He’s no Khalil Mack, but the Detroit Lions are making a move to upgrade their pass rush. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Lions are signing former Buccaneers edge rusher Robert Ayers to a one-year deal:
Lions signed former Buccaneers’, Giants’ and Broncos’ defensive Robert Ayers to a one-year deal, per source. More pass-rush help and versatility for the Lions.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 27, 2018
(Update: This is now confirmed by the team)
Last year, Ayers (32 years old) started 10 games for the Buccaneers, picking up 31 tackles and 2.0 sacks. Though that’s a pretty low statistical output, Pro Football Focus had him ranked as the ninth-best edge rusher in 2017, with a run defense grade of 73.7 (31st) and pass rush grade of 84.6 (14th).
Fans will see low sack totals and think Ayers doens't have much left in the tank, but over the past two seasons, no edge defender has more hits on the QB than Ayers' 35.— Brett Whitefield (@PFF_Brett) August 27, 2018
It’s that last number that could really help out the Lions. Through three preseason games thus far, the Lions have just one sack, and pass rush has been highlighted as a problem throughout last season and through training camp. Just last week, the Lions parted ways with one player they were hopeful would turn into a pass rushing threat, Cornelius Washington. And while they added an edge defender by trading for Eli Harold, pass rush is not one of his better qualities.
So Ayers will come in and not only compete for a roster spot, but there’s a good chance he’ll immediately be part of the defensive end rotation and get significant playing time come Week 1.
Ayers was a free agent after being released by Tampa Bay in March. The Lions have officially announced the move and cut cornerback Josh Okonye to make room for Ayers.