Between now and the start of free agency, Stampede Blue will profile free agents the Indianapolis Colts could and should target when the new collective bargaining agreement is signed and the lockout lifted. Today, this post is sponsored by XFINITY.
Free Agent Target: Brendan Mebane, DT, Seahawks
Stop me if you've heard this before: The Colts need a defensive tackle in order to-- (readers smash brick over BBS's head).
OK, that's one way of stopping me from re-writing the same, tired issue that has plagued this franchise since Bill Polian took over the football operations in 1998. DT is still a major position of need, and drafting Drake Nevis in the third round this year is not going to fix it. Unless the Colts make a major upgrade here, they will not win a Super Bowl in 2012 in their home stadium.
Therefore, they need to turn to free agency, and one of the best free agent DTs to hit the market in some time will be available for Chris Polian to sign. It's Brendon Mebane, the 26-year-old tackle from Cal. At 6'1, 311 pounds, he's built and bred to dominate at the DT spot in a Tampa-2 defense.
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Walter Football is a site I love, and they ranked Mebane as a four-star free agent heading into the 2011 off-season.
Brandon Mebane has always been great against the run; this year, he added some pass-rushing skills to his repertoire, allowing him to serve as an every-down player in Seattle's defense.
Pretty much since Anthony 'Booger' McFarland's career came to an unexpected end during the first days of training camp in 2007, the Colts have struggled to find a consistent run-stuffer in the middle of the line. This is a key element from Indy's defense for the simple reason that Gary Brackett, the team's defensive captain, can't tackle. According to Football Outsiders, Brackett was the fourth worst starting linebacker last season when it came to wrapping up the ball-carrier.
Now, I love Brackett and I think he's a good player, but tackling has never been his strong suit. He's a coverage backer more so than a tackler. Because of this, it's that much more critical for the ball carrier to get stuffed at the line. Should the ball carrier get past the tackles, he's likely going to gain extra yardage because, again, the Colts linebackers just aren't very good at tackling.
Mebane can provide this critical 'first line of defense' for Larry Coyer, who knows a thing or two about great DT play. Trevor Pryce's career was made by Coyer's schemes in Denver. When Coyer has quality players at the DT spots, we know he can scheme good run defense. But, when the DTs are cast-offs like Daniel Muir, one should not expect miracles from Coyer.
Mebane's best season came in 2008, when he had 39 tackles and 5.5 sacks. Pro Football Focus projects him as the 79th best defensive linemen next season (this includes both DEs and DTs). Fili Moala is projected 111th, Daniel Muir 124th. PFF ranked Mebane as the No. 2 free agent available at the DT spot, giving him a +10.3 score for 2010.
Key Stat: Has finished in our top twenty for defensive tackles in the last three years.
Behind The Numbers: He’s never quite replicated his excellent 2008, but Mebane has always played well for the Seahawks. Capable of getting to the quarterback and blowing up run plays, Mebane is good enough to start for pretty much any team running a 4-3. Factor his production with his age and he could be in line for a big payday.
Now, for the sake of 'balance,' AdvancedStats.com ranks Mebane as one of the worst DTs in all of football. He's just below Daniel Muir, and just above Fili Moala (who they rank at THE worst DT in the NFL). Personally, I don't think this system is accurate in judging Mebane's effectiveness.
The Seattle-area paper, the News Tribune, recently wrote an article about Mebane, and the sense in the article is he will leave the Pacific Northwest. Indianapolis is listed as a possible landing spot. While I am not at big fan of Fili Moala, I think he could thrive if Mebane were lined up next to him, with Mebane as 'nose tackle' and Fili playing three tech.
As we've seen in the playoffs during the 2006 and 2009 seasons, when the Colts are able to stop the run, they are virtually unbeatable. Signing a young player like Mebane by selling him on the notion that 1) He'll back a ton of bread and 2) He'll be on a championship-caliber team would go a long way to fixing a consistent problem for this Colts defense.
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