Per The Athletic’s Stephen Holder, the Colts attempted to match his Titans contract offer, but Autry elected to join Tennessee given a more favorable second year of the deal:
Don't love the Colts' decision to let DL Denico Autry walk to Tennessee, but here's the skinny: The Colts, per NFL source, did try to match. Tennessee beat them out with their structure, which gave Autry more security in Year 2 of the deal. Important for a 30-year old player.— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) March 15, 2021
Arguably Colts general manager Chris Ballard’s most shrewd veteran free agent signing (with 20.0 career sacks for the Horseshoe), Autry has been an impact starting caliber defensive lineman for Indianapolis’ defense over the past three seasons—having initially come from the Oakland Raiders.
He converted from the three-technique (“3T”) defensive tackle spot to starting defensive end this past season—and made a smooth transition, recording 33 tackles (20 solo), 9 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks, and 35 total QB pressures during 14 games (13 starts).
However, set to turn 31 years old in July, while remaining a valuable member of the Colts defensive line, it’s arguable whether Autry’s best football is already behind him (and he’s more of a natural 3T, where All-Pro DeForest Buckner is firmly entrenched, than as a defensive end going forward).
The tough part is that Autry will be joining the reigning AFC South Champion Tennessee Titans, but the offseason isn’t over yet for the Colts to counter along the defensive line.
At defensive end, regardless of whether Autry was ultimately re-signed this offseason, the Colts needed an infusion of youth, speed, athleticism, and bend off the edge.
However, with Autry’s fresh departure, Ballard will need to find some defensive reinforcements in the trenches collectively—and with some added versatility would help.