(Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Aside from quarterback, of which the Colts currently have only one on the roster (Trevor Vittatoe, a first-year kid out of UTEP.), the biggest need position for the roster right now is nose tackle. The Colts are transitioning from a Tampa-2, 4-3 alignment to a base 3-4 scheme that relies on pressure from the linebackers and disguised coverages. This was the defense new Colts head coach Chuck Pagano ran in Baltimore the last three years as their defensive coordinator. The scheme requires corners who can cover man-to-man, and a five technique nose tackle in the middle of the defensive line.
Nose tackle in a 3-4 typically requires a player weighing in at or above 320 pounds. It also helps if he's tall, 6'3 or higher. Long arms are great too, enabling the NT to bat down footballs and harass the quarterback.
The Colts currently have no one on their roster that fits this description. Players who would normally fit as DTs in the Tampa-2, such as Drake Nevis, Fili Moala, and Antonio Johnson, are now better suited to play 5 tech DE in Pagano's system, along with the newly signed Cory Redding. Finding a nose tackle is a high priority.
In the draft this year, there is a decent crop of NTs that, more than likely, will be available at pick No. 34 in the second round for the Colts. We did a draft profile yesterday on Memphis' Dontari Poe, a 6'3, 346 lbs monster who could fall into the second round, though I personally doubt it. Alameda Ta'amu from Washington or Nicolas Jean-Baptiste from Baylor are more realistic options. All three fit the bill, physically. Two of the three should be there at pick 34.
However, one cannot assume that a quality NT will be there early in the second round, and while taking one at that position seems prudent, reaching for one at the expense of, say, a Chase Minniefield or a Stephon Gilmore, could do more harm than good long-term. The only NT I can see passing up a corner like Minniefield for is Poe.
Knowing this, it only makes sense to have back-up, and back-up could come in the form of free agent nose tackle Antonio Garay. However, based on what I'm hearing, the Colts are not pursuing Garay even though he is one of the best free agents left on the market.
That makes no sense.
For the last two seasons, Antonio Garay anchored the Chargers defensive line, making many fans and coaches forget all about San Diego's once-dominant nose tackle, Jamal Williams. At 6'4 and 320 lbs, Garay is an excellent NT. He racked up 57 tackles and 2.5 sacks last season, starting 13 games. In 2010, he had 48 tackles and 5.5 sacks from the nose. You all might remember Garay from the Monday night Football game in 2010 when he slapped around Jeff Linkenbach like an inflatable sex toy and made life miserable for one Peyton Manning.
If you don't remember, here's a highlight of the horror show:
Here's a screen cap that best sums up Linkebach's performance that night:
That's Linkenbach, center, being lifted off the ground and tossed five yards back into Manning's face by Garay, No. 71 for the Chargers. Mercy, mercy me.
Garay also has connections to the current coaching staff in Indianapolis. Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky was Garay's D.C. in San Diego last year. Another connection is the Cleveland Browns, the team that drafted Garay in 2003. Pagano was the secondary coach in Cleveland that season and in 2004. After Pagano and the coaching staff left following the firing of head coach Butch Davis, Garay went to Chicago and played on the Bears team that lost to the Colts in Super Bowl XLI.
So, with all these connections to the coaching staff, and with a clear need at the NT position, why aren't the Colts trying to sign Garay? By my estimate, after working out a new contract with the recently traded Winston Justice, the Colts have roughly $15.5 million in cap space. If they manage to re-negotiate with Dwight Freeney, reducing his staggering $19 million dollar cap hit for 2012, that gives them even more. Garay is 32-years-old, and is likely looking for a three-year deal. Since no one has signed him, the odds are any deal with him won't break the bank.
It's something the Colts should definitely be looking into. NT is a critical need for 2012 both in the draft and free agency.
Also, in addition to having excellent nose tackle skills, the man is an artist with his hair. Better than Dennis Rodman.