According to ESPN’s Matt Bowen (subscription), the Indianapolis Colts are the ‘perfect scheme fit’ for Cincinnati Bengals’ soon-to-be free agent pass rusher Carl Lawson—who recently avoided the franchise tag:
Carl Lawson, Edge
Best scheme fit: Colts | 2020 team: Bengals | Age: 26
The Bengals should make a play to keep Lawson, but I like the idea of the edge rusher in Indianapolis to fill a major need for the Colts. With the disruptive traits of defensive tackles DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart, the Colts could use Lawson on stunts or set him up with one-on-ones off the edge. And that’s where we see the power in his hands, short-area juice and the effort plays that lead to pressures.
Originally a 2017 4th round pick of the Bengals, the 6’2”, 265 pound edge (with 31 1/2” arms) is coming off a season for Cincinnati in which he had 36 tackles (18 solo), 4 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 64 total QB pressures, 24 total QB hits, and 2 forced fumbles during 16 games (11 starts) in 2020.
Per PFF (subscription), Lawson was their 14th best graded edge overall with a +76.3 overall grade, highlighted by a +84.9 pass rushing grade (8th best at the position) this past season.
Of course, it’s not the first time that Bowen has mentioned Lawson’s potential fit with the Colts this early offseason:
DE Carl Lawson —— Matt Bowen (@MattBowen41) March 2, 2021
Power/technique + short-area juice to close on the QB. High-effort pass rusher on tape.
Could see the fit with the Colts defense. Edge rusher to pair with Buckner/Stewart inside.
Can scheme Lawson on stunts/twists, too. @NFLMatchup pic.twitter.com/nx6OHrD7hX
With starting defensive ends Justin Houston (32) and Denico Autry (30) set to become free agents—along with rotational edge Al-Quadin Muhammad, the Colts have both immediate and long-term needs at the position.
Regardless of what happens, the Colts could use an infusion of youth and dynamic talent at defensive end—as there’s a definite need for more athleticism, quickness, and bend—bringing consistent pass pressure off the edge:
Fastest average pass rush get off -- the time to cross the LOS -- among players with at least 200 pass rushes last season:— Seth Walder (@SethWalder) March 9, 2021
T.J. Watt 0.72
Bud Dupree 0.72
Carl Lawson 0.73
Yannick Ngakoue 0.73
Myles Garrett 0.74
3 free agents in that group!@NextGenStats
Here’s some other clips of Lawson clearly getting after the quarterback—deploying an arsenal of pass rushing moves:
Carl Lawson (@carllawson55) beats the OL/chip by the TE & gets pressure on the QB with the spin move! #passrush pic.twitter.com/5kEDdo0Mu6— DLineVids (@dlinevids1) February 16, 2021
Carl Lawson (@carllawson55) has a good looking cross chop/club that he can use as well! #freeagent #passrush pic.twitter.com/UC2l2tAjus— DLineVids (@dlinevids1) March 10, 2021
Carl Lawson uses the long arm to counter & get to the QB for the sack. @carllawson55 is a pass rushing threat! #passrush #freeagent pic.twitter.com/uGrPJDUJ99— DLineVids (@dlinevids1) March 10, 2021
Carl Lawson (265 lbs) goes speed to power with the bull/long arm vs the 312 lb Wills Jr.. @carllawson55 using strength, technique & leverage. Any longer & it's probably a sack (play ended in an INT) #passrush #bengals pic.twitter.com/moy1t9us44— DLineVids (@dlinevids1) March 6, 2021
Carl Lawson shows off his speed to power move again! He bullrushes the LT back into Ben for a QB hit. He had a fantastic game on Monday. pic.twitter.com/CqiJd1Sbr5— Sans (@bengals_sans) December 24, 2020
Carl Lawson gives a very nice speed to club here. The speed rush causes Villy to overset which Lawson takes advantage of with a nice inside club move. pic.twitter.com/XklyhhHTio— Sans (@bengals_sans) December 24, 2020
Carl Lawson again with the club move on the LT who overset trying to stop his speed rush. Finishes it with a rip to get some pressure here. pic.twitter.com/DDj3fSEFke— Sans (@bengals_sans) December 24, 2020
Carl Lawson is SO good at the hump move pic.twitter.com/Mqvbe6DCSk— Matt Minich (@CoachMinich) September 27, 2020
Carl Lawson *NSFW* pic.twitter.com/8TiQXurQtS— The 585 Report (@585Report) March 4, 2021
Armed with roughly $47M of cap space, the Colts could very well seek to sign an impact edge to jumpstart a pass rushing unit that stalled down the stretch.
While neither a lanky nor an elite level athlete as a pass rusher, Lawson features an impressive speed to power combination—with a wide array of moves, and has been plenty productive during his 4-year pro career.
Even though Lawson figures to get paid this offseason, he also projects to be a little more cost efficient than say fellow free agent pass rushers Shaquil Barrett or Bud Dupree—while also being a little younger—as he’s only 25 years old.
From that perspective, Lawson is not only a scheme fit, but happens to make a great deal of sense for the Colts to sign as a young impactful pass rusher.