It’s not that the team has filled all its needs. The defending AFC South champions are still in the market for a safety in addition to lacking depth on the defensive line.
Irving’s visit, first reported by ESPN’s Josina Anderson, suggests they also want to give themselves options at inside linebacker. Starters D’Qwell Jackson and Jerrell Freeman are expected to be back in the middle of the 3-4 scheme, and the Colts like Canadian Football League import Henoc Muamba, who played in 13 games as a rookie mostly on special teams.
Irving has played in 54 games, 12 of them starts, in four seasons with the Denver Broncos. He’s made 104 tackles with two sacks and two passes defended. He began 2014 as the Broncos’ starter, but was lost after eight games to a knee injury.
The Colts had issues stopping the run last season, which explains why there’s “mutual interest” in Irving, according to Stephen Holder of The Indianapolis Star. New England rushed for 177 yards in a 45-7 AFC Championship Game rout of the Colts. The Patriots also ran for 246 yards in a 42-20 regular-season victory at Indianapolis.
The Broncos are reportedly interested in bringing Irving back as well.
It’s uncertain how much more if any the Colts will spend in free agency. They’re about $12 million under the salary cap after adding wide receiver Andre Johnson, running back Frank Gore, outside linebacker Trent Cole, defensive end Kendall Langford and offensive lineman Todd Herremans.
They re-signed safety Mike Adams, but allowed former starting safety Sergio Brown to test free agency and he signed with Jacksonville. Safety LaRon Landry was waived with two years remaining on his contract. So the Colts are still in the market for a safety, or perhaps they will draft one.
Defense line remains thin with Langford joining defensive tackle Arthur Jones, nose tackle Josh Chapman and defensive tackle Montori Hughes. They will want to have at least six players for the defensive front so starters can be substituted for to keep fresh. The Colts waived defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois and did not re-sign 12-year veteran Cory Redding, a vocal leader who signed with Arizona.
After spending early to grab headlines, free agency becomes more of a bargain-shopping pursuit. The Colts won’t want to over-spend on anyone still available, but they also won’t rule out adding someone like Irving who fills a need.
Colts general manager Ryan Grigson didn’t sign Adams last season until June. And Adams became a valuable back line of defense, making his first Pro Bowl in 11 seasons. That’s recent proof a player of value can be added later for the right price.
Phillip B. Wilson can be found on Twitter (@pwilson24), Facebook and Google+.