Free Agency: Shopping for Defensive Ends

The Colts lost out on Tyler Brayton, but who are some other attractive free agents that could add depth along the defensive line? Brad Keller surveys the market and finds some candidates.

Since former Raider and current Panther Tyler Brayton signed with Carolina shortly after visiting the Colts earlier this week, the talent pool at the defensive end position is down one more player.

Judging by Adam Caplan's Best Free Agents Available: Defense article, the number of quality defensive tackles available on the open market is sparse as well, with the most attractive player probably being Anthony McFarland.  Therefore, we'll just take a look at the defensive ends left on the market that could be able to help Indianapolis from a depth perspective.

Spires unloads on Washington's Jason Campbell
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First on the list is Greg Spires, formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.  Spires is about the right height at 6 feet, 1 inch and about the right weight at 265 pounds and, with the combination of those two measurables, is about the right build to be a defensive end for the Indianapolis Colts.

Spires is compact, powerfully built, and has a well-developed lower body and a low center of gravity.  These are all traits that have served Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney well in the scheme that Tony Dungy and Ron Meeks run.

He's also basically from the Dungy tree, having been coached by former Dungy protégé and current Lions head coach Rod Marinelli, and with extensive experience working in the scheme designed by Monte Kiffin, who knows Dungy's flavor of the Cover 2 defense well from their time together.

However, as was covered in an earlier article regarding the fundamental differences between Kiffin's defense and Dungy's defense, an end in Dungy's scheme needs to have a more explosive first step than Spires possesses and also needs to have more of an obsession for rushing the quarterback.

At the age of 33, Spires no longer has the speed or quickness necessary to fit into the Colts' plans on defense — or, for that matter, into Tampa's plans, since they released him.

But, as a veteran presence and someone who knows the Cover 2 defense inside and out, he could be a valuable asset to Indianapolis as a tutor for whomever the Colts draft at the end position to bolster their roster.

Whoever it is, they aren't going to be as fast or as talented as Mathis or Freeney, so they had better have a solid understanding of the system.

That's where Spires comes in.  Even at the veteran minimum, though, he would be a pretty expensive cap hit to take for someone that is acting more as a coach than a player.

N.D. Kalu
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N.D. Kalu, formerly of Houston, is another possibility.  Like Spires, Kalu is a little long in the tooth and will turn 33 before the season starts.  Like Spires, he has bounced around from team to team, spending time in Philadelphia, Washington, Philadelphia again, and Houston.

The difference between the two men is that Spires is more of an every-down player that is accustomed to starting and Kalu has worked primarily as a situational pass rusher and backup throughout the course of his career.

He fits the physical profile at the position (6 feet, 3 inches, 265) and also has a powerfully built lower body.

He's a more effective and disruptive pass rusher than Spires and, having spent the bulk of his career going after the quarterback in known passing situations, knows and understands his role.

For most of this century, the New England Patriots have had success in recruiting, training, and maximizing the potential of players like Kalu. After all, backup or situational player, NFL players don't last 10 seasons in the league if they're not talented.

While it may be difficult for him to step into the lineup should anything happen to Freeney or Mathis, he could add some much needed depth.

And, a front four of Kalu, Mathis, Freeney, and Raheem Brock would be a nightmare matchup for any team facing third and long.

Schobel with the Colts in 2006
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One final intriguing prospect is Arizona's Bo Schobel.  He was signed by the Colts right before the 2006 season, but mostly played on special teams and saw some action towards the end of the season when Indianapolis had their playoff seed all but wrapped up.

He's young — at 27 as of March 24th, at least he's younger than Spires and Kalu, and he and Josh Thomas will be the same age when the 2008 season starts.

He's no stranger to riding the pine and coming in and contributing when needed, he has plenty of experience on special teams, he knows the system, and, after a week on the open market with no offers and no visits, he can be had relatively cheaply.

Think of Schobel as a less expensive Thomas with more upside.

Of course, it's entirely possible that the Colts will think of Schobel as a riskier Thomas with a longer injury history.

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