Indianapolis Colts: Team Improves Defense Dramatically Through Free Agency

By Eric Smith
Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The Indianapolis Colts entered free agency as one of the top teams with money to spend. They had over $44 million available and owner Jim Irsay and VP Ryan Grigson were going to spend as much of that as they could to upgrade this team.

Spend they did.

On day one, they signed five guys. Three of those five were on the defensive side of the ball and two to fill holes on the offensive line. The Colts brought in offensive tackle Gosder Cherilus to play right tackle and Donald Thomas to start at guard. Those two will help immediately.

From there, they took to the holes of the defense.

Indianapolis ranked 26th in total defense last season with giving up 374.3 yards per game. They ranked 21st against the pass and 29th against the rush.

To be fair, last year they switched from a base 4-3 to a hybrid 3-4 scheme. They played the new scheme with mainly players drafted to play a 4-3 scheme. Most of these starters have never played in the 3-4 where guys are bigger and stronger. The 4-3 style was more finesse where guys played their zones.

The front office said that was the one side of the ball they thought needed to improve to become a Super Bowl threat. They needed players that can play that scheme and thought this would help build them to a contender.

The Colts brought in cornerback Greg Toler and linebackers Erik Walden and Lawrence Sidbury on Tuesday. Toler, had 128 tackles, a sack, two forced fumbles and five interceptions during his four year tenure with the Arizona Cardinals. He’s a much bigger cornerback as he’s 6-0, 192 pounds.

The team also brought in Walden to fill the void left by Dwight Freeney. With Freeney being gone, they wanted to move Robert Mathis to that rush spot and hoped to find someone to start for him. That’s where they felt Walden came in.

Walden, has played with three teams during his five-year NFL career with his most notable being the Green Bay Packers. He won the Super Bowl a few years ago as a member of their team and has a total of 154 tackles, nine sacks and two interceptions.

He’s much bigger than Freeney as he stands 6-2, 250 pounds. If he can do a better job of reading the quarterback and not being out of position, the Colts could have one of the best linebacking corps in the league.

Sidbury was brought in to help become a backup for Mathis and Walden. He can play both outside linebacker and defensive end. He’s 6-2, 266 pounds so has some height and weight to him where he can be effective in both roles.

Then last night, the Colts re-signed cornerback Cassius Vaughn who will be another key factor in the nickel and brought in safety LaRon Landry.

Landry will start opposite of Antoine Bethea and give the Colts a feared safety duo. Landry, a former sixth pick of the draft, has 483 career tackles, 5.5 sacks, six interceptions and 10 forced fumbles in his six-year career and is a very big 6-0, 220 pound safety that delivers bone crushing hits.

The final and most recent guy added to the new Colts arsenal is Ricky Jean-Francois. He’s a monster coming in at 6-3, 295 pounds. Francois, ended up being a steal for the San Francisco 49ers and became one of the best defensive linemen in the game. He had 49 tackles and three sacks during his tenure there and will be a huge asset for this Colts team.

The Colts now have Francois, Fili Moala (6-4, 310 pounds), Cory Redding (6-4, 315 pounds) and Josh Chapman (6-0, 316 pounds) as their defensive line and could move all four around in their three man front. That beef upfront is something the Colts have never had and can improve dramatically on the pass rush and 29th ranked rush defense.

All of these moves will be noticed immediately as they’ve now addressed every concern on the defensive unit. Now, they can draft guys to backup both outside linebackers and the three cornerbacks and this defense is set for the next four years.

Be on alert because the Colts finally have a feared defense and no longer are just an offensive threat.

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