The excitement of the draft and the first few weeks of free agency are now a distant memory. We’ve seen the Colts hold some light trainings sessions but it’s a quiet time of year for fans. Although we can start to dream and make plans for the start of the season.
After the Fischer signing we know the Colts team is essentially in place. Despite rumours of a blockbuster trade for Julio Jones, I just don’t see it happening. That doesn’t mean however there isn’t scope for a more modest veteran free agency signing.
There have been rumours connecting long-time Seattle Seahawks linebacker KJ Wright with the Colts. Although these rumours haven’t been substantiated by any major NFL journalists.
With that in mind, I thought I’d examine the pros and cons of the Colts signing KJ Wright.
The first and simplest pro for signing Wright is that he’s an experienced and talented linebacker. Since being drafted in 2011 he spent his entire career until this summer with the Seahawks, winning a Super Bowl and forming an effective unit with Bobby Wagner.
There are no indications that he’s over the hill either. He had a strong season last year with two sacks, 10 defended passes and 11 tackles for loss. This was enough for The Athletic to have him as their 49th best free agent available at the start of this offseason.
There’s also a specific role in the team he’d be filling. Wright would be able to capably and immediately fill the middle linebacker spot vacated by Anthony Walker following his free agency departure to Cleveland.
Walker was a skilled player and by all accounts a real leader for the team. Whilst experience doesn’t necessarily mean leadership, Wright’s veteran presence might allow him to replace both Walker’s skill and leadership in the team.
Given Wright is 32 and has been a free agent for so long this offseason there is a real chance he could be signed for a cheap, one year deal. This would give the Colts a good player without breaking the bank or compromising the team’s ability to afford future major contract extensions for Leonard, Smith and eventually Nelson.
Were Wright to sign with the Colts, he’d know what he’d be getting into. So whilst Walker understandably wanted to leave for a team that would give him more playing time, Wright would likely understand his role and be ok with not playing every snap.
The Colts do have a group of young linebackers vying to replace Walker, but Wright would be able to immediately slot into the vacancy and play at a high level, whilst also providing valuable depth to the roster.
However, if one of these young linebackers is going to be the Colts long-term middle linebacker; shouldn’t they be given the role this season? Wouldn’t the experience they’d gain this year be invaluable over the next few years when the team is hoping to be contending for Superbowls? If they are going to be the starter moving forward, why delay the inevitable for a year with Wright?
I suspect this year will involve the Colts front office deciding which of the young middle linebacker prospects is the best choice for the future? How effectively would they be able to assess and compere these players if Wright is the one starting?
It’s also not clear at this stage whether Wright would be happy to go for the cheap, one-year contract I hypothesised earlier. In February Wright named himself and Wagner as the two best linebackers in the league. If Wright truly believes he’s an elite linebacker, he’ll likely be wanting elite money.
Likewise, if Wright feels he’s got multiple good years left in him, he’s unlikely to go to a team that only wants him for one. He’d be much more likely to go to a team that he can spend the final two to three years of his career with.
So much of analysing the benefits of signing Wright comes down to assessing the kind of contract he’d be willing to accept. Given his age and the length of time he’s been a free agent, I do think Wright’s services could be secured for a one year contract that doesn’t break the bank.
The fact the Colts would give him as good a chance as any other suitor to win another Superbowl wouldn’t hurt. Having spent so many years playing alongside Wagner, I’m sure Wright would also be keen to play alongside another great linebacker in Darius Leonard.
Assuming Wright would be happy to play on a cost-effective one year deal, I think it’s a deal worth making for the Colts. Wright would fill a specific role in the team and would likely do it well. If the Colts are serious about being one of the best teams in the AFC, it helps having Super Bowl winners in the locker room when the playoffs roll around.