With the releases of LaRon Landry, Ricky Jean Francois, and Gosder Cherilus this offseason, only two players from the Colts' awful 2013 free agency class are left as starters entering the 2015 season: cornerback Greg Toler and outside linebacker Erik Walden. And while there are many who took issue with the contract handed out to Walden at the time and many who would still object to it today, he has actually done a solid job during his time with the team.
Walden, who spent seven seasons with the Chiefs, Dolphins, and Packers before coming to Indy, has played in 30 games over the past two years with the Colts (starting 29) and has recorded 82 tackles, nine sacks, three passes defensed, two forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. His first year with the team was a rough one, but in 2014 he really stepped up his play. The outside linebacker spot was a mess for the Colts, as Walden was the only real option at the strongside outside linebacker spot while the rush spot was vacated with the suspension and injury to Robert Mathis. Walden's run defense proved to be valuable and he did a good job of setting the edge, the very thing that he was brought to Indianapolis to do. He wasn't a game-changer, but he did a good job in his role and in defending against the run game. Furthermore, Walden showed more pass rush abilities than he had at any point previously in his career, as he doubled his previous career high in sacks with six, a mark that finished second on the team only to Jonathan Newsome (6.5). He was an underrated bright spot on a defense that, in 2014, didn't have too many.
Entering 2015, it doesn't appear as if Walden's role will decrease. Though the Colts have a number of options at the rush linebacker spot now (Robert Mathis, Trent Cole, Jonathan Newsome), they don't appear to have a ton of options at the strongside spot, with Walden being the clear starter and then perhaps Bjoern Werner being the most likely option to back him up. While his role as a pass rusher might be less needed this year, Walden's role as a run defender will still definitely be there. And if he can play like he did last year, he'd be that rare exception to the players brought in by the team in 2013: he'd be helping the Colts rather than hurting them.