Indianapolis Colts: 13 Best Undrafted Free Agents in History
Over the years the Indianapolis Colts have gained a reputation as a team that will give anyone a chance, no matter what their pedigree. Under Bill Polian, the Colts have signed a number of guys from unlikely places who have gone on to play important roles on the team.
One recent example is the signing of Kyle DeVan from the Boise Burn of the Arena Football League 2. Since he joined the team, DeVan has helped to fill holes on the offensive line and has been a serviceable second-string guy.
For the last decade, a plethora of undrafted stand-outs like DeVan have helped to keep the Colts near the top of AFC. This slideshow will reveal the best undrafted free agents in Indianapolis Colts history and will culminate with a ranking of the unsung and unheralded who made it big.
Jacob Lacey Has Been a Mildly Effective Corner Since Signing with the Colts
Jacob Lacey signed with the Colts as an undrafted free agent in 2009 after an unspectacular career at Oklahoma State.
He ratcheted up his game during training camp in Terre Haute, however, and won a job as a back-up nickel corner. He had a solid rookie year in 2009 and then regressed some in 2010.
If Lacey can bounce back and prove himself as a consistent nickel corner in the mold of Tim Jennings, he will elevate himself as yet another excellent free agent signing by the Colts.
Eric Foster Is a Good Situational Defensive Lineman
He is fairly decent at getting around the edge and has six sacks and 118 tackles to his name in three years of spot duty.
No one wanted him out of Rutgers, but the Colts gladly dipped into that New Jersey school's well again (like they did with Gary Brackett) and were able to secure a good back-up for their defense.
Kyle DeVan Is a Solid Contributor on the Offensive Line
Kyle DeVan came in to the Colts in 2009 from the Boise Burn out of the Arena Football League 2. (Yes, he played in the AFL 2, not even the top of the line for the AFL).
Since he started with the Colts, he has often outplayed drafted guys who were projected to be superior to him. Mike Pollack and Jamey Richard are two O-line draft picks who have seen less of the field than DeVan.
Hard work and persistence can pay off with the Colts, and DeVan is ample proof of that.
Daniel Muir Is a Serviceable Big Body
Hefty defensive tackle Daniel Muir was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Green Bay Packers in 2007. The Packers waived him prior to the 2008 season. As has often happened over the years, the Colts saw potential where other teams didn't.
Since being signed by the Colts, Muir has played alongside either Fili Moala or Mookie Johnson as an anchor on the D-line.
With Drake Nevis as a third-round draft pick in the fold, and the expected emergence of Fili Moala, Muir's role with the Colts may be diminished in 2011.
For the past couple years, however, Muir emerged from obscurity to become a starter on a playoff-caliber team.
Melvin Bullitt Fires Up the Back End of the Defense
Gregarious and affable Melvin Bullitt has been one of the bigger revelations at safety for the Colts since 2007. Bullitt had a solid career at Texas A&M, but Ramzee Robinson (2007's Mr. Irrelevant) was picked by the Detroit Lions at No. 245 and Bullitt still hadn't heard his name called.
Throughout his collegiate career, Bullitt played linebacker, cornerback and safety, and had acquitted himself well at each position. Since signing with the Colts, Bullitt has been a stalwart in place of the oft-injured Bob Sanders. He is a sure tackler and is excellent in coverage.
While not possessing explosive speed, he is more than capable of making solid hits. And with six interceptions already in his young career, he has a nose for the ball and has come through with game-changing (and game-saving) plays in the clutch.
Bullitt will be a free agent this year, and his service to the Colts thus far certainly justifies a bigger contract. Colts fans would love to see him back. The Bethea/Bullitt safety combo is a good one, and Bullitt has a great rapport with the media and the fanbase in Indy.
He is an occasional guest radio host for 1070 the Fan, a local sports talk station. His easy-going manner and funny banter would be just as nice to keep around the Circle City as his great hits and coverage.
Blair White Stepped in to Help the Decimated 2010 Receiver Corps
With Austin Collie and Dallas Clark both getting injured early last season, the Colts desperately needed receiving help. They called on Blair White, who went undrafted out of Michigan State in 2010.
In 13 games, he caught 32 passes and scored five touchdowns from the arm of the notoriously finicky Peyton Manning. Gaining access to Manning's circle of trust was essential in 2010, especially since Pierre Garcon made a habit of playing hot potato with the football.
Although he doesn't possess good speed or athleticism, he has sure hands and runs decent routes. With his strong showing in 2010, White may have carved out a place for himself as the No. 4 receiver for the Colts.
Although this may seem like faint praise, White may just be the Aaron Moorehead of the future.
Terrence Wilkins Was the Heart of the Return Game for Years
Terrence Wilkins' last year with the Colts was 2006. The Colts are still looking for the type of consistent production that they had from the kick-off and punt return game when Wilkins wore the horseshoes.
Wilkins signed as an undrafted free agent with the Colts in 1999 and won the kick and punt return job that year. He was a crafty runner with the football and had excellent hands.
Despite not possessing torching speed, he was able to find holes and churn out yards to put the Colts offense in good field position consistently.
Wilkins is a prime example of an overlooked player who was unearthed by the Colts and went on to have a productive career.
Ryan Lilja Holds Strong as a Guard on the Offensive Line
Originally signed by the Kansas City Chiefs as an undrafted free agent out of Kansas State in 2004, Ryan Lilja had some stellar years protecting Peyton Manning until the Colts jettisoned him following their loss to New Orleans in Super Bowl XLIV.
The Chiefs, who must have realized their mistake in letting him go in 2004, quickly picked him up off of waivers. Lilja went on to excel at left guard for the Chiefs in 2010.
Lilja is an effective pass-blocker who can also plow open holes for running backs. He was unheralded out of college, but has proven he belongs in the NFL with the best of them.
Dominic Rhodes Is an Efficient Running Back
Rhodes finds himself with a record to his name. In 2001, he ran for the most rushing yards of any rookie undrafted free agent. After Edgerrin James went down with a knee injury, Rhodes came in and reeled off 1,104 yards in just nine games.
He continued his solid production as the No. 2 back behind James and then in 2006 behind the rookie Joseph Addai.
His first stint with the Colts culminated in his superb performance in Super Bowl XLI against the Chicago Bears. After punishing the Bears' vaunted defense for over 100 yards, many pundits thought that Rhodes deserved the Super Bowl MVP more than Peyton Manning.
In 2007 he signed with the Oakland Raiders for a forgettable (and regrettable) year. After he was released by the Raiders in 2008, he has played for the Colts in two non-consecutive stints, the Buffalo Bills and the Florida Tuskers of the UFL.
His grinding style and good instincts have made him a fan favorite in Indianapolis, and his earlier productive years belied his undrafted status.
Casey Wiegmann Started His Career as a Star Center on the Colts Practice Squad
Fifteen year veteran Casey Wiegmann began his career as an undrafted free agent with the Colts in 1996. Although he didn't play for the Colts for very long, the front office did see something in the big man from the University of Iowa and gave him his first chance in the NFL.
Wiegmann has been a stalwart at center throughout his NFL tenure. Last year he surpassed 10,000 consecutive career snaps in a game versus the Tennessee Titans.
A good blocker and superb game-manager, Wiegmann overcame his early disappointment with not being drafted to become a top center in the league.
Gary Brackett Keeps the 'Backers in Line
Not only did Gary Brackett go undrafted in 2003, but he also walked on at Rutgers at the college level. Football's answer to the Seabiscuit underdog story, Brackett has constantly defeated the odds to make hay as a professional football player.
At 5'11" and 235 pounds, Brackett's physique has been likened to a fire hydrant. Stubby and oddly proportioned, Brackett doesn't look like a prototypical linebacker. His performance on the field, however, has been nothing short of excellent.
After two years as a back-up to the underwhelming Rob Morris, Brackett took over as starter at middle linebacker in 2005. By 2006, Brackett was the defensive captain and anchoring the defense for the Colts Super Bowl run.
Brackett is tough in coverage and holds up fairly well against the run. Although not a fantastic athlete, he has double-digit interceptions for his career. Brackett ranks as one of the best undrafted free agent signings of the Bill Polian era.
Adam Vinatieri Is the Most Clutch Kicker in NFL History
Not much can be added to enhance the already legendary moments of Adam Vinatieri's career. In 1996 the New England Patriots signed Vinatieri as an undrafted free agent out of South Dakota State University.
Since that auspicious signing, Vinatieri has played in five Super Bowls and made game-winning kicks in the waning seconds of Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXVIII.
His reputation as the most clutch kicker in NFL history will most likely propel him into the Hall of Fame at some point in the future. Although now on the tail end of his career, he is still a highly accurate kicker from within 50 yards.
Since signing with the Colts in 2006, there are few folks in Indy who would testify that they regret that he supplanted Mike Vanderjagt as kicker.
Jeff Saturday Is a Pro Bowl Center and the Soul of the Line for the Colts
Jeff Saturday is one of the most durable and consistently excellent players for the Colts. Since signing with them as an undrafted free agent in 1999, Saturday has grown with Peyton Manning into one half of the most elite center/quarterback tandem in the NFL.
Sometimes Saturday looks to be competing with Manning for the Gesticulator of the Year award. He is constant pointing out coverages and potential blitzers and seems to be totally simpatico with Manning.
A five-time Pro Bowler, Saturday is universally respected around the league for his hard-nosed style, intelligence and sound blocking.
It is hard to believe that Saturday moonlighted as a handyman while waiting for a call from an NFL team after being cut by the Baltimore Ravens in 1998. Now he anchors an offensive line that is asked to keep one of the best quarterbacks in the game upright.
Most Colts fans won't forget his authoritative run-blocking in the wild AFC Championship game against the Patriots in January 2007.
That night alone crystallizes Saturday's place in Colts history as a special player who rose from obscurity to the pinnacle of the game through hard work and well-applied talent.
Final Ranking of the 13 Best Undrafted Free Agents in Colts History
13. Blair White- With only one year under his belt, he has a long way to go to move up this list.
12. Eric Foster- Foster's drive and versatility as a Raheem Brock type on the defensive line make him a valuable back-up for the Colts.
11. Kyle DeVan- A hard worker with good technique, DeVan looks to be a steady role player for the offensive line.
10. Jacob Lacey- Another young player with promise, Lacey needs to push past a poor sophomore season to prove his mettle.
9. Daniel Muir- A borderline starter but a solid back-up, Muir is a guy you like to have around.
8. Melvin Bullitt- As a well-rounded safety, Bullitt has established himself as a starter-quality player. Hopefully the Colts can keep him!
7. Terrence Wilkins- In the past decade, no one has been better at returning kicks for the Colts. He's a shoo-in for the top ten.
6. Ryan Lilja- Almost always an effective blocker, Lilja is in the upper tier of guards in the NFL.
5. Dominic Rhodes- With good instincts, soft hands and a nose for the first-down line, Rhodes has been a good change-of-pace back for most of his career.
4. Casey Wiegmann- Solid and reliable, Wiegmann has carved a stellar career for himself as a center in the NFL.
3. Gary Brackett- A defensive captain, a great coverage middle linebacker and an all-around good guy, Brackett easily makes it into the top three.
2. Adam Vinatieri- He's as automatic at place kicker as the transmission on a Driver's Ed car.
1. Jeff Saturday- Saturday's nearly Hall of Fame-worthy career at a difficult position entrench him at the top of this list.