It has been a few weeks since we last took a look at free agent targets. Previously we checked into the top 5 free agent wide receivers the Colts could be targeting. Today we look on the other side of the ball at potentially one of the biggest needs for Indy, pass rushers. It has been a long time since the Colts have had an elite edge rusher. General Manager Chris Ballard has tried to find one in the draft, but still hasn’t found one that works out. Since setting foot in the front office, Ballard has drafted 7 pass rushers. Two of them are no longer on the roster, two of them are impending free agents, and none of them have recorded a double-digit sack season. Kwity Paye looks promising so far, but he is still being developed after only recording 4 sacks last season. The only option left it seems to get an elite edge rusher is to spend money on one in free agency. And if Ballard is going to finally go against his beliefs on free agency and building through the draft, this is the market to do so.
Big Money Free Agent:
After hitting the market in 2020 following a 12.5 sack season in Arizona, Reddick was expected to be a highly sought after free agent. He ended up receiving nothing more than a one-year prove it deal worth $6M from Carolina to show his 2020 season was not a fluke. And he went into 2021 and proved it. Another double-digit sack season, Reddick posted 11 sacks and added 12 TFL’s on top of it, essentially confirming that if given the chance, he can produce. That is exactly what the Colts need on their defensive line. Reddick is only 27 and still has years of football left in him. If Ballard signs him to a few years, Indy may finally start getting the pressure on the quarterback they have been needing since they lost Robert Mathis in 2016.
Moderate Money Free Agents:
Depending on how other organizations view him, Emmanuel Ogbah may actually be closer to a “Big Money” free agent than a “Moderate Money” free agent, but I currently don’t see him getting as big of a contract as Reddick would receive. However, that isn’t a knock on Ogbah by any means. He is only 28 and has had his fair share of production in the league. Especially over the last two seasons in Miami (9 sacks in back-to-back years). He hasn’t yet had a double digit sack season, but he also hasn’t been a starter for an entire year since his rookie season. If he is brought into Indy, he would make an excellent compliment to Kwity Paye on the opposite end.
Lower Money, High Reward Free Agents:
Dante Fowler Jr.
The former 3rd overall pick in 2015, Dante Fowler never truly lived up to the hype in Jacksonville. That led to him being traded to the LA Rams where in 2019, he recorded 11.5 sacks and 16 TFL. That was good enough to get him a 3-year $45M contract from the Atlanta Falcons that he again never truly lived up to. Atlanta cut him 2 years into his 3 year deal after only producing 7.5 sacks in his two seasons there. But that doesn’t mean he can’t still make an impact. Give him a prove-it deal and see if being a 17 game starter can kick him into gear and give everyone the season he’s been so desperately trying to live up to.
Another former first round pick, Derek Barnett was highly touted coming out of Tennessee. But the production never truly matched up to the hype. Philadelphia tried to squeeze what they could out of him by giving him his 5th year option and he failed to produce with that as well. His career with the Eagles will likely come to an end with his highest sack total in a season being 6.5. But maybe a change of scenery can help. He’s still young (will be 26 in June) and has time to figure it out. A low-money, short-term deal would suit him well.
One of my more “under-the-radar” targets is Houston Texans pass rusher, Jacob Martin. Unlike the previous players, Martin never truly had a name to live up to. A 6th round pick out of Temple, the Seahawks traded him to Houston in 2019. He has never had a crazy statistical season, but his play on the field speaks for him. He has truly developed in his 3 years with the Texans and it shows on tape. He would fit perfectly in the Colts’ 4-3 front and I would very much expect him to breakout with Indy. Jacob Martin feels like a Ballard signing and only 26 years old, he could be the long-term solution.