Robert Ayers signing caps Buccaneers' solid start to free agency

After patiently waiting out the first two days of free agency, Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht needed only six hours to address his defense's two biggest problems.

The Bucs needed to get better in the secondary and at defensive end, and Licht took care of both Friday by signing cornerback Brent Grimes and defensive end Robert Ayers. Neither was a front-line free agent that teams moved to scoop up Wednesday, but they're both good players.

Add in the signing of guard J.R. Sweezy on Wednesday to offset the retirement of Logan Mankins, and the re-signing of running back Doug Martin, and Licht has put together a nice signing class. He landed three new starters for reasonable money: three years and $21 million ($10 million guaranteed) for Ayers, two years and $13.5 million ($3 million in incentives) for Grimes, and five years and $32.5 million for Sweezy.

It's the addition of Ayers, though, that could make the biggest difference on defense. The 30-year-old is coming off a career-high 9.5 sacks in 2015 with the Giants. The Bucs didn't get much production out of the defensive end spot in 2015 -- Jacquies Smith had 7.0 sacks, but four came in the first two games -- and needed to upgrade there.

A better pass rush should help the secondary, and Grimes could be a big beneficiary. He has 13 interceptions in the past three seasons, and additional pressure on the quarterback should give the four-time Pro Bowler more opportunities in 2016.

The Bucs had one of the worst pass defenses in 2015. They gave up 31 touchdown passes, and opposing quarterbacks completed an NFL-high 70 percent of their passes and had a 102.5 passer rating, which was worse than all but one team (Saints, 116.2).

Licht took a patient and fiscally responsible approach toward three of the team's weaknesses. That's a pretty good start to making the Bucs legitimate contenders again in the NFC South.