Bjoern Werner arrived in Indianapolis as a giddy German, flashing the enthusiastic smile of a man not just realizing his NFL dream but getting the chance to line up next to one of the pass rushers he had always idolized, Robert Mathis.
A first-round selection with the 24th overall pick in 2013, Werner was accustomed to playing with his hand on the ground as a 4-3 defensive end at Florida State. But the Colts asked him to stand up and play a 3-4 outside linebacker — and it just never worked.
The Colts cut Werner Tuesday, just before the start of free agency, after he managed 6.5 sacks in 38 games. The move saves the team about $1.5 million against the salary cap, but this decision wasn’t so much about money as it was about accepting a draft mistake.
On a team in desperate need of pass rushers, especially after recently releasing Jonathan Newsome, the Colts decided Werner couldn’t help. He had a few decent games stopping the run, registering six tackles in one game, but he never became the pass rusher the team expected. The Colts were just 22nd in sacks last season.
He played in 10 games and had 13 tackles without a sack in 2015. In 2014, when Mathis was lost for the season, Werner started 15 games and made 50 tackles with four sacks. As a rookie, he started once in 13 appearances and had 18 tackles and 2.5 sacks.
Werner became the biggest disappointment in a disastrous draft for the Colts, who have just two players on the roster from that 2013 class and neither offensive guard Hugh Thornton (third round) nor center Khaled Holmes (fourth round) have been consistent.
Defensive tackle Montori Hughes (fifth round) was cut before this season at the end of training camp. Safety John Boyett (sixth round), running back Kerwynn Williams (seventh round) and tight end Justice Cunningham (seventh round) didn’t finish their rookie years on the roster.
Since being hired in 2012, Colts general manager Ryan Grigson has made 30 draft selections and just half of them are still on the roster. That includes tight end Coby Fleener, a second-round pick in 2012, who is about to become a free agent.
In another roster move, the Colts signed free-agent long snapper Forrest Hill, who last played in college at Auburn in 2014.
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