Jason Shirley has struggled to make his mark on the NFL since he was first drafted in 2008. Now, however, he’s getting another opportunity to prove that he can make it at football’s highest level.
On Thursday, the defensive tackle out of Fresno State signed a deal with the Indianapolis Colts. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Originally drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals in the fifth-round of the 2008 NFL Draft, Shirley has played in only seven games since. After seeing action in three games with the Bengals and spending time on their practice squad during the 2008 season, Shirley fell off the radar for the next two seasons.
Shirley resurfaced in 2011, starting the preseason with the Bengals before playing four late-season games for the Carolina Panthers as a reserve defensive tackle.
Through his seven career appearances, the 6’5’’, 329-pound Shirley has racked up eight total tackles, 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble. His biggest game came last season in a Week 14 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons when he strip-sacked quarterback Matt Ryan. Shirley followed up that performance the next week with a two-tackle, one-sack outing against the Houston Texans.
Now with the Colts, Shirley will likely battle for a reserve nose tackle spot behind starter Antonio Johnson. He will compete against veteran Brandon McKinney and rookie Josh Chapman for a spot on the 53-man roster. Considering his abilities as a pass-rusher, Shirley could also be in contention for a backup spot at one of the defensive end spots in the Colts’ 3-4 defense.
There’s nothing for the Colts to lose in taking a risk with Shirley, who proved in 2011 that he’s capable of making plays. Chances are slim that Shirley will suddenly breakout as an impact player, but they need all the help they can get after coming off of a 2-14 2011 season.