The biggest offseason signing that Colts general manager Ryan Grigson made last offseason turned out to be the worst signing that Colts general manager Ryan Grigson made last offseason, at least in the first year.
LaRon Landry was bad in 2013. He started 12 regular season games (plus the two postseason games) and wasn't very good when he did play. He was injured for four games (he has dealt with injuries throughout his career) and in the games he did play he was nowhere close to the Pro Bowl player that he was in 2012 with the Jets. He was terrible in coverage, which was something that wasn't anything new, but he also didn't have a real presence in stopping the run. There were times when he brought his physical presence, but it wasn't that often and overall he wasn't great. On the season he did rack up 87 tackles, but that was not indicative of how he played. LaRon Landry was bad in 2013 - and it didn't help that it was one of Grigson's big signings last offseason.
The safety opposite Landry is one that hasn't missed a single start for the Colts in the last 6 seasons, Antoine Bethea. The 8-year veteran (all with the Colts) has also topped 100 tackles in each of the last four seasons and in 5 of the last 6 years. In 2013 he recorded 110 tackles, 1 sack, 6 pass deflections, and 2 interceptions. Statistically, it looks like another great year from Bethea, but in actuality he wasn't great. He wasn't nearly as bad as Landry was, but for the second season in a row Bethea was not that good. Toward the end of this season, however, Bethea really started to emerge and played very well, but overall it was a disappointing season for the free agent to be. One of the biggest questions the Colts face this offseason is whether they will re-sign Bethea. He wants to come back to Indianapolis, but at what price? That is the real question, as I'm sure the Colts would welcome back the team leader and veteran presence who never misses a game and is always good for 100+ tackles - it just depends on how much money he wants. And he is no longer a guy that you absolutely must re-sign no matter what, as he has had two average to below average seasons in a row.
The player who I thought was the best safety the Colts had in 2013 was Delano Howell, who came out of nowhere to fill in for Landry when he was hurt. In 6 games this year (4 starts), Howell recorded 19 tackles and 2 pass deflections. But like both Landry and Bethea, Howell's stats don't tell the whole story. Howell looked good in the time that he played and, while he showed limitations and didn't bring nearly as much skill or talent to the table as the other two did, he was probably the best overall and most consistent safety. He ended the season on injured reserve.
Corey Lynch was signed after Howell was placed on IR to be a backup safety but he really didn't play much at all and recorded only 4 tackles this year - in fact, he nearly had as many rushing yards (3) as he did tackles (4) for the Colts this year. Sergio Brown made 9 tackles, a pass deflection, and recovered a fumble this year for the Colts, but Brown's real value came on special teams, where he was one of the best cover guys in the league. He played a huge part in helping punter Pat McAfee set the franchise record for the most punts downed inside the 20 yard line. Brown didn't do much at safety but was tremendous on special teams. Brown will become a free agent on March 11, and while he won't be re-signed to start at safety or even contend to, he likely will be (or at least should be) brought back as a backup safety but especially as a special teams guy.
Landry isn't going anywhere next year, despite some fans wanting to release him. For one, the Colts actually lose cap room by cutting him (yeah, that was a terrible contract by Ryan Grigson) and then they also will give him more than one year. He will be starting next year, unless he's hurt (which you can't rule out). Who will be starting alongside him, though? It could be Antoine Bethea, who I'm sure the Colts would like to re-sign and who would like to come back to Indianapolis - but all dependent upon if the price is right. Whether the two sides can agree on a contract remains to be seen. It also will be interesting to see how much the Colts value Delano Howell, as they could be less inclined to give Bethea a big deal if they're confident in Howell's ability.
In 2013, I thought Delano Howell was the best safety that the Colts had, I thought Antoine Bethea was just average, and I thought LaRon Landry was terrible. Overall, it wasn't a great year for the safeties. It will be interesting to see what the Colts do next year at the position.
SAFETIES GRADE: C -
For more in-depth analysis of the Colts' 2013 season by position, check out Josh Wilson's other position reviews: