Trench warfare is often overlooked in the NFL. Linemen aren't given much respect, but the trenches are where every play starts. The Defensive line can make or break the game. Colt Fans especially know this after watching Freeney and Mathis year after year terrorizing opposing QBs. More recently, JJ Watt has captured the eyes of many by shifting games single handedly. However, the 2012 season wasn’t great for the Colts. Our "nasty" mammoths just couldn’t bring the heat against opposing teams’ mammoths. Injuries took their toll on our "nasty" mammoths, and we basically had no pass rush. The Colts have some great potentials coming back from IR, however DLine is still an area that needs to be addressed. The Colts need competition for each of our Dline positions to be intense in camp this year; and, who we grab in FA will give us an insight of how intense it will be.
The four following defensive linemen are some lesser known, and/or more realistic options that I think the Colts might pursue this offseason. The difficult part of identifying potential defensive linemen is the fact that we use a 3-4/4-3 hybrid defense. Finding "true" hybrid players in FA is a tough task. A lot of guys fit one style of defense well, and the other not so well. However, a solid DLine is a reachable goal, and at a reasonable price, will allow for the Colts to spend money on impact players at SS and OLB. So, let us take a look at four "nasty" mammoths that could be worth pursuing.
Sammie stands at 6’4" and 329 lbs. He is 26 years old, and was paid $1.26 million in 2012. He grades out at good with both pass rush and run stuffing. He is nothing flashy, and has limited play time due to the talent in front of him. He only had 416 snaps in 2012. However, he is looking for his shot at a starting role, and will never get it in Detroit. Thus, he is an ideal candidate for Grigs to target. He currently is a 4-3 DT in a wide-9 scheme. A wide-9, in regards to Dline, is a 4 man front with the DEs split out to the outside shoulder of the tackle. This scheme is great on paper, and terrible in the NFL; but that could be another fanpost or two. Nevertheless, Sammie’s body type would fit a DE for a 3-4 and a DT in a 4-3. I think he could be a great target DE/DT to bring into camp to further competition. He would be relatively cheap and could prove to be a worthwhile pick-up. Furthermore, he has remained healthy through his NFL career.
Mike stands at 6’3" and 304 lbs. He is 28 years old, and was paid $2.26 million in 2012. I don’t really like him, but I think he is a Grigson type of player. This is because, he is not a big name, and is known as a warhorse. He is not flashy, but he is a solid run stuffer. Sometimes it is not about the size of the dog, but about the fight in him. Mike has a lot of fight in him. Given his size, I would assume he would be a DE/DT for a 3-4/4-3. Once again, he is on the smaller side of Dline. I think Grigs might bring him into camp to compete. Furthermore, I think he won’t be that expensive due to how his level of play. In his support, he is a good stable healthy player – and health is a vastly important quality to have. Since, due to the cap, we can’t have amazing/impact players at every position. He would be a good rotational guy to try out.
Desmond stands at 6’ 6" and 311 lbs. He is 27 years old, and was paid $1.92 million in 2012. This is an interesting prospect to hit FA. Oakland has both Richard Seymour and Desmond Bryant up for FA this year. In addition, it is rumored that they are switching from a 4-3 to a 3-4 in order to give their team a new edge. I might be wrong, but I believe they are going straight 3-4 and not a hybrid. Furthermore, signing both D-linemen is unlikely – especially due to Oakland being $2.9 million over the cap before the draft. Therefore, I think they will resign Seymour (33 years old) for 1 million 1 year patch-fix contract, and allow for Bryant to test FA. This will allow a team to pick him up or allow Oakland to offer him a cheaper contract if he received no offers.
At 6’ 6" 311lbs, Bryant fits a DE in a 3-4 better and a DT in a 4-3. If he is brought into camp, he would add a veteran presence and be a good option to help solidify our DE position. He has had no major injury history, and has consistently been a very solid football player. However, he does have some red flags – like getting arrested for criminal misconduct last weekend. But, assuming he checks out through Grigs evaluation. He would bring much needed competition to our DE position. And, he won’t break the bank.
Alan stands at 6’6" and 325 lbs. He is 28 years old, and was paid $3 million in 2012. He had a breakout season for the Seahawks in 2011, but in 2012 he didn’t have the same impact. That said, he played from 2007 to 2010 for the Cardinals, and was picked up in 2011 by the Seahawks. His only really good season was 2011. However, he has always been stable, healthy, and a solid interior Defensive lineman. His size and ability is that of a NT in a 3-4 and a DT in a 4-3. One thing to keep in mind is that Seattle’s defensive is in-between a 3-4 and 4-3 – it isn’t classified as a hybrid though. They typically use 3 DTs on the line – no DEs - but they have a pass rusher position called "Leo". A "Leo" is a hybrid LB and DE. This means that their Dline is huge and expected to stop the run; making LBs less important and Dbacks more important. Their D-linemen are expected to eat up space/blocks. This is something the Colts greatly need in the middle; and while Chapman might become the answer, and McKinney might be a valid rotational player, we just don’t know due to their injuries last season.
The reality is Seattle is packed with talent, and Alan is good, but not quite at the level Pete Carroll is looking for. Furthermore, he is too expensive at 3 million a year just to become a depth player. I think it is safe to assume the Seahawks are going to let Alan test the FA market before resigning – in hopes to reduce his price. I think he would be a great option to bring into camp for increased competition at our NT position. Also, I think the Colts have potential to be set at NT, and it isn’t worth a draft pick given other holes on our team; but, if we got Alan, it would provide a good enough core of NT/DT to allow for us to test what we have this year and spend a draft pick next year if needed.
Overall, there are many other Defensive linemen that could be potentials to become camp competition. The more under the radar and buried in depth they are, the more likely Grigs is to make a grab at them. I think his team of talent evaluators will dig up a few good/solid options for the Colts. However, I do think the above warrant a look, and would fill needed roles at a reasonable cost. Allowing for the Colts to create a solid defense line at reasonable cost will let them spend more in other areas. The trenches are extremely important to build around, and our Dline still needs to find their identity. They either need to become space eaters or pass terrors. How the trenches are built defines what is needed on the back end.
Another important point to remember is the Colts are a hybrid defense. Finding realistic "true" hybrid players is difficult, especially given Grigs preference for the lesser known work horses. Our D-linemen have to fit in both a 3-4 and 4-3. Some prospects will not be the perfect fit for some roles, but could still be given the nod to compete in camp. Thus making our list of prospects rather long.
Last note, this will probably be my last FA post given how crazy the next couple weeks will be. There are a lot of interesting prospects in FA this year. Definitely a few worth noting. Cullen Jenkins would be a great asset. Greg Toler from the Cardinals is a highly underrated CB that could be a good pick up. And, even a guy like Glover Quin could be a interesting SS option based on his man-to-man skills on slot and TEs. Nevertheless, March 12th should be a pretty damn exciting day this year. Hopefully, I will get a Defense post up in March.