Veteran Free Agents Have Indy Connections

Now that the flurry of undrafted free agent signings seems to have calmed down, the Colts have turned their attention to two veteran free agents; both familiar faces. Are they the right fit for the team at this time? Brad Keller has the analysis inside!

The recent non-denial of interest in Rosevelt Colvin by Colts president Bill Polian leaves questions as to whether or not Indianapolis actually has any interest in the nine-year veteran.

Colvin certainly has ties to the area. He was born in Indianapolis, famously worked as a vendor at the RCA Dome, and starred at Broad Ripple High School and Purdue before being drafted by the Bears in the fourth round of the 1999 draft.

He had back-to-back big years in 2001 and 2002, with 10.5 sacks in each of those seasons, with 2002 being his contract year.

He parlayed that into an uncharacteristically rich deal with the Patriots before the 2003 season, then promptly went on injured reserve after his first two starts of 2003.  He was also placed on IR in Week 12 last season after suffering an Achilles injury.

Rosevelt Colvin recovers a fumble after Jarvis Green hits Manning
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Aside from those two major injuries, though, he has been the picture of health, starting all 16 games in all five of the last seven seasons that he did not finish on the reserved list.

For his career, he has 52 1/2 sacks and has forced 17 fumbles, so he certainly knows how to get after the quarterback and has authored his fair share of big plays — Colts fans will remember Colvin as the man who recovered the Peyton Manning fumble that effectively ended "Super Bowl 41 1/2" in November.

The issue is not whether Colvin can be a productive player when, and if, he's healthy.  The issues are whether or not he's currently healthy and where he fits into the Dungy/Meeks defensive scheme.

At 6 feet, 3 inches, 250 pounds, he's certainly too big — and not fast enough — to play outside linebacker for Indy.  Since he spent a good deal of his time blitzing in Chicago and playing the rush linebacker position in New England, it stands to reason that he could contribute as a pass rush specialist, particularly given the fact that Indianapolis doesn't have a lot of quality depth options behind Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.

But with the re-signing of Josh Thomas and rookie Marcus Howard entering the fold, as well as a couple of promising-looking free agents, the end position may be as crowded as the tackle position along the defensive line.

And with Polian's propensity to favor his draft choices and players already on the team over free agents, it seems unlikely that Colvin could find a home in Indianapolis, even if he was born there.

In addition, the Colts have enough injury concerns at defensive end without bringing a player that is recovering from a serious malady.  An Achilles injury, coupled with his age — Colvin will turn 31 before the season opener — has probably taken away his best asset: the explosive first step that all highly effective pass rushers need to be successful.

A more intriguing — and more likely — candidate for Polian to sign is Dominic Rhodes, who was recently released by the Oakland Raiders.

Colts fans will certainly remember Rhodes, since he tallied up all but 75 of his 625 career carries and played in all but ten of his 81 career games on the Indianapolis roster after signing as an undrafted free agent in 2001.

He just turned 29 in January, which is one year shy of when a running back's production starts to decline.

That shouldn't be an issue, however, since he hasn't logged a lot of carries throughout his career — by contrast, Edgerrin James has carried the ball more (661 to 625) since leaving Indianapolis than Rhodes has for his entire career. 

He's certainly familiar with the offense, the personnel that the Colts have in place, the front office, and, by all accounts, has an excellent relationship with the fans.

Dominic Rhodes with the Raiders in 2007
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Without a doubt, he is a tremendous fit system-wise and would be a good compliment and mentor to rookie running back Mike Hart.  He would also allow Indianapolis to sever ties with Kenton Keith and his unreliable hands — Rhodes has only 102 receptions for his career, but that number becomes far more impressive when you compare it with the lower number of carries he's had.

As an undrafted free agent, Rhodes can help Hart adjust to the NFL game and teach him the finer points of pass catching and pass protection — two important facets of a Colts running back's game, which he also taught Joseph Addai in 2006.

Since he's a tailback facing the prospect of turning 30 and is currently without a team, it should be fairly easy to convince him to come back to Indianapolis — and probably at a discount.

Though it's doubtful that he would sign a one-year contract at the league minimum, or a two-year incentive-laden contract, it's definitely not out of the realm of possibility.

The biggest question for Rhodes is this: how much humble pie can one man eat before he becomes sick of it?

He entered the league as a free agent, fought his way up the depth chart to become Edge's backup, played far above expectations when James missed most of the 2001 season with a knee injury, then accepted a backup role when James was available to start again.

When James signed with Arizona in 2006, Rhodes was briefly promoted to starter until then first-round rookie selection Joseph Addai started taking his carries away.

The Colts then let him leave as a free agent in the offseason, he signed a $7.5 million contract with the Raiders, then watched as Justin Fargas emerged as the workhorse back in Lane Kiffin's offense ... then Oakland subsequently drafted Darren McFadden and released Rhodes.

It is very possible that Rhodes, ever the class act, would be willing to tutor another rookie running back and train him as his replacement.

It is also very possible that, at this stage in his career, Rhodes is just looking for a familiar situation with comfort and security.  But, chances are that he still believes he can play at a high level and start, or at least play a more prominent role, for most NFL teams. 

Though Indianapolis ultimately makes the most sense for Rhodes, Bill Polian may want to give his former employee some time to play the market and make a conscious a logical decision to come back.

Rhodes knows the offense and the personnel well enough that could step into the 53-man roster at any time and contribute.  But it is important that he does not return to the Colts as the result of a snap decision.

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