The Jerry Hughes era in Indianapolis is officially over. In a somewhat surprising move today, the Colts announced that they had traded the former first round pick to the Buffalo Bills in exchange for another linebacker, Kelvin Sheppard.
Jerry Hughes was nothing short of a bust, drafted with the 31st overall pick in the 2010 draft. The Colts expected the defensive end to provide a third very good pass rusher to the duo of Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, hoping that Hughes would be the eventual replacement for one of them. It didn't take long at all to realize that wasn't going to happen, and in 3 seasons he started only 7 games total, recording 62 tackles and only 5 sacks for his career. A move to outside linebacker last year helped him greatly, and he made 41 tackles and 4 sacks last year alone (which speaks to how bad he was in his first two years). The biggest disappointment was probably that Hughes made little impact in the special teams game either, something the Colts brass thought he would excell at when they drafted him. Hopefully a change of scenery will do him good - but at this point, I'm not optimistic.
Kelvin Sheppard (6-2, 244 pounds) was the Bills' third round pick (68th overall) in the 2011 NFL Draft out of LSU, and in two seasons in Buffalo he totaled 150 tackles, 2 sacks, and 2 pass deflections. He started 15 games for the Bills last year, notching 80 tackles (third best on the team) and 2 sacks.
Sheppard joins an already logjammed inside linebacker core, increasing the total to four good players battling for two starting spots. Jerrell Freeman, Pat Angerer, and Kavell Conner are all already on the team and have all had very successful starts to their careers in Indy. I don't want to sound too judgemental already, in April, but I just don't know how Sheppard fits into the mix. He will face an uphill battle to earn a starting spot, and that is nothing against him talent-wise. He is a good young player who is now in a system that is probably a better fit for him anyways, according to Brian Galliford of Buffalo Rumblings. He will certainly get a chance to compete, but I'm just not sure if he will be anything more than a depth player once the season starts.
That said, I think this was a pretty even trade, and the Colts get a good young linebacker and at the same time get rid of a player who is a common joke among Colts fans and is considered a big bust. While Hughes' pass rush skills may have continued to develop this season in his second year in Chuck Pagano's 3-4 system, he would never have been able to live up to the expectations that the Colts and their fans established for him - and rightfully so, with him being a first round pick.After three years, the Jerry Hughes era in Indianapolis is finally over. And there was much rejoicing.