2011 NFL Free Agents Still Out There For The Colts [UPDATE] Colts Sign Tommie Harris

[UPDATE] About an hour after writing this, news broke from Adam Caplan that the Colts have signed DT Tommie Harris to a one-year deal. So, there. Joy. Rapture. Read the article anyway just in case they sign more.--bbs

While the Colts players sweet it out in the summer heat at training camp in Anderson, IN, the front office has spent the better part of of 24 hours signing free agents like Jamaal Anderson and Ernie Sims. As previously stated here, I think these are nice pick-ups. They aren't stellar, and they certainly don't elevate this team into the championship-caliber discussion, but they are moves that push this roster in the right direction.

Imagine that. Smart, intelligent moves in free agency that help add talent to the roster. The way some people were reacting around here, only 'losers' and 'The Washington Redskins' signed free agents. The open market was THE SATAN! In reality, these were the kind of moves we were begging for, and they aren't much different than the Albert Haynesworth trade, or the Eagles signing Jason Babin. Low risk. High reward. Talent that's reasonably cheap. Talent that fits the system. Talent, period.

Smart free agency is just as important as smart drafting. And, it seems the Colts aren't done:

When asked Tuesday morning if Indy was looking at any more free agents, Caldwell smiled and said: "There’s a couple."

That’s a drastic change for a team that prefers keeping the players it develops rather than signing someone else’s.

If they do sign some key people at some important areas of concern, I'm ready to sing a different tone about the 2011 Colts.

I've pulled some pieces from recent articles by David Deitz who, I might add, said the the Colts should pursue Ernie Sims prior to Sims getting signed today.

Ernie Sims, formerly with Detroit:

Sims is a guy who has never lived up to his high billing. Given that he is nonetheless a reliable outside linebacker maybe that's a good thing for the Colts as he should be easier to sign. Sims followed up monster rookie season in which he posted 125 tackles with an even better sophomore campaign. Since then, his production has declined. Believing a change of scenery would be help revitalize his career, Sims was acquired by the Eagles. Sims one year stint never produced the desired results as he was unable to find his niche in the Eagles blitz happy defense. Know at times for his physical (dirty) play, Sims would help replace the energy and intensity the linebacking corps lost with Session's departure. Unable to command nowhere near his 5-year, $15.735 million rookie contract, Sims may now fit the Colts price range.

Currently, the Colts are at 87 players. Their roster can be maximized to 90. I still think this team is a DT and a SS away from being championship-caliber. Players at those positions don't need to be Pro Bowlers, but the do need to be people who can come in and do the job as consistent starters.

I like Melvin Bullitt and Antonio Johnson, but I have zero faith in their durability. If one or both go down (like last year) the Colts are screwed. Thus, the interior must get shored up, or 2011 will be yet another disappointing season.

David already posted some notes for a few safeties still unsigned out there. I'll highlight two that make the most sense given Indy's defensive system:

Donte Whitner, formerly of the Buffalo Bills:

A few weeks back I wrote about him here. The reason he won't be back in Buffalo is because of his ridiculous eight million a year asking price. Even in the panicy feeding frenzy that has defined this free agency period so far there is no way Buffalo or any other team pays that (Wait, I take that back, maybe Jacksonville will offer 5 years 60 million so they can definitely try and stop Peyton).

Once he lowers his price to a more reasonable amount, the Colts should jump all over him. His 140 tackles last year were near the tops in the league and 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. When all is said-and-done, statistically Whitner was one of the best and surest tacklers in the league.

Chinedum Ndukwe, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals:

There has been some speculation that the Bengals are pursuing Whitner. If that is indeed the case and the Bengals outbid the Colts for Whitner's services (if the Colts do in fact pursue him) then Cincinnati's Ndukwe would be an excellent back-up option and a solid player who could spell Bullit when needed. A Notre Dame product, Ndukwe is a capable starter who would be an excellent fit for the Colts. A guy who works hard and is said to be coachable, Ndukwe brings the no nonsense attitude that would make him an ideal fit in the Colts backfield.

Getting someone like Whitner would be a small coup. Whitner is not a playmaker, not by any stretch. He was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, taken by then-Buffalo Bills general manager Marv Levy. Levy, for all intents and purposes, was Bill Polian's mentor in Buffalo.

However, he has just five INTs in five years of play. When one is the No. 6 overall pick in a 2006 Draft that produced Santonio Holmes, Haloti Ngata, and Jonathan Joseph (all taken in the first round after Whitner), that's not living up to one's draft billing.

The key for Whitner is his asking price. Another reason he left Buffalo was he wanted $8 mill a year, which is laughable. Safeties who can tackle well are good to have, but at $8 mill a year, the guy better be able to return punts, score touchdowns while returning INTs (ala Ed Reed), and maybe wash the equipment guy's car for free.

Personally, I think he's waiting out to see if someone gets hurt in camp. Then, teams will flock to him with offers.

For defensive tackles...

Tommie Harris, formerly of the Chicago Bears

Harris is a name that gets tossed around a lot by Colts fans. Back in 2006, Harris was THE dominant DT in all of football, Injuries have damaged his knees, and he's lost the speed and burst that once made him unblockable in the interior.

With the Patriots switching to a 4-3 (zone blitz scheme similar to Eagles and Giants, I'm assuming), they decided to bring Harris in for a visit. That visit, to my knowledge, has not produced Harris' name on a contract for the Pats. Therefore, he either is waiting to hear other offers, or he failed whatever workout the Pats likely put him through.

It's worth noting that although there are durability concerns, Harris has only missed two games the last two years. He's also had 4 sacks during those years. That's better than, well, anybody currently on the Colts roster.

John McCargo, formerly of the Buffalo Bills

McCargo is here solely because he was a player the Colts tried to trade for in 2008. In fact, they did trade for him, and it got as far as McCargo showing up in Indianapolis for his physical. He then failed it, and the trade was nixed. Rumors at the time said the Colts discovered a lingering back ailment McCargo was dealing with. I've long felt that Buffalo tried to pawn an injured player off on the Colts. My friend and colleague, Brian Galliford, strongly disagrees with this.

Last year, after playing in just one game, McCargo was placed on IR with (you guessed it) a back injury. McCargo has played in only twenty games since 2008, starting in just one.

Again, the only reason I have him listed if because MAYBE the Colts take another shot a him after he spent pretty much all of 2010 healing from his back ailment. At 6'2, 307 pounds, he's well built to play Tampa-2 DT.

Pat Williams. formerly of the Minnesota Vikings

He's one half of the famed 'Williams Wall' that anchored the Vikings defense for roughly six years. At 38 years old, he isn't the player he once was. But, if ever a player personified 'durability,' it's Pat Williams. In six seasons in Minnesota, he missed just two regular season games. At 6'3, 320 pounds, the man is a mountain to move. He doesn't get sacks and he doesn't collapse the pocket.

What he does is prevent runningbacks from advancing.

Due to his 14 years in the league, Williams might just be wanting to hook up with a team and play a role, possibly as a back-up. What is looming over Williams, and the likely reason why no one has signed him, is the Star Caps case. I won't go into boring details, but it seems as if Williams will indeed be suspended when he signs with a team. The suspension will likely be four games, but it could be reduced.

Williams recently stated he would like to play two more seasons. The Vikings play a very similar defensive system to the Colts.

***

For me, bringing in someone like Williams makes the most sense. The Colts need depth and toughness at the DT spot, particularly the overtackle spot, which is similar to a nose tackle. Williams excelled in this spot in Minnesota, and with the Colts he could help the team by providing solid depth and leadership behind Mookie Johnson. Since this is a move to shore up much needed depth, a four-game suspension because of the Star Caps case could be handled. Indy might also be desirable for Williams because, at the end of his career, working in a rotation could keep him fresh for late in the year.

Again, these options are just that, options. Like many of you, I think the Colts need to so something to even the playing field. Adding a few more low risk, high reward free agents could do that. The key areas are SS and DT. If those areas don't get additional, quality, veteran players, the Colts are in trouble.

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