If you're an undrafted free agent pass rusher looking for a shot to make an NFL roster, there's no better opportunity than the Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts desperately need pass rush help. Their best two pass rushers, Robert Mathis and Trent Cole, are 35 and 33 years old respectively and entering the final year of their contracts. The other pass rushers all occupy spots where that's not their primary responsibility (such as edge linebacker Erik Walden or defensive lineman Kendall Langford). The Colts didn't sign a pass rusher in free agency, while they didn't add one in the draft until the seventh round (Maine's Trevor Bates). For undrafted pass rushers, then, the Colts seem like the ideal fit.
That's what Ron Thompson and Curt Maggitt thought, as two of the more talented underrated players both choose to sign with the Colts for the chance to compete.
"After the sixth round, I was hoping to really not get picked up so I can weigh my options and go to the best fit that I thought was good for me," Thompson told the Anderson Herald Bulletin's George Bremer. "And here I am."
Thompson, who played collegiately at Syracuse, was expected to be drafted but instead wasn't picked. In 37 games at Syracuse, he started 24 of them and recorded 87 tackles, 12 sacks, 21 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles, and a fumble recovery. He led the team with seven sacks in 2015 and is transitioning to a 3-4 outside linebacker role with the Colts.
As for Maggitt, he too was expected to be drafted but a legal incident, coupled with a hip injury during his senior season, led his stock to drop to undrafted range. At that point, he decided to sign with the Colts. "It's not all about getting drafted," Maggitt told Bremer. "I'm fortunate to be here, and I'm grateful for the opportunity, and I'm gonna make the best of it."
Maggitt wasn't able to work out on the field this weekend at rookie mini-camp due to his hip injury, but he's rehabbing and the Colts are excited to see what he can do. During his college career at Tennessee, he played in 35 games (starting 12) and recorded 141 tackles, 13.5 sacks, 28.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, and a pass defensed. Though he missed most of his senior season, he racked up a team-leading eleven sacks in 2014.
Both Ron Thompson and Curt Maggitt are looking to find a place on a Colts roster lacking young pass rushers, and they seem to stand as good of a chance as any of these undrafted players at finding a spot.
"I definitely understand the depth chart," Maggitt told the Indianapolis Star's Stephen Holder. "There's a Hall of Famer in the room [Robert Mathis], but there's opportunity. It's not very deep so I knew a shot was there. I was just looking for an opportunity to present itself."
That opportunity is certainly present in Indianapolis, and Colts coach Chuck Pagano realizes the potential the two undrafted pass rushers possess.
"High-motor guys," Pagano said on Saturday of Thompson and Maggitt. "They have a skillset rushing the passer. Maggitt, I'm still trying to figure out how to say it but I think I got close. I think 11.0 sacks a couple years ago in the SEC which is probably not an easy task and Thompson on tape, the same thing. Guys are long, they're athletic, they've got burst, they can close, they're rugged, they play with toughness. And like I said, they were well-coached and they've got some tools in their box that should enable them to get to the passer so we really like them."
There's no guarantee that either Ron Thompson or Curt Maggitt will make the roster; after all, they were undrafted for a reason. But with the Colts looking all over for help at pass rusher and with the team in need of young guys to develop at the area, these two are certainly players to keep an eye on this offseason and into training camp.