2012 NFL Roster Cutdowns: Who Should The Indianapolis Colts Claim-Sign

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 18: Joselio Hanson #21 of the Philadelphia Eagles celebrates with teammate Kurt Coleman #42 after recovering a New York Jets fumble at Lincoln Financial Field on December 18, 2011 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

Teams have now shaved down their rosters to 53 players, and, as is often the case during this time of year, Colts fans are wondering if their team will make a waiver claim for some of these recently waived guys. Waiver claim interest is especially important this year because Indianapolis has the priority claim over all other NFL teams between now and Week Three. This means the Colts get first dibs on all waived players.

However, vested veterans released (players with four years of experience, or more) are not subject to waivers. When released, they are free agents. Peyton Manning is an example of this. When the Colts released him in March, he could not be claimed by, say, the Rams. He was a free agent before eventually signing with Denver.

Knowing all that, here’s a list of players who have been waived or released that the Colts should take a strong look at.

Joselio Hanson, CB

He was released by the Eagles because Brandon Boykin beat him out as (I believe) the No. 3 corner. Hanson is a good man-to-man coverage guy with significant gameday experience. Colts G.M. Ryan Grigson used to work in the Eagles organization, and he likely has a strong understanding of how good Hanson is. Signing him would be yet another upgrade to the secondary. He’d instantly become Indy’s third corner, and a heck of a good one at that. A trio of Vontae Davis, Jerraud Powers, and Hanson would, arguably, be the best grouping of corners in the AFC South. If he is interested, it’s a no-brainer. Sign him.

Note: He’s a vested veteran. He cannot be claimed off waivers. I made the mistake on Twitter of thinking he could be. Forgiveness begged.

Nicolas Jean-Baptiste, NT

This was a guy I thought the Colts would draft back in April. Instead, they took Josh Chapman, which I’m not debating. However, Chapman is still recovering from knee surgery and is on P.U.P. He’s out till after Week Six. Jean-Baptiste is a rookie, recently released by the Ravens because they are deep with Zero Tech tackles. The Colts lost Brandon McKinney for the season, and yesterday they waived Chigbo Anunoby. Antonio Johnson is the only nose tackle currently active on the roster.

The Colts cannot enter 2012 with just Mookie at NT. If they do, then cut Pat McAfee as well, because it would be pointless to punt the ball. A 3-4 defense without a quality nose tackle is a defense that cannot function. If Mookie Johnson goes down, the Colts are screwed. Also, it's not like Mookie is all-world at the NT spot.

It seems to make sense to put in a claim for Jean-Bapiste. Unlike Hanson, Jean-Bapiste is a rookie, and the Colts can simply claim him. He’s got some talent and, more importantly, he's BIG! at 334 lbs. He can work as a reserve NT until Chapman comes back after Week Six. It’s also possible (unlikely, but possible) that he could develop faster than Chapman. Baltimore also cut NT Ishmaa'ily Kitchen as well, a 334 lbs rookie from Kent State.

Deion Branch, WR

Is Austin Collie better than Deion Branch? No. Younger, yes, but not more reliable in terms of injuries, durability. He also isn't faster, nor does he have better hands. Branch is, essentially, Collie minus the concussion history. Collie’s next concussion could end his career, and it’s an injury that will happen if we follow the medical trends. Branch, like Collie, is a solid, reliable receiver. Like in New England, he’s comfortable working in an offense featuring two athletic tight ends. Oh, and Branch lives in Carmel, IN (a suburb north of Indianapolis home to several Colts players) in the offseason. Just saying.

Makes sense to explore whether or not he’s interested in playing closer to home. If he is signed, the Colts can then release Collie, which is something I think they should do both for Collie’s sake and the good of the team.

Note: He’s a vested veteran and cannot be claimed off waivers.

Other players worth signing or claiming:

OT Trai Essex: Bruce Arians knows him from their days in Pittsburgh.

DT Antonio Dixon: A solid player for the Eagles, and someone Ryan Grigson should have familiarity with. Probably better suited as a DE in this defense.

CB Dominique Franks: Another "solid" player. Nothing flashy, but he can cover and return punts.

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