Just a few days ago, we looked at a free agent outside linebacker the Colts signed, Erik Walden. Today we look at another free agent linebacker also signed on the first day of free agency, Lawrence Sidbury.
Sidbury spent the past four seasons with the Atlanta Falcons, who drafted him in the fourth round of the 2009 NFL Draft. The University of Richmond product recorded 20.5 sacks in his career with the Spiders and notched 11.5 of them in his senior season of 2008.
In four NFL seasons, however, Sidbury has only made 17 tackles and 5 sacks - total. He has yet to start a game in the National Football League, though he has appeared in 48 total. In 2011 he took a major step forward, recording 4 sacks and showing a lot of potential. However in 2012 the coaching staff made a decision not to play him and it resulted in just 1 tackle in 10 games played - and the snaps played was very limited, as Sidbury was in for just 2.94% of the Falcons defensive plays. He forced 1 hurry all season. While the issue the coaching staff (and new coordinator Mike Nolan) had with Sidbury isn't known, what is known is that Sidbury wanted out of Atlanta. D. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution quoted Sidbury's agent, Alan Herman as saying the following about Sidbury:
"He had 4.5 half sacks and two more were disputed (in 2011)," Herman said. "We actually thought he had 6.5 sacks when we looked at the tape. The bottom line is I thought he played well the year before and showed signs of being able to get to the quarterback and then not getting the opportunity this year was exceptionally frustrating."
The article also notes that the Falcons tried putting Sidbury on special teams, but that he was beaten out there as well. The bottom line seems to be that Sidbury showed promise in Atlanta but then had a falling out with the coaching staff which left him wanting out. He was a free agent this offseason (former Colts general manager Bill Polian rated him as a "Tier B" free agent, meaning he was a player to sign if the price was right). The current general manager of the Colts, Ryan Grigson, obviously liked Sidbury as well and signed him quickly to a 1-year, $715,000 deal. It seems that this was a good signing, if Polian's grading system is correct. So the question then becomes what role he has with the Colts. He won't be the starter, as Bjoern Werner and Erik Walden will be battling for the outside linebacker spot opposite of Robert Mathis (another thing to consider is that Sidbury is making the transition from a defensive end in Atlanta to an outside linebacker in Indy). The team's confidence in the depth that they have with Sidbury may have been a deciding factor in the move to trade away former first round pick Jerry Hughes.
It is safe to assume that Lawrence Sidbury will get more opportunities this season with the Colts than he did last season with the Falcons - much more, probably. He has talent and potential as a speed pass rusher, but he needs work to achieve that. Working with a Colts coaching staff that is talented and believes in him should help Sidbury greatly. And perhaps as the season goes on, the Colts will continue to get increased playing time and production out of him. The only issue is that they have at least two guys at the position ahead of Sidbury, so he faces an uphill battle. We will look at the position as a whole as it gets closer to camp, but I don't think that Lawrence Sidbury is any certainty on the 53-man roster. That said, with the potential he has and the speed with which Grigson signed him, the Colts must like the talented player they got. His role will be limited, but with work he could become a decent pass rusher to rotate in.
Just like Ryan Grigson did when signing Darius Butler last season, the general manager showed Lawrence Sidbury his scouting report of the player when he was coming out of college. Grigson really liked Sidbury, just like he did Butler. The display of confidence went a long way in convincing both players to sign with a rising Indianapolis squad. The move to sign Butler turned out to be a home run. We can only hope that the move to sign Sidbury turns out just as nicely.