With Rob Morris re-signed, and with the rumors I'm hearing that soon Dwight Freeney will get a long-term contract, I think it is fair to say that Cato June, the Colts leading tackler and first Pro Bowl linebacker since Duane Bickett, is a goner. He ain't coming back to Indy next year. So, this is a bit of an ode to Cato, along with a few other things thrown in.
Back in November, I threw Cato under the bus because... well, he deserved it. For a Pro Bowl caliber linebacker, Cato June was horrible in 2006. He was a big reason Jacksonville ran for over 375 yards on the Colts in that November game. Cato whiffed on tackle after tackle after tackle. On one of Maurice Jones-Drew's 40 yard TD runs (Remember, he had SEVERAL of them) Cato June had Jones-Drew wrapped up only to let him slip right out of the tackle and into the endzone. Whiffed tackles, bad angles, and generally uninspired play were the MO of Cato June all season. In many ways, it over-shadowed the amazing season he had in 2005, where he totaled 102 tackles in 13 games and had 5 interceptions, returning two of them for TDs. Oh, and he played the whole 2005 season with a sports hernia. Again, he's a linebacker. He runs into people. Hard. He did this with a sports hernia. Never question Cato's toughness. Ever.
In 2006, his numbers were very good (142 tackles, 3 INTs, 2 FF) but it's a clear example of numbers masking on-the-field production. Cato has said he wants to return to Indy, but I doubt Polian is going to give him the money he wants. If Cato comes back, it's because he REALLY wants to play in Indy, and he'll take a paycut. That's doubtful, and understandably so.
Replacing Cato will not be easy, though many think Freddie Keiaho, the second-year LBer who played so well in spots last season, could step in at WILL. Another possibility, and please don't laugh at this, is Gilbert Gardner.
Yes, I know, Gilbert sucks and was benched for Rob Morris and was called out by Ron Meeks... I know this. I cheered when Gilbert got benched. It was long overdue. The only person that whiffed more than Cato last season was Gilbert. Remember all those times players insisted, "It's not the system that's the problem. Players need to be in the right place at the right time." They were talking about Gilbert. But I have a theory on this.
Gilbert played SAM last season, and sucked. However, in 2005, Gilbert played WILL (June's position) when Cato was hurt, and he played very well. In the Jacksonville game in 2005, where the Colts clinched the AFC South and homefield, Gilbert Gardner was a beast. He played very well at WILL filling in for Cato in 2005, which is why I felt going into 2006 he'd be fine at SAM. Per usual, I was wrong. So, one possibility is having Gilbert start at WILL, Gary at MIKE, and perhaps Freddie at SAM, or maybe draft someone like Jon Pearson to play SAM. It's a thought.
Finally, one additional rumor I'm hearing is Montae Reagor's days as a Colt are NOT over. They cut Montae because he was due $1.5 million, and cutting him saved a bunch of cap space. The Colts may re-sign Montae to a lower cap number if he is cleared by doctors to play. So, we may well see Montae play again as a Colt. I'm keeping my fingers crossed. Montae is a good guy and a fine team leader. The Colts will need him next year. As for Corey Simon, the Colts cannot cut him until his grievance against them is settled or determined. After that, I think the Colts will cut him. Not specific information on that. Just a hunch.