Question is, will wide receiver Andre Johnson be next?
Gore and Johnson flew from Miami to Indianapolis Tuesday on Colts owner Jim Irsay’s private plane. The team announced about two hours into NFL free agency that Gore, the San Francisco 49ers all-time leading rusher, had agreed to terms.
Gore, who turns 32 in May, reportedly accepted a three-year, $12-million deal with $8.5 million guaranteed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Johnson, who played with Gore in college at Miami (Fla.), was to have dinner with Colts general manager Ryan Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano Tuesday night, according to NFL Network. The Houston Texans’ all-time leading receiver in most major categories reportedly had phoned Gore to suggest they team up with the Colts.
Gore gives the Colts a reliable veteran runner to take the place of Ahmad Bradshaw, who was allowed to become a free agent, and presumably Trent Richardson, who has failed to live up to expectations in two seasons and could soon be released.
A five-time Pro Bowl selection with 11,073 career rushing yards in 10 seasons, Gore has run for 1,100 yards in each of the last four seasons. He initially was expected to sign with Philadelphia, but had second thoughts in recent days and started thinking again about the Colts, a team he previously said he had been keeping an eye on.
Why the change? NFL Network analyst LaDainian Tomlinson said he spoke to Gore Monday night and the running back favored more of a power rushing attack, he was concerned about the Eagles letting wide receiver Jeremy Maclin go in free agency and, “ultimately he wants to play with (quarterback) Andrew Luck.”
Gore joins the NFL’s No. 1 passing offense, which should mean running lanes as defenses drop back into pass coverage against Luck, who has made the Pro Bowl in each of his three seasons. The Colts were 22nd in rushing offense last season, but Bradshaw and Dan Herron proved the ground game could be effective, averaging 4.7 yards and 4.5 yards per carry respectively.
Bradshaw also led NFL running backs with six receiving touchdowns. Gore, 5-9 and 217, is similar to Bradshaw in that he’s an effective blocker. While not used as much catching passes, he has 342 career receptions for 2,883 yards and 11 TDs.
Gore is also the 49ers’ all-time leader in rushing attempts (2,442) and rushing touchdowns (64). Last season, he ran for 1,106 yards, 4.3 yards per carry, with a long run of 52 yards and four touchdowns.
The Colts can also keep Gore fresh by spelling him with Herron, a third-year pro and restricted free agent expected to sign the team’s one-year offer.
Running back Vick Ballard is also a possible backup option, although he’s coming off back-to-back seasons on injured reserve. He missed the entire 2014 season after tearing an Achilles tendon during training camp. He played only one game in 2013 before tearing an anterior cruciate ligament. But the former fifth-round pick was a solid performer as a rookie with 814 yards rushing, 3.9 yards per carry, and two touchdowns. He also caught 17 passes for 152 yards and one touchdown.
The Colts also have running back Zurlon Tipton, who was undrafted and spent much of his rookie season on the practice squad before being signed to the active roster in Week 12. He primarily played special teams. He had just 18 rushing yards on 10 carries but caught six passes for 68 yards with one touchdown.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.