At this point in the offseason new GM Chris Ballard has done virtually everything and more to meet any Indianapolis Colts fan’s expectations. He’s brought in some players through free agency such as Johnathan Hankins who can be perceived as impact players, a handful of rotational players as well as some likely to contribute solely on special teams.
Ballard addressed, both, positional needs and landed some who clearly fit the best player available distinction in the draft. He’s also doing work in the front office to bring the Indianapolis Colts’ scouting department to the forefront of the league in order to continue off-season improvement for years to come.
Most of the acquisitions Ballard has taken swings on have been in their 20s with a few exceptions, which is absolutely key to keeping the team younger and is a far better free agency approach than in recent years. Signing old veterans to lengthy, expensive contracts has rarely paid off for the Colts – also with few exceptions.
There is, however, one option still out there who may be worthy of a prove-it style contract that the organization has some familiarity with. Erik Walden, in my eyes, is certainly worth a look at this point.
The Colts moved on from a ton of last year’s roster, and rightly so. In fact, I don’t think most have any issues with Walden being told that the team wouldn’t be offering him a contract for 2017. At the time, I was somewhat on the fence about bringing Walden back, I could see the logic either way.
Now, we have a more complete picture of what the Colts roster offers at the position, and throughout the defensive side of the ball in general. The front seven has been bolstered, no doubt about it, with younger and cheap talent showing the possibility of high returns on very little investment. Again, this is indeed the right way to go about it.
But, despite some additions, the outside linebacker group is a touch thin if you really look at it. Jabaal Sheard, John Simon and Barkevious Mingo were added to an existing group that only featured Akeem Ayers as having previous solid experience in the league. Tarell Basham was added through the draft, yet he’s actually listed as a defensive end on the roster which poses the question of where the Colts actually see him contributing.
Another rookie Garrett Sickels along with Deiontrez Mount and Lavar Edwards round out the position and shouldn’t make anyone feel as though there’s quality depth by any means. All we’ve heard about Mingo is that he’ll get a chance to compete, but is largely seen as special teams help. Ayers has been injured throughout the summer, so we don’t really know what he can provide despite being one of the more productive guys at the position last season.
So, then, is it realistic that these others make you feel good about the position, especially if an injury pops up at some point with one of the starters? Not me. In fact, this may be the Colts weakest position considering depth from top to bottom.
Plain and simple, Walden is not a risk. He will be 32 next season, but was tied for 8th in the league for sacks last season despite being the exact opposite of a true pass rusher. His 11 sacks were often in the form of coverage sacks, but he was often in the right place at the right time, right? Barreling down the line of scrimmage to make a play when the ball was going in the other direction or the quarterback was climbing the pocket to attempt to run. Doesn’t that at least count for something – having a nose for the ball and understanding the natural progression of the game?
Additionally, Walden offered what Simon said he’d be bringing to the roster when referring to the “nastiness” that’s so necessary in any defense’s makeup. I think I speak for all of us when I say that there’s nothing wrong with a little more mean on a rebuilding defense.
Then you add in the fact that Walden has the familiarity with the scheme, most of the coaches and was truly considered to be a leader in the locker room. The Colts lost a ton of leadership in Mike Adams, D’Qwell Jackson and Robert Mathis in the transition regardless of how you see these player’s performances in 2016.
In no way do I hope for the Colts to start dropping major paper on aging veterans, but a minimal deal with little guaranteed money wouldn’t be a bad thing at this point. The Colts don’t have a ton in cap space at the moment, so they’d have to be creative to open up some money, however, having no depth is an equally big problem for this position in particular going forward for the 2017 season.
Maybe the Colts should give Walden a call.