There are a number of places the Colts will likely be looking to improve once cut downs frenetically begin after the final preseason game. While Chris Ballard will be scouring the league for anyone who might be an improvement to contribute to the Colts roster, today we are going to have a look at some linebackers who might be of interest to the Colts should they come available.
Justin March-Lillard – Kansas City Chiefs
Justin March-Lillard is an interesting prospect. Only 24 years old, March-Lillard has been limited by injury which has kept him on IR for much of his short career. He went down with a knee injury during the preseason his rookie year, and last season played just 5 games due to a hand injury which ended his season prematurely.
Chiefs beat writer Terez Paylor described March-Lillard as a “smart player with really good instincts.” Additionally, he said that March-Lillard “displayed a knack for the big play” in practice, though that did not always translate to games. Paylor attributes this to the fact that he was starting at the “mike” linebacker position and his fit would be better at the “will” position given his skill set and size.
He is an interesting prospect because the Colts are pretty thin at inside linebacker. Ballard will know better than just about anyone about March-Lillard’s injury history, and that will be the thing that might concern teams in taking a flier on him. Given how little he has actually gotten to play through his time in the league, he might be a guy who would make a quality depth or rotational player for the Colts and one who Ballard would be familiar with.
Jeremy Cash – Carolina Panthers
Bradley Smith of Cat Scratch Reader said that Cash has had a rough camp and preseason so far and might be a surprise cut. Cash is in his second year, an undrafted free agent out of Duke. He is a versatile player who made the transition from safety to outside linebacker. That combination of experience might make him intriguing to the Colts because they like players who have position flexibility.
Additionally, Cash has carved out a role for himself on the Panthers as a solid special teams contributor, a role that is a necessity if you want to make it as a rotational player on nearly any team. Like March-Lillard, Cash is only 24. His transition to the linebacker position was tough and he is still developing but has major upside. Despite his potential, he finds himself in the dog house for a low hit on first-round pick Christian McCaffery during camp, and because he has had a generally unimpressive showing so far this offseason. 20 other teams tried to sign him after the draft, so his release likely would not go unnoticed, but he could certainly be worth a look for some depth at the linebacker position and as a valuable special teamer.
Anthony Chickillo – Pittsburgh Steelers
This one comes courtesy of Jeff Hartman of Behind the Steel Curtain. While Chickillo is not a household name, he is one that Steelers fans know. He is a part of a crowded outside linebacker group in Pittsburgh. Chickillo came into the league as a defensive lineman and made the switch to a 3-4 outside linebacker. The Steelers have a pretty good history of making that work, and that makes him an intriguing prospect.
A valuable special teams contributor and versatile player who has been used all over the field, Chickillo is the kind of player the Colts like. In keeping with the trend of young players, he is just 24 years old and has a lot of football ahead of him. He could give a boost to the pass rush game as a rotational player and potential long-term starter should he improve on his 2.5 sacks from last season. If the Steelers were to release him, Chickillo would be worth a very serious look for a Colts team in desperate need of a pass rush.
Reggie Ragland – Buffalo Bills
According to Matt Warren of Buffalo Rumblings, someone to keep an eye out for in the coming weeks is Reggie Ragland. While it isn’t likely that Ragland, the Bills 2016 2nd round pick will get cut, he believes Ragland could definitely garner interest for a trade.
Hand-picked by Rex Ryan as an ideal inside linebacker for his 3-4 defense, Ragland never saw the field after going down in training camp with a torn ACL. He was viewed coming out as a guy who was an old school type linebacker and someone who could be a difference maker immediately. With the coaching change and a switch to a 4-3 defense under Sean McDermott, that might leave someone like Ragland out of the future plans for the Bills as a bad fit.
Ballard has been a bold GM so far and going out to get a guy like Ragland could be exactly the kind of move that could help solidify the linebacking corp for years to come. The cost would be a big factor, but at just 23 years old, the potential is definitely there for a major impact player.