ColtPower Insider: Free Agent to Visit Indy

Despite Bill Polian's usual stance of not moving quickly in the free agent market, we've learned that the Colts are bringing in a free agent at a priority position for a visit on Sunday. Get the complete details and analysis here.

Oakland Raiders DE/DT Tyler Brayton is coming to visit the Colts on Sunday on after a visit to the Carolina Panthers, according to Scout.com's Adam Caplan.  Apparently, negotiations heated up between Brayton and the Raiders as the Friday free agent deadline loomed, with owner Al Davis and defensive coordinator Rob Ryan becoming involved, but Brayton has decided to test the market and has interest from a number of teams.

One of those teams on a list that includes the Panthers, Buccaneers, Lions, Broncos, and Bengals is Indianapolis.  Brayton is in Charlotte today, having flown in on Friday night to have a visit with John Fox and his staff.

Since being chosen with the final pick in the first round of the 2003 draft, Brayton has had a tumultuous relationship with what has been a very volatile and unstable organization the last few years.

At 6 feet, 6 inches, 280 pounds, it was originally thought that he would be a good fit as an end in the 3-4 scheme that was being installed by coordinator Chuck Bresnahan.


Tyler Brayton
Getty Images

However, Rob Ryan became the defensive coordinator in 2004, installed his 4-3 defense, and has been there ever since.  Brayton has played some end and some tackle in Ryan's through the past four seasons, but has been taken in and out of the line-up — though he appeared in 16 games in 2007, he registered only 11 tackles — mostly due to the fact that he's not quick or explosive enough to play end in the 4-3 and isn't big enough to occupy blockers and clog up the middle of the field as a tackle.

But, historically, the Colts have used lighter, more athletic players at the tackle position — all the tackles on their roster are under 300 pounds and Raheem Brock is quick enough to have played end in known passing situations towards the end of last season — so Brayton might be a good fit on a team that is looking for someone with his unique dimensions.

The issue, though, is that Brayton has, in part, underperformed at tackle due to the fact that he's six and a half feet tall and can't get low enough to gain leverage on interior offensive linemen in order to control the point of attack and penetrate the line of scrimmage. This should be particularly disconcerting to the Colts, since Tony Dungy's scheme tends to favor defensive linemen with a lower center of gravity and more power through the hips and thighs than the arms and shoulders.

If Indianapolis is looking for him to play end, he's certainly a more intriguing athlete than Josh Thomas, the man he would replace, but the question the Colts need to seriously consider is whether or not he's too different from the men they currently have on the roster at the end position.

As a bigger body than Thomas, Dwight Freeney, or Robert Mathis, Brayton should be able to hold up against the run, but there would be a significant dropoff in the pass rush if he were subbed in for any of the four current starters — Freeney, Brock, Mathis, or Ed Johnson.

And if they're simply looking for someone to caddy for Freeney and Mathis, Thomas is younger, cheaper, familiar with the defense, and willing to gladly accept a reserve role with the Colts.


The Colts are hoping Dwight Freeney can recover fully from a foot injury
AP Photo/Tom Strattman

One of the reasons that Brayton decided to test the market is that he is unhappy with the way he was treated by the Oakland staff during his time with the team, with the primary complaint being that he was never guaranteed a starting job and never felt that his spot in the depth chart was secure.

In addition, Brayton was fined $25,000 by the NFL during the 2006 season for kneeing Seahawks tight end Jerramy Stevens in the groin, so there could be an issue with discipline and control.

But the struggles and maladies of the 2006 Oakland Raiders are well-documented, Brayton does not have an extensive history of such incidents, and, if he were part of a winning organization lead by the steady hand of Tony Dungy, he would most likely stay out of trouble on and off the field.

The interesting thing to keep in mind in all of this is that the Colts may not be talking to Brayton about a backup role with the team.  The full extent of Dwight Freeney's injury and recovery are not known at this point.

With Thomas in the mix and several other suitable reserve-type players on the market, it's hard to believe that Indianapolis would fly Brayton in — or that Brayton would agree to a visit — unless they were prepared to discuss a starting position with him.  This is all speculation, of course, but the visit may say more about Dwight Freeney than it does about Tyler Brayton.


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