When transitioning from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense, often times the defensive line can be the hardest to work with because of the changes. The Colts defensive line played respectably last season, but it was evident that they still needed help along the defensive front. One of the first moves they made to do that was by signing the highly sought after Ricky Jean-Francois from the San Francisco 49ers.
Jean-Francois was drafted in the 7th round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the 'Niners out of LSU, where he won a national championship with the Tigers and was even named the defensive MVP of the 2008 National Championship Game. According his LSU bio page, he also participated in track and field. In his four seasons in the NFL with the 49ers, Jean-Francois has played in 51 games (starting 5) and has notched 49 tackles, 3 sacks, forced a fumble and batted down 2 passes. He was a role player for the 49ers and backed up one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, Justin Smith. Thus saying that Jean-Francois' lack of starts means he isn't a good player is not a valid argument at all, as he was stuck behind one of the league's best. When Smith was injured this past season, RJF stepped in and played well.
Following the 49ers' Super Bowl XLVII loss to the Ravens, Ricky Jean-Francois' contract was up and he was due to test free agency. A number of teams were reportedly interested in signing him, including the Titans, Browns, Packers, Ravens, and Eagles - plus the Colts, of course. His first visit once the free agency period began was to Philadelphia, and once he left there without a contract he headed to Indianapolis. The Colts reportedly very much wanted RJF and made a big push to sign him. He never left Indy without a deal - a very lucrative deal, I may add. General Manager Ryan Grigson gave Jean-Francois a 4-year, $22 million contract ($8.5 million guaranteed) that has him making $5.5 million this season. With 3 career sacks, the $22 million deal means that the Colts are paying RJF just over $7 million per career sack.
That said, he is a solid player overall and a good run defender. Perhaps his biggest attribute is his versatility, however. Although he played just 27% of defensive snaps for San Francisco last year (because as we already noted he was behind Justin Smith), he played all three spots along the defensive line and played them well. He won't be the best at any one of those positions, but he is a solid player at each of them.
Another positive to the Colts signing him is that he can help teach coordinator Greg Manusky's system to the younger defensive lineman, as Jean-Francois played for Manusky for two seasons in San Francisco (2009-2010).
The Colts list him as a defensive tackle on their roster, but at 6'3, 295 pounds he would seem to project better as a 3-4 defensive end that could switch over to a DT in a 4-3. Again, however, he can play all three spots along the defensive line. The question is just where his primary position will be, and the Colts seem to think it will be at tackle. I'm not sure, but there's time to figure that out before the season begins. Quite a bit of time, actually.
Last season as a part of the San Francisco 49ers, Ricky Jean-Francois was on a team that won the NFC Championship, played in the Super Bowl and came very close to winning it. The loss is still a sore subject for him. But when he signed with Indy, he was confident that before long, he'll get a shot at making up for the loss last year by winning it all. He's motivated to get back, and that's exactly the type of guy Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano want on their football team.
And lastly, a profile on Ricky Jean-Francois wouldn't be complete without a link to his now famous Peanut Butter Jelly Dance. It's probably what he's most known for by fans throughout the league.