The Indianapolis Colts have been very busy in free agency. So far, they’ve made thirteen signings, bringing in ten new free agents and keeping three of their own. There are a lot of new faces for the Colts, and it can be hard to keep track of all of them.
It can also be hard to know what to make of the players brought in, and I’ve always been a firm believer that the local media covering a particular team are best equipped to provide an understanding of a player from that team. So what we’re going to do is begin looking at each of the Colts’ free agent signings and hopefully get the opportunity to hear from someone who follows the player’s former team incredibly closely.
That’s the benefit of being a part of a network of sites with SB Nation, as we can reach out to people who know their respective teams as well as anyone. To begin our series, we asked Pats Pulpit’s Rich Hill some questions about the Colts’ biggest free agent signing, Jabaal Sheard. Sheard spent the last two seasons with the Patriots and did a nice job, earning a three-year, $25.5 million deal from Indianapolis this offseason. He recorded eight sacks and four forced fumbles in 2015, and then last year recorded five sacks. He spent the first four seasons of his career with the Browns.
Here’s what Rich had to say about Sheard (the questions are in bold and his answers follow):
1. How was Jabaal Sheard during his tenure with the Patriots?
Sheard signed a two-year deal with the Patriots and was worth every penny. In year one, he was a phenomenal #3 edge defender that outplayed the two starters in his limited time. His performance inspired the Patriots to trade away Chandler Jones with the understanding that Sheard would be a more consistent and cheaper option than Jones in year two. That didn't happen. In year two, Sheard was mediocre. He wasn't stout against the run on the edge and his production as a pass rusher dwindled. He was a healthy scratch against the San Francisco 49ers and fell to #4 on the depth chart, before moving back to #3 ahead of Chris Long in the postseason.
2. Why was he not re-signed?
Sheard was going to receive a contract offer based on his 2015 performance, while the Patriots saw his limited contributions in 2016 and said "no thanks". It's kind of like how the Patriots went their separate ways with Brandon LaFell. LaFell was awesome in 2014, struggled in 2015, and the two sides determined that it would be best to go their separate ways for 2016 and LaFell signed with the Bengals. Sheard needs a change of scenery and the Patriots were never going to match his price tag on the open market.
3. What are his strengths and weaknesses?
In 2015, Sheard was a great pass rusher that was extremely consistent and productive as a run stuffer at the line of scrimmage. He's not going to win with speed on the edge, but he's stout and can move inside and outside to generate pressure, and strong enough to shed blockers to make plays in the run game. I think that his increased time on the field in 2016 hurt his contributions and that he might be best served as a #3 pass rusher in a rotation because he lost his consistency in 2016. He played primarily on the offensive right side versus right tackles.
4. Do you think this is a good fit and a good signing for the Colts?
I think he's a player that's worth a flier if there's a chance he can find his 2015 form. At his best, he's an elite run defender that is disruptive against the pass as a low-double digit sack man, but with far more hits and hurries. At his worst, he's not valuable enough to play against the 49ers. Most likely you're getting a guy that can contribute in a rotation and will collect 6-8 sacks over the course of the season, but he'll vanish for stretches of the year.
Hopefully that helps provide a better understanding of what the Colts are getting in Jabaal Sheard. Thanks again to Rich for taking the time to answer our questions, and be sure to check out Pats Pulpit for all things Patriots.