The Colts made two moves Wednesday, signing guard Tala Esera and linebacker Kyle Shotwell to the 2008 roster. This move is considered a "future contract" that kicks in when the 2008 begins right after Super Bowl XLII.
Esera and Shotwell cannot be added to the 53-man roster for the remainder of the 2007 season, up through the Super Bowl, but they also cannot be signed by another team to a 2008 contract.
Esera ended the season on the Dolphins practice squad and Shotwell finished 2007 on the Eagles practice squad. Once the season ended for both teams, they had one week to sign each respective player to a 2008 contract. Esera and Shotwell were not signed by their teams and became free agents.
The same rules apply to Indianapolis when their season ends — they will have one week to sign the eight members of their practice squad.
Shotwell attended Cal Poly where he was voted a First Team All-American and became the third consecutive player for his school to win the Buck Buchanan award as the top defensive player in Division I-AA.
The two previous Cal Poly winners are current NFL linebackers Jordan Beck and Chris Gocong -- and Gocong also happens to play for the Philadelphia Eagles. However, when Shotwell went undrafted in the offseason, Philadelphia was not one of his suitors, as he had to make a decision between Tampa, Oakland, Miami, San Diego, and... Indianapolis.
He ended up choosing the Raiders, since he felt that was his best chance to make an NFL roster. He survived training camp, but was eventually released in the final cut-down to 53 on Sept. 1.
AP Photo/John Froschauer
While playing against a lower level of competition was a factor in Shotwell not getting drafted, he was also not invited to the Scouting Combine and that significantly hurt his chances. An excellent Pro Day helped his stock, as he measured in at 6 feet, 1 inch, 235 pounds — which was bigger than any scout thought he was — and blistered the stopwatch at 4.52 in the 40-yard dash.
The fact remains, though, that he has never played a position other than middle linebacker and is too small to play the Mike position in the 4-3 defense at this level. The two teams that he would fit best with would be the Buccaneers and the Colts, especially considering that Shotwell is the same weight as Gary Brackett and is two inches taller.
He's certainly worth a shot and has the speed and measurables that Indianapolis looks for in a linebacker. With the injuries that the Colts sustained at the linebacker position — not necessarily Brackett, but the unit as a whole — it would make sense to stockpile some talent as early as possible.
Given a minicamp, OTAs, and training camp, Shotwell could develop into a quality backup and a contributor on special teams. And, he comes at a lower price and lower risk than either Beck or Gocong, who were both third-round picks that have not really distinguished themselves in the NFL.
Although he played tackle at the University of Hawaii, Esera projects to be an NFL guard, mostly due to his poor pass blocking technique, size (6 feet 3 inches, 310 pounds), and build.
One of the assets that he possesses is that he had to pull out, trap, and sprint out on screens in June Jones' offense. He will use all of those skills he learned as a tackle in his system in college as a guard in the Colts system. It's especially noteworthy that his skill set translates very well to the slants and stretch plays that Indianapolis uses in the running game.
It is highly unlikely that he will unseat either Ryan Lilja or Jake Scott, but Indianapolis has done an exceptional job over the years of identifying young players at the guard position and plugging them into the lineup, seamlessly dealing with the turnover that seems to happen there every few seasons.
Neither of these men will be on the starting roster when the 2008 season kicks off in September, but that doesn'tt mean that they will not factor into the starting line-up at some point.
Each plays a position where the Colts have used a "revolving door" policy on thus far this millennium with great success. Both of them have as good a chance as anyone to be a starter at their particular position on this team in two to three years.