It's no secret the Colts need a drastic upgrade at safety. Going into the season its their weakest position. The Colts have no depth and apologies to Aaron Francisco but he is not a starting quality safety either (I used to cringe when he was used as a back up). Earlier yesterday BBS wrote a piece on whether Chip Vaughn is the Colts answer at safety. As we both agree, doubtful.
Even if Melvin Bullitt is back, the Colts will need added depth and quality if, God forbid, Bethea were to go down.
Enter free agent Donte Whitner.
I realize he's not a popular pick and was never considered a leader (check out these comments for further validation). I also am aware many consider him a bust given he was drafted 8th overall, but hear me out.
Donte Whitner could be the answer to the Colts safety woes.
Whitner has been smacked with the scarlet mark of being labeled a bust. He's been arrested, criticized for not being a leader or the greatest teammate and has kind of a douchy persona on twitter.
In truth Whitner is way underrated * and understood, except for the twitter feed. Seriously, its surprisingly dopey.
Now to the asterisk. It was reported that Whitner wants eight million dollars a season to stay in upstate NY (I wouldn't blame him really). Therefore its no surprise that Buffalo wants to get rid of him as well. What is a bit weird is that they are so eager to part ways that they aren't even willing to negotiate. Bill's GM Buddy Nix went on record about Whitner saying "Donte Whitner I don’t think wants to be here, and he probably won’t" even though Whitner said he did.
Ouch. If Whitner wants eight million and think he's worth that, then forget this article. Whitner is a fool. But, my bet is that it's contract posturing. Plus if Buffalo doesn't even want to begin negotiations, who is going to offer the Ohio State star that kind of money? Nobody. Whitner suddenly goes from a vastly overrated contract asking price to underrated.
A counter argument is that why would the Colts want him if Buffalo of all places doesn't? Fair point. But I don't think it has to do as much with Whitner as it does with the terrible recent drafts of the Bills. Whitner is the fall guy. His previous erratic play and sometimes sour attitude allows Buffalo management to jump all over him. Nobody wants to criticize the hard working Paul Posluszny but Whitner, sure, he never fit in. He never wanted to be in Buffalo. Good riddance!
It's a way for Buffalo to purge their roster of any former high picks that didn't work out. Why else would Buffalo have traded Marshawn Lynch for only a 4th pick this year and 5th next when he can do this?
(That video never gets old. seriously, its one of the best sports youtube clips in recent memory. It has everything: the wow factor followed by the holy s*** factor! the underdog story - both Marshawn and the Seahawks, the crunch time element, the wild crowd noise and shaking of the stadium, a flash to a huffy Sean Payton and several Saints defenders absolutely getting trucked. Its perfect).
The video also highlights why Whitner's 'bust' label may just be a product of the Bills again mismanaging a top player... Anyway back to Whitner.
If you look at Whitner's numbers, they tell a different story. He might not be the best safety in coverage but damn can he hit and rarely does he miss tackles. Last season he was one of the best safeties in the game recording 140 tackles (36 more than his previous best).
What's more, in a piece on Bethea's sure tackling, ESPN's Paul Kuharsky pointed out that not only did Donte Whitner miss fewer tackles than Bethea he also wrapped more people up. His 3.4 percent miss-tackle rate was top four in the league and 140 tackles was the most of any of the other top five in the tackling efficiency category, meaning statistically Whitner was one of the best and surest tacklers in the league.
On top of that, Whitner is only 25 years old. Maybe all Whitner needs is a change of scenery. If Whitner came back to the Mid West (he went to school at OSU) and was paired with a winning organization with the Colts, why couldn't he improve his attitude? At 25 what's to say he won't learn from his experience in Buffalo and mature.
Whitner loves to play along the line and stuff the run which is a trait the Colts desperately need. When Bob Sanders was in the lineup the Colts were a different unit primarily because of Sanders' energy and dynamic presence in run support. If Whitner is willing to take less money and play/start for a contender he could provide the Colts with similar (not same) traits.
Getting Whitner on the field with Bethea would - if ESPN is correct - suddenly elevate the Colts to one of the most accurate tackling secondaries in the game. Are his coverage skills on par with what the Colts depend on? They could improve, but again, the beauty is Whitner is only 25.
Given Buffalo's current state defensively, they would be unwise to let him walk. They won't find a better option on the open market. Neither will the Colts.