The former Philadelphia Eagles outside linebacker agreed to terms on a new contract, the Colts announced Tuesday, a little more than one hour after NFL free agency began.
Terms weren’t disclosed, but Ian Rapoport of NFL.com and NFL Network tweeted: “The deal for Trent Cole with the #Colts is for 2 years worth $16M, source said. $8M guaranteed, showing his leverage.”
“I feel really good,” Cole said on a conference call with Indianapolis media. “Being in the 3-4 defense has pretty much I believe added years to my game. Like I said, I feel really good.
“I have a lot of gas in the tank. I’m not going to sit around, I’m not going to quit, I’m not going to retire because I want a Super Bowl ring.”
That’s a lot of money for a player whose numbers were down the past three years, the latter two seasons in a revamped Eagles 3-4 scheme, the same defensive alignment the Colts use. Last season, Cole had 52 tackles, 40 solos with 6.5 sacks.
But Colts general manager Ryan Grigson, the Eagles’ former director of player personnel, is obviously convinced Cole, 32, can still be a disruptive force in getting after the quarterback.
“It was nice to kind of see a familiar face in the whole process,” Cole said of Grigson. “I knew who I was dealing with. I was dealing with a very intelligent GM and a guy who knows players.”
The Colts expect to have six-time Pro Bowl star and 2013 sack champion Robert Mathis back in the lineup after he missed last season due to a four-game suspension and torn Achilles injury. Having Mathis and Cole on both edges could improve the pass rush dramatically.
While the Colts still managed 41 sacks without Mathis, the success was in large part due to scheme as the defense often outnumbered blockers. The team clearly lacked a dominant individual pass rusher like Mathis. Rookie Jonathan Newsome had a team-high 6.5 sacks last season.
Mathis has a franchise-record 111 career sacks. Cole had 85.5 sacks in 10 seasons with the Eagles. That ranks second in franchise history behind Reggie White.
Cole’s signing likely means Newsome will be a situational pass rusher in his second season. And it’s uncertain how the Colts will use outside linebacker Erik Walden, who had a career-high six sacks last season and is still under contract for $4.25 million in each of the next two years.
The Colts could cut Walden before June 1 and save $7.75 million in cap space. But they like how he sets the edge on running downs and could end up rotating outside linebackers based on down and distance.
Former first-round selection Bjoern Werner would appear to have an unclear future. A 4-3 defensive end in college, he’s struggled to make the adjustment to a stand-up 3-4 outside linebacker in his two NFL seasons.
Cole is a two-time selection for the Pro Bowl (2007, 2009) and was named to the All-Pro second team in 2009. He’s had four double-digit sack seasons, but the most recent was 11 in 2011.
After that season, he signed a four-year contract extension for a reported $55.2 million. In the past three seasons combined, he’s had 17.5 sacks. The Eagles were interested in re-working his contract, but when the two sides couldn’t agree, he was released six days ago.
“No respect!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Caption that!” Cole tweeted a day before his release.
Cole, 6-3 and 270 pounds, has made 569 career tackles, 436 of them solos, with 19 forced fumbles and 14 passes defended. His 85.5 career sacks rank 11th among active NFL players. His 20 career multiple-sack games rank third in Eagles history.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.