At the time, it was a move that generated very little national buzz.
However, since then, it has paid major dividends for the Colts defense.
Signed by the Raiders as an undrafted free agent in 2014, the 6’5”, 285 pound pass rusher occasionally flashed his pass rushing potential during his first four seasons in the Black Hole—even finishing with 5.0 sacks in 2017.
However, he had yet to consistently put it all together, as he served primarily as a rotational defensive lineman for the Raiders.
Of course, the Raiders being the Raiders, let Autry leave (along with trading All-Pro Khalil Mack), but that’s a discussion for a different day.
In Indianapolis, Autry was signed because Colts assistant general manager Ed Dodds saw something that perhaps other NFL evaluators had overlooked, “Get him here,” Dodds told Autry’s agent following the beginning of last year’s free agency. “We want him here.”
In the aftermath, Autry underwent nothing short of a breakout season for the Colts in 2018—as he was named a Pro Bowl alternate.
In the process, Autry finished with a team high 9.0 sacks and 2 forced fumbles in just 12 games (11 starts).
At times last season, Autry was borderline unblockable, showcasing a unique combination of speed, agility, and pass rushing moves:
DENICO AUTRY WITH THE SACK! pic.twitter.com/DqgkFzupnw— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) December 16, 2018
It’s carried over to Colts training camp (yes, even occasionally against Colts First-Team All-Pro offensive guard Quenton Nelson):
Denico Autry just bursted through a gap and deflected Jacoby Brissett’s pass. Then he dove for the ball and damn near picked it off. NFL is gonna know this man’s name this season.— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) July 31, 2019
4) Denico Autry had 9 sacks last year, and has been unblockable during the team's first 2 days in pads. He's flown under the radar some. He shouldn't anymore -- He might be Chris Ballard's best signing since landing in Indy.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) July 28, 2019
Denico Autry was just whipping some guys out there today, and Quenton Nelson was on the receiving end a time or two.— Kevin Bowen (@KBowen1070) July 27, 2019
You forget how dominant Autry was last season, when healthy (9 sacks in 12 games).
On a Colts defense that features the likes of rising stars such as Darius Leonard, Kenny Moore, and Malik Hooker, as well as now veteran pass rusher Justin Houston, Autry may not be one of the first names that consistently comes to mind for the average onlooker—but he should be.
He’s one of the Colts’ best defensive players and could be poised for an even BIGGER encore performance in 2019.