Well, this story changed before I could ever sit down to write it. I planned to make an argument for the Indianapolis Colts possibly dealing defensive end Jabaal Sheard as the trade deadline approaches.
Then I saw that Nick Shook of NFL.com had already suggested this in his latest column “One move for each AFC team to make.” So. first I’ll give you Nick’s blurb on Sheard, then I’ll give you some additional factors to help you think through whether you feel it’s a good idea or a bad one for the Colts right now.
“INDIANAPOLIS COLTS: Sell defensive end Jabaal Sheard. The Colts aren’t in a position to really buy or sell, but with Sheard set to turn 30 next May and heading toward the final season of his contract, it seems as though a parting of ways is likely. Sheard doesn’t carry any dead money into 2019, making him a prime candidate for release, to both save $8 million in cap space and open the door to starter-level action for rookie Kemoko Turay. So why not move Sheard at the deadline and get an asset in return (instead of nothing in the offseason)? Potential compensation: Late-round pick.”
Okay, of course everything that Nick laid out here is right on. But, let me talk a bit about his words before I get into the additional thoughts.
The Colts really aren’t in any sort of position to be dealing, though most might disagree. At 2-5, the Colts may just be at a crossroads in their season especially if they handle the Oakland Raiders this Sunday. That puts them at 3-5 at their bye with a heavy AFC South schedule, which could be perfect timing with consideration to how the rest of the division is playing right now.
The rest of their non-divisional games post-bye, are a combined 8-13 right now and are all very beatable for the Colts. So the Colts do currently have a legitimate chance to take the division, though I admit things would have to really get on a roll for that to happen.
Most would say “Well, they’re 2-5, they’re not doing anything this year.” As you can see, that’s not really the case here — all things considered. On the other hand, if the Colts take a loss in Oakland, it’s hard to envision any postseason miracles.
Next, yes, Sheard will be 30 next year, and heading into the final season of his contract, and I don’t think that anyone believes that Sheard will be on the Colts roster next season. Not when you see Chris Ballard wanting to go young sooner rather than later with this roster.
You know Tyquan Lewis looks to be well on his way to being on the active roster post-bye if the stories about how he’s been preparing lately are true. The Colts likely plan to play him almost solely at the 3-tech, but Margus Hunt has played a lot of DE this year already just for one example. And if you feel Denico Autry is getting healthy, why isn’t this a position you could supplement with a couple different guys?
The Colts also seem to like Carroll Phillips, and Al-Qadin Muhammad enough to use them as rotational pieces at the position, and may have greater expectations for them than we currently know. Just saying. Kemoko Turay looks like he’s progressing nicely as the season continues, and if that ascension were to continue, the near future could be extremely bright.
Sheard does share the team lead in sacks (4) for the Colts right now, and has honestly been pretty fantastic this year all the way around. And there’s another argument here too. Sheard is exactly what Chris Ballard wants the youngsters on this roster to embody. He is a hard worker. He is disciplined, and very disruptive. Would this send the wrong message to the rest of the roster? Maybe.
His cap hit is moot at this point. The Colts have all the money in the world, and don’t look to be candidates to be setting the market in the next free agency period. They may be a little more active than this past offseason, but Ballard isn’t going to go crazy. He’s told us that many times.
Now you have to look at the compensation. If we’re talking late-rounder — as Shook suggests — would you do that for a sixth round pick in return for Sheard and risk losing any potential momentum the team could be gaining? I don’t know if I do.
However, I do know that there are some potential playoff teams right now that have very little pass rush and may be willing to pay a slightly higher price for Sheard. Now, I won’t pretend to know the depths of these rosters, but there’s a couple that look interesting for this.
The New England Patriots have a total of 9 sacks this year. The Miami Dolphins, who are hoping to upset those Pats for the AFC East this year, have a total of 11 sacks on the season. Both are in the mix right now and may see another 5-8 sacks in Sheard this season.
In the NFC, the Saints are 5-1 and are only up one game on the Panthers in the NFC South. The Saints have only amassed 13 sacks on the year, and just to keep the divisional talk going, the Atlanta Falcons are only a game shy in the win column of those Panthers. The Falcons are also somewhat disappointing with their lack of production in rushing the passer with a total of 14 sacks.
Is Sheard maybe worth a fourth, or fifth round pick to one of these teams? If he is, I think I like the exchange for a fifth to be perfectly honest. I don’t think Sheard would yield a fourth mostly because of his age, but if that were ever an offer I wouldn’t think twice about it.
Finding that balance between the right veteran leadership for the culture you’re looking to build, acquiring what you can to build that roster how you want to, all while also being honest about the team’s situation is a tightrope act all within itself. This certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility if teams are to call on Ballard for Sheard’s services.
If you’re on the “keep Sheard” train, then you’re probably right. He’s been great for the Colts and is absolutely the right type of leadership that you hope to have in the locker room. Conversely, if you’re on the other side of this argument then you’re likely also right. For me, anything less than a sixth rounder and I don’t even respond. I’d very much ponder about a fifth, but I’d have to really be confident in my youth stepping up, my vets staying healthy and my injured would have to be coming back very quickly.