sept. 6, was expected to help the Lions as a pass rush specialist. While he posted only two sacks a season ago, he managed 28 pressures (a better indication of production) and graded as Pro Football Focus‘ No. 10 edge defender. Ayers’ experience in both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes made him a logical fit for defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni, but something went awry in Detroit.

Ayers has played in only ten games in each of the past two seasons for the Bucs, so his health may have been an issue.

Lions To Sign DE Robert Ayers

The Lions have signed Robert Ayers to a one-year deal, a source tells Adam Schefter of (on Twitter). With less than a week to go before final cuts, the defensive end will work to impress coaches and make his case to aid in Detroit’s pass rush. 

Ayers will turn 33 on Sept. 6, but he’s still an outstanding pass rusher. While he posted only two sacks a season ago, he managed 28 pressures (a better indication of production) and graded as Pro Football Focus‘ No. 10 edge defender. Ayers also offers experience in both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, so he may be an ideal fit for defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni, who likes to switch between both.

The only major strike against Ayers is his injury history. He’s played in only ten games in each of the past two seasons for the Bucs.

Saints, Falcons, Panthers Interested In DE Robert Ayers

Instead of taking multiple free agent visits, former Buccaneers defensive end Robert Ayers plans to meet with teams at the NFL’s annual meeting in Orlando, according to Ian Rapoport of (video link), who reports the Saints, Falcons, and Panthers all have interest in Ayers.

New Orleans, Atlanta, and Carolina, of course, all reside in the NFC South, meaning each club was able to see Ayers’ production from a close vantage point over the past two years as he played for Tampa Bay. The Saints, for their part, have addressed their pass rush by re-signing defensive end Alex Okafor, while the Panthers upgraded their interior by inking Dontari Poe. The Falcons haven’t yet added any new players on the edge, but they have met with free agent Pernell McPhee.

Ayers is now entering his age-32 campaign, but he’s still an outstanding pass rusher. While Ayers posted only two sacks a season ago, he managed 28 pressures (a better indication of production) and graded as Pro Football Focus‘ No. 10 edge defender. Ayers also offers experience in both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes, although injuries will be a question mark, as he’s only played in 10 games in each of the past two seasons.

After being cut by the Buccaneers earlier this week, Ayers is now part of a free agent edge class that also includes McPhee, Connor Barwin, Junior Galette, Derrick Shelby, and Kony Ealy, among others.

Buccaneers To Sign Vinny Curry

The Buccaneers are moving fast. Minutes after their release of Robert Ayers, the team is set to sign Vinny Curry.

Jenna Laine of reports the Bucs are adding Curry, whom the Eagles released late this week, on a three-year deal worth $27MM with $11.5MM guaranteed.

Curry made 16 starts last season for the Super Bowl champions, the first 16 of his career, and played a key role in Philadelphia’s first Super Bowl title run. The Bucs have now added two pieces from Philly’s defensive front, with Curry joining Beau Allen. They’ve also added Mitch Unrein in what’s been a major effort to overhaul the Gerald McCoy-centered unit.

Set to turn 30 in June, Curry will land on his feet. The Eagles were slated to pay him $9MM this season as part of the previous extension he signed in 2016. Now, he’ll get that from the Bucs per year.

Curry ranked 21st among Pro Football Focus’ edge defender grades last season, 11 spots behind Ayers, and will be expected to provide an outside pass rush to complement McCoy’s nearly unparalleled interior-pursuit abilities. Curry’s best season (2014, nine sacks) came in a 3-4 defense as a rotational player who played on just 32 percent of Philly’s snaps, Adam Caplan of notes (on Twitter). He will likely be utilized more as a pure pass rusher since the Bucs do not have the edge-rushing depth the 2017 Eagles did.

So, Michael Bennett replaced Curry and now Curry will take over for Ayers. It figures to be a matter of time before Ayers lands elsewhere.

[RELATED: Buccaneers Depth Chart]

Buccaneers Release Robert Ayers

Robert Ayers will not see a third season with the Buccaneers. The team has made the decision to release him, Field Yates of tweets.

The Bucs signed Ayers during the 2016 free agency period. He was due to make $6MM this season, but Tampa Bay won’t be charged with any dead money for cutting bait on a three-year agreement after two seasons.

Despite Ayers having completed his age-32 season, he remained a high-end producer in Tampa. Pro Football Focus graded the defensive end as the No. 10 edge defender in the league last season. He produced both as a pass rusher and a run defender, but Tampa Bay will turn to a younger player to replace him. Vinny Curry will join the Bucs, following Beau Allen, Will Clarke and Mitch Unrein in what’s looking like a near-total revamp around Gerald McCoy.

A former Giants and Broncos cog with experience as an end in 3-4 and 4-3 defenses, Ayers figures to generate interest on the open market. Although, he wasn’t especially durable with the Bucs, playing in just 10 games in each of his two seasons. His sack total plummeted from 9.5 with the 2015 Giants to six with the ’16 Bucs to 2.5 last season.

Ayers will be set for a 10th NFL season if he signs elsewhere.