5 Potential Defensive Line Free-Agent Targets for the Indianapolis Colts
The Indianapolis Colts have plenty of holes to fill this offseason.They need players both on offense, where a second wide receiver and offensive linemen are still drastically needed, and defense, where every position deserves an upgrade.
With the plethora of deficiencies and an incredibly high $40-plus million in cap space for 2013, Colts fans, bloggers and beat writers have begun their speculation.
While offensive linemen, defensive backs and pass-rushing outside linebackers have gotten a lot of discussion among this speculation, the defensive line has been overlooked by most.
But no matter what the Twitter talk is, the defensive line has to be addressed over the next two months. The Colts defensive line was abysmal in 2012, a big reason why the Colts were one of the league's worst defenses against the run. The lack of interior pass rush was also a factor in the outside linebacker's failures in getting to the quarterback, as the Colts failed to collapse the pocket far too often.
With the state of the current roster in dire straits, here are a few potential free-agent targets for the defensive line. None of these players will single-handedly fix the problem, but the Colts need to continue building their new 3-4 defense by finding pieces where they can.
Am I cheating by having the first target be someone the Colts just re-signed?
Why yes, yes I am.
But that's not the point.
If the news has not yet reached you, Fili Moala re-signed with the Colts on a one-year deal on Monday, a big step in the Colts' stabilizing the line for 2013.
Moala looked much more natural at the 3-4 end position in 2012 than he had at defensive tackle for the Colts' old 4-3 schemes, leading to a semi-productive year for the four-year veteran.
While the former USC Trojan was a liability in the run game, he was one of the only Colts to provide a semblance of a pass rush from the defensive line in 2012. With another year and offseason of integration in the 3-4 scheme, it's clear the Colts would like to see what he can do for at least one more year.
Unfortunately, Moala has injury issues, something that has plagued the Colts' lines for the past few years.
Moala missed Week 6 through Week 8 with a sprained right knee, which he suffered in the Colts' emotional comeback win over Green Bay. He came back for four weeks, but ended up tearing his ACL in that same knee in Week 12, forcing him to end the season on injured reserve. The torn ACL could cause Moala to start the season on the PUP list.
Even if Moala is healthy, he won't have a guaranteed starting spot. Drake Nevis should challenge for the spot if no other moves are made.
The 6'2", 315-pound interior lineman from Kansas City is going into free agency with a few labels, namely "bust" and "out of position."
Dorsey, drafted by the Chiefs in 2008 at fifth overall, was initially thought to be a defensive tackle in a 4-3 scheme. His play at that position in 2008 was poor overall, and in 2009 the Chiefs moved to a 3-4 base defense moving Dorsey to a defensive end position that he had never previously played.
A lot of Dorsey's troubles since then have been blamed on that scheme change. However, my opinion is that Dorsey simply is what he is. He's a solid run defender, but offers little in pass rush.
From 2010-2012, Pro Football Focus has consistently graded Dorsey very well against the run, but very poorly in pass rush. That doesn't mean he has no place on a team, it just means that his skill set needs to be adjusted to the scheme and play-calling.
The Colts struggled mightily against the run in 2012, and Drake Nevis was really the only Colt to be able to play well against the run throughout the season. Dorsey would change that, giving the Colts someone to put out there on first and second down or short-distance situations. He wouldn't be the nickel or dime lineman, but he doesn't need to be.
With his injury history (put on injured reserve early in 2012 with a calf injury) and lack of production in Kansas City, his contract could be very affordable for 2013.
I'd certainly put more money on Dorsey going to a 4-3 team than a team with a 3-4 base, but Dorsey could be a dark horse for Indianapolis, which desperately needs a run stuffer on the defensive line.
Following in the footsteps of defensive linemen Cory Redding and Brandon McKinney, current Baltimore defensive end Arthur Jones could be the next Raven to join Colts head coach Chuck Pagano in Naptown.
While Jones signing in Indianapolis certainly would seem like an overload of ex-Ravens on the defensive line, Jones has shown that he is dependable as a rotational defensive end and occasional starter, with potential for improvement.
Pagano saw the defensive end progress in 2010 and 2011, and got a new look at his increased role in the Colts' loss to Baltimore in the Wild Card Round of this past year's playoffs. Jones played a huge role in shutting down the Colts' running game inside the red zone.
Jones is a proven run-stuffer and would fit in nicely in Pagano's scheme. The unknown part when it comes to Jones is his contract. Some teams may be willing to overpay for Jones because of his potential to be a full-time starter. Indianapolis doesn't need that from him and shouldn't overpay for him, but he should definitely be an option to keep an eye on.
Mike DeVito has been criminally underrated in New York, overshadowed by Muhammad Wilkerson. But Devito will likely be allowed to test the free-agency waters this offseason and should be a target for any team looking for a run stuffer.
DeVito ranked as PFF's seventh-best 3-4 end against the run in 2012, after being fifth in 2011 and second in 2010. In fact, not only has DeVito ranked very well against the run in PFF's grades, but he's fared very well overall, finishing in the top ten of his position every year since 2009 when he became a significant part of the defensive line rotation.
While DeVito has been fantastic against the run, he's been lacking in pass rush. While he hasn't been anywhere near the liability that Glenn Dorsey has been, he will not consistently push the pocket back.
The issue with DeVito is that if you pay him to come into Indianapolis, he's going to start, which pushes your other players back. Of course, that may not be a bad thing, preventing the team from finishing the season with Lawrence Guy and Clifton Geathers on the field.
After a list of run-stuffers, Chris Canty finishes the list off as a solid pass-rusher from the interior. Canty has spent the last four years as a defensive tackle in the Giants' 4-3 defense, but spent time in Dallas prior to that as an end in a 3-4.
Because of this versatility, Canty has already met with several teams with both 4-3 and 3-4 defenses.
Now, there is no talk of Canty visiting with Indianapolis at all, but that doesn't mean he's out of the picture. A very good pass-rusher, the 30-year old lineman holds his own in run defense while being able to get into the backfield on passing downs as well.
There are a few issues here. First, Canty is used to starting and may be looking to continue that role. Rumor has it that the Chiefs, one of the few 3-4 teams to meet with Canty, are going to use Canty in a rotational role if he goes to Kansas City. I could see the Colts doing this, but I would still expect him to start over Fili Moala and Drake Nevis.
Second, and likely more important, is that Canty may want more money than he's worth. He was cut by the Giants to save money, as he was slated to make $6.25 million in 2013. His deal will likely be on a short-term basis, but he may still be looking for close to that same mark per year. The Colts may not be willing to pay that.
Note: Another option for a pass-rushing DL would be Seattle's Jason Jones.