Checking the Market: Defense

It used to be that there was an influx of talent after the June 1st cuts. The rules of the CBA have changed, but there's still some talent to be had in the free agent market as of early June. Brad Keller picks Adam Caplan's brain and takes a look at who makes the most sense for the Colts at this point.

When I asked Scout.com Senior NFL Reporter Adam Caplan to identify the best of his best available free agents on defense, the first task was to take out the positions that the Colts didn't need any help with from a free agent standpoint.


The Colts are set at safety with players like Bullitt providing depth
AP Photo/Tom Strattman

We both agreed that the safety position did not need to be addressed, given the talent brought in the last couple of years, the starters in place, and the quality depth behind Bob Sanders and Antoine Bethea in Melvin Bullitt and Matt Giordano.

Although the Colts already added former Panther linebacker Adam Seward through free agency, I thought they could still use another body for minicamps, OTAs, and training camp.  But, as Caplan pointed out, "With Tyjuan Hagler and Freddy Keiaho coming back, depth shouldn't be much of a problem because of their position versatility."  Very true, especially considering that Buster Davis was their only loss and they also added Seward, as well as three undrafted free agents.

Given the injuries at the cornerback position in 2008 and the defection of Keiwan Ratliff to the Steelers, I thought that it would make sense to add a veteran presence.  Caplan, however, had a different perspective.  "They are almost six deep at the position, so I don't see the need for anything," Caplan said.  "They've always been willing to play younger players earlier than expected."

That leaves the defensive line: Defensive tackle and defensive end.  Although they currently have a great deal of quality at the end position with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis returning to Pro Bowl form in 2008, they don't have much in the way of quantity.  Second-year players Marcus Howard and Curtis Johnson are untested and Keyunta Dawson, Raheem Brock, and Pat Kuntz are technically defensive tackles that can play end.

Caplan thinks that, "They could use a veteran such as Vonnie Holliday or Anthony Weaver.  Both can play inside or outside."

They will not sign both men, but either one of them makes a great deal of sense.  If nothing else, Holliday or Weaver would add another veteran at the position that would be able to provide guidance and motivation for Johnson and Howard.  In addition, their natural positions are at defensive end, not tackle, which makes them ends that can play tackle.

Given that the Colts already have a number of men on the roster that are tackles that can play end, this will give them a great deal of versatility and will give new defensive coordinator Larry Coyer some interchangeable parts to play around with.

While it's true that Indianapolis went after the defensive tackle position this offseason with the kind of intensity they approached the interior of the offensive line during the 2008 offseason, you can never have too many quality players at the position.

Dawson, Brock, and Kuntz could technically be considered ends and, if this offseason is any indication, the Colts are looking to bulk up on the inside.

Along those lines, Caplan recommends that Indianapolis take a look at veterans such as La'Roi Glover, Darwin Walker, or John Thornton.  At 31, Walker is the youngest of the three players, but Thornton is only 32.

Glover, on the other hand, will turn 35 on July 4 and has obviously lost a step from his Pro Bowl days.  He is still a very capable player and will probably catch on with a team during training camp, but his lack of explosiveness at this point in his career makes him a poor fit for the Colts.


Darwin Walker could be a positive addition to the defensive line
AP Photo

Walker is also the most explosive of the three players on Caplan's list, but he also, historically, has been the most injury prone.  Since Walker would be signed as a contingency plan in case something goes wrong with one (or more) of the players currently on the roster, getting someone with a questionable medical history is not advisable.  Thornton therefore makes the most sense.

But, it's entirely possible, and maybe even probable, that the Colts will not sign — or even pursue — any defensive tackles this offseason, given the fact that they infused the roster with so much young blood since the end of last season.

They would be wise to bring on someone, though, since no rookie can be counted on to make the roster and contribute and Ed Johnson cannot be counted on to stay on the right side of the guidelines Indianapolis has established for him.  He flouted those guidelines in 2008, was released, and the Colts' run defense never quite recovered.

They have taken steps to avoid a repeat of that occurrence in 2009, but the safeguards they have in place are mostly rookies or second-year players.  For full insurance against anything catastrophic, they would be best served to add either Walker or Thornton before July starts.

Scout.com's Ed Thompson interviewed Thornton back in March. See what he had to say about the possibility of playing in Indianapolis in this feature.

Peruse Caplan's updated lists of the best available free agents yourself. Click here for offense and here for defense.


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