Whether you personally agree or disagree with the Colts 2013 offseason strategy of building the team through free agency, the reality is the front office has addressed several key needs with the signing of players like Gosder Cherilus, LaRon Landry, and Ricky Jean-Francois.
However, one glaring weakness that still remains is pass rusher, and this is a point that continues to frustrate your faithful and trusty writers and editors here at Stampede Blue.
Currently, Robert Mathis is the only reliable pass rusher on the roster. I know that both Ryan Grigson and Chuck Pagano have been quoted as saying that 2013 Colts free agent acquisition Erik Walden will help in that area, but, sorry, but rushing the passer is not Walden's forte.
I don't know if Grigson-Pagano are delusional or just blowing smoke, but the reality is Walden is NOT a pass rusher. I've watched six Packers games from 2012 using the All-22 NFL.com features and I've talked to both NFL media and NFL team employees, including a scout or two. All of them scratched their heads on the Walden signing, and all said he wasn't a pass rusher.
Walden was pressed into more playing time last year due to the injury to Packers rookie Nick Perry. Teams single-blocked Walden all season long, and threw two (and sometimes three) bodies at Clay Matthews. Walden had just 3 total sacks, including one that was a coverage sack involving Sam Bradford running out of the pocket and getting tackled an inch short of the line of scrimmage.
Personally, I think that the Colts brain trust is trying to put up a smoke screen. They know they need another pass rusher... or, at least, I hope they know.
It's for this reason that I've been following the free agent exploits of one Shaun Phillips, OLB for the San Diego Chargers.
While everyone else has been emailing or texting me about Elvis Dumervil, John Abraham, and (recently) Brian Urlacher, my focus is on Phillips. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay before the start of free agency, we targeted Phillips as the kind of guy Colts general manager Ryan Grigson should look to sign. Reasons:
- He's worked with current Colts vice president of football operations Jimmy Raye and Colts defensive coordinator Greg Manusky when they all worked together in San Diego back in 2011
- He knows the defensive scheme, and has produced 69.5 career sacks within it
- He's a good coverage linebacker in addition to rushing the passer
- He's friends with Robert Mathis, suggesting that he might not be upset if he has to sit behind Mathis in a front seven rotation
- He's still a pretty good, earning 9.5 sacks in 2012
According to PFT, Phillips is "quietly generating interest" from multiple teams. Though PFT does not mention the team names, the hope has to be the Colts as one of them.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Phillips remains on the radar screen of some of the teams currently looking for pass rushers. Once the log jam consisting of the likes of Dumervil and Freeney and Osi and Abraham begins to break, Phillips could get some play.
Because higher tier pass rushers like Cliff Avril and Antwan Barnes signed with their new teams for peanuts, the asking price for a player like Phillips could be low. He's 31-years-old, and his window to make an impact on a championship-caliber team is shrinking. The Colts just seem like a logical fit.
If the Colts are able to hook Phillips, it would address the last truly GLARING need, and it will allow them to enter the 2013 NFL Draft without thinking about pass rusher as a requirements with the No. 24 overall pick.