Like many of you, the Chris Rucker selection in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft threw me. I did not expect the Colts to use their pick on a kid with Rucker's reputation. While the Colts brass like to paint Rucker as no different than other 'troubled' college kids they've drafted (the example they like is comparing Rucker to Marlin Jackson), the fact is Rucker has some serious red flags on his resume that are not typical of most Colts draft selections.
I honestly do not recall the last time the Colts used a draft pick on a guy who served eight days in jail following a drunken-driving arrest, as Rucker did at Michigan State last year. The reason Rucker saw jail time was because he violated his probation when he got pinched for the DUI. Rucker was on probation due to pleading guilty to assault and battery stemming from an on-campus brawl involving Rucker and several teammates. According to ESPN, the terms of his probation prohibited purchasing, possessing, or consuming alcohol or illegal drugs.
Sorry, but those issues really don't compare with Marlin Jackson's 'issues' at Michigan.
Anyway, despite Rucker's checkered past and questionable decision-making, he does seem genuinely excited about, hopefully, practicing with the Colts and Peyton Manning sometime soon. From the Tribune Chronicle, via ESPN:
As a rookie cornerback with the Colts, the Warren G. Harding graduate would like nothing better than to get a chance to line up against Manning and intercept one of his passes. Manning recently revealed that he's still bothered by a neck injury that required offseason surgery.
"It's amazing to be around him," said Rucker, who was drafted in the sixth round out of Michigan State University. "Now to be on his team is amazing. I can't wait to be around him and see him in practice every day."
If and when the Colts open training camp, and assuming they do not sign any veteran free agents at the position, they will have Jerraud Powers, Kelvin Hayden, Justin Tryon, Kevin Thomas, Jacob Lacey, Cornelius Brown, and Rucker at cornerback. When you look at it, that's a lot of depth at a position which was pretty thin last year.
Obviously, with the lockout still in effect, we really don't know what this Colts roster will be in 2011. But, humor me for a moment:
- Powers is the team's best corner (I think we all agree on that)
- Tryon was very solid as a starter last year
- Lacey is a good reserve corner, struggles when he starts
- Thomas is made of glass, but he was a third round pick in 2010 and it's unlikely the Colts will give up on him
- Rucker, at 6'2, 200 pounds, offers versatility at both corner and safety
- showed some promise last year
Seeing all this, and assuming at the Colts will likely sign an undrafted rookie at the corner position, where does this leave Kelvin Hayden? He's one of the highest paid players on the team, yet he's only played in 20 of a possible 32 regular season games since he signed his five-year, $43 million dollar contract in 2009. And when you match Hayden's production last season with someone like Tryon, the numbers show Tryon pretty much gives you what Hayden gives you.
Hayden in 2010: 11 games as starter, 61 combined tackles, 8 passes defended, 2 INTs, 1 TD, 1 FF
Tryon in 2010: 6 games as starter, 44 combined tackles, 7 passes defended
Also, unlike Hayden, Tryon can return kicks.
Now, Tryon is scheduled to make $550,000 next year. Hayden, who has already pocketed $22.645 million, is due to make roughly $6.4 mill in 2011, which is probably close to what his cap hit would be if he remains on the roster.
See where I'm going here?
If we're getting the same relative production from Tryon ($550,000) than we are of Hayden ($6.4 mill), why keep Hayden? Cutting Hayden would save the team (and I'm just guesstimating here) $4 mill this year and maybe $5 mill next in terms of cap money. That's money the Colts could use to sign, perhaps, a free agent who can actually do something for this defense!
And when you throw in a kid like Rucker or Thomas, assuming one of them develops into a players that's worth a damn, there's even less reason to keep Hayden. This is why, in my opinion, Hayden's a cap causality in 2011. He's simply not worth the ridiculous contract Bill Polian signed him to in 2009, and the money they are currently wasting on him could go to other areas of the roster which need improvement.
Again, if the Colts entered 2011 with Powers and Tryon as starters with either Lacey, Thomas, or Rucker as the nickle, they an still win. Remember, this team won a Super Bowl in 2006 with Nick Harper and Jason David as the starting corners. Powers and Tryon are better today than Harper and David were back then.
[UPDATE]: Ty46 in the comments informed us that Hayden’s cap number is $9 million. Cutting him once the lockout ends would save $6.1 million this upcoming season, $6.3 next season, and $7.1 after that. Translation: The Colts better cut Kelvin Hayden. That's money that could go to someone like Quintin Mikell, Barry Cofield, or maybe it could be used to give Roberth Mathis an extension.