The Indianapolis Colts were a busy team on Day 1. They made a few big signings and were able to re-sign some key players. The Colts spent some dollars on some big players; how do they fit with the team and what grade do the signings deserve.
Frank Gore (3 Years, $12,000,000)
Frank Gore spent 10 seasons with the San Francisco 49ers and was the most consistent player on their team during that time. He was a consistent 1000 yard rusher who pounded the rock in every situation. Sound familiar Colts fans? It shouldn't. The Colts haven't had a consistent pound the rock runner since Edgerrin James (who like Frank Gore was a Hurricane). Gore fills an important role for the Colts. Before I even get into his running ability, Gore is a 3 down running back with a great ability to block in the backfield. For a team that passes just under 40 times a game, pass protection is key. Trent Richardson struggled with pass protection and Dan Herron was inconsistent as a blocker. With Gore, you get a consistent blocker who is known for his blocking ability. He is also a talented receiving running back who used to be one of the better receiving backs in the league. With the emergence of Carlos Hyde and for preservation reasons, the 49ers have not used Gore as much in receiving situations. As we saw with Ahmad Bradshaw last year, anyone can be revived or kickstarted.
Now we get to his running ability, which is obviously the most important. There are concerns with Gore. He has a lot of mileage and he doesn't exactly have a finesse running style, so he has taken a lot of damage. Gore is a ground and pound running back who likes to put his head down and go right up the gut. Gore has 2440 rushes in his career, which is a lot for a running back and history tells us that's where running backs tend to start declining (most would argue that he has peaked). However, here is the interesting thing about being an Indianapolis Colts running back; he won't need to run the ball as much as he did in the past. He ran the ball 255 times last season. Every Colts running back combined for a total of 337 times last season. With Dan Herron and Vick Ballard behind him getting reps every now and then, that'll take off at least 25% of Gore's workload. So if take off 25%, that equals 252 carries, which is just less than what he ran for last season. If you ask me, the Colts will mix in Ballard and Herron more than 25% of the time.
My point in all of this is that Gore won't be required to do what he did in San Francisco. For years, he was the focal point of his offense. In Indy, it's Andrew Luck, not him. The great thing about this signing is that the Colts can finally have better balance on offense, and have a legitimate threat at running back. Gore's impact won't come on the stat sheet, it'll come on the screen.
The Colts made an important signing for their offense and they got a great, hard working running back.
Trent Cole (2 Years, $14,000,000)
The amount of bodies at outside linebacker continues to increase. Trent Cole may be the best pass rusher on the team now. Robert Mathis, after a torn achilles with a setback and at age 34 will not be the same player that he once was. I expect him to be a situational pass rusher playing in 50% of the snaps during the game. Newsome is primed for a bigger role and he deserves it. Werner hasn't proven much in his NFL career and we shouldn't be putting the "Bust" label on yet, if he keeps declining, it won't be too long before that label is slapped on him. Finally, there's Erik Walden, who gets a lot crap that he doesn't deserve and he deserves a role on the team.
Trent Cole gives the Colts a good all around player with a hard working mentality. Problem is, are his good years behind him? At age 32, and 10 years of NFL mileage, it's only logical to ask the question. However, let's look at the facts. Cole has always had a positive rating on Pro Football Focus, and a positive rating as a pass rusher and run defender. He played in 72.7% of the snaps for the Eagles last season, which is an impressive number and shows the coaches confidence in his all around ability. On top of that, he had 6.5 sacks and 52 tackles, which are more or less equal to his career averages. Pass rushers last quite a while too and for comparison's sake, Robert Mathis had his 19.5 sack season at age 32, so we can't start saying his career is in the final stretch yet.
Cole gives the Colts a good every down linebacker who can start at strong-side outside linebacker and play 65 to 70% of the snaps. Although people like to look at say that he'll help the pass rush (which is probably true), we must also take into account that he's a good run stopper with good numbers and a positive rating, and he plays a good portion of snaps.
What can we take away from these signings? These were veterans that the Colts needed in the locker room. With Reggie Wayne gone and Cory Redding's future in Indy being in question, the Colts are at a shortage of veterans. Every team needs a good mix of veterans and young upstarts. These signings also help positions of need. It was a positive day for the Colts and these signings should have positive impacts on the team.
What it also showed is Ryan Grigson taking a different approach in free agency. He waited things out, he didn't panic and sign anyone to big deals, or any backups to larger amounts than what they deserved (cough cough RJF). He made positive, veteran signings. These are veterans with very good history's and known for their hard work ethic. These are the type of players that win you championships.