After they cut the roster down to 53 players on Saturday, Indianapolis shuffled the deck, waiving linebacker Jordan Senn, releasing safety Matt Giordano, and signing safety Aaron Francisco of the Cardinals and linebacker Cody Glenn of the Redskins.
Francisco is a fifth-year player who played his college ball at BYU. He has started nine games in his NFL career, all at safety, and has appeared in 53 games with 264 tackles and two interceptions.
He was a backup and special teams contributor in 2005 and 2006 and appeared to be earmarked for the starting job after Robert Griffith retired following the 2006 season.
According to Amberly Dressler of AZRedReport.com, "Aaron Francisco lost his backup safety role to Matt Ware who is a better cover safety. Francisco was a quiet yet consistent member of the Cardinals secondary," Dressler said. "Last year, he registered 56 tackles while appearing in all 16 games. He even nabbed an interception in the postseason. His biggest contributions were on special teams, where he was a two-year captain."
Although he may be a little light to play the safety position at 6 feet, two inches and 207 pounds, he is a gifted athlete and his contributions on special teams cannot be overlooked. Giordano was primarily a special teams ace himself, so the Colts essentially swapped one kicking game safety for another.
What's interesting is that Dressler specifically mentioned Francisco's coverage ability, which is a key aspect of playing the free safety position in the Colts defense. With Bob Sanders — when healthy — doing a lot of roaming, the free safety is quite often the "hero" of the defense, covering the entire deep area of the field.
If there is a huge drop-off between Antoine Bethea and Francisco — or, more to the point, a drop-off of any kind from Giordano to Francisco — then this could be a risky move by Indianapolis.
Bethea has been the more reliable safety for the Colts in terms of avoiding injury, but he also hasn't been an iron man and missed significant time in the preseason. If anything does happen to Bethea, the Indianapolis front office may regret this move, although Jamie Silva has proven himself to be fairly capable in the past.
The Colts are betting that Glenn has put his troubles at Nebraska behind him
Glenn is a rookie and was taken with the 22nd selection of the fifth round (158th overall) in this year's draft by the Redskins. He has tremendous athletic ability and has what is described as quick-twitch athleticism.
He didn't run any drills at the Combine due to a foot injury, but conducted a full workout at Nebraska's Pro Day in March, registering a 40 time of 4.67 seconds and showing that quick twitch ability with a 38 1/2 inch vertical jump and a broad jump of nine feet, seven inches.
The vertical and broad jump numbers would be impressive for a cornerback, so the fact that he was able to jump that high and that far at six feet tall and 240 pounds shows what kind of an athlete he is.
Since Glenn is a younger, faster, bigger, more athletic version of Senn with a higher ceiling, it makes sense that the Colts would be quick to swap these players in order to improve the roster, bolster depth, and help coverage units. However, simply looking at Glenn as an extremely talented athlete doesn't tell the whole story.
He was originally recruited out of high school as a tailback, lost a season and a half due to injury, and moved to linebacker for his senior season. By all accounts, he picked the position up very quickly — even pass coverage — but played only nine games, recording 51 tackles before being suspended indefinitely in November for violating team policy.
When looking at red flags for a draft prospect, that's three right there: Injury history, lack of experience at the position, and possible character concerns. He does have a great deal of upside and has the youth, enthusiasm, size, and speed to excel on special teams, but it appears as though Indianapolis has traded a "sure thing" for a player that has a lot of question marks, although those question marks come with considerably more talent.
Now, it's true that those question marks can be overcome. As a tailback, he was more prone to injury than he would be at the linebacker position. The Colts coaches have taken former safeties and players with less starting experience at the position — playing against a lower level of competition than the Big 12 to boot — and made them into standout performers as both back-ups and special teamers.
As far as violating team policy is concerned, it was not drug-related and did not involve academics or legal issues, so a repeat of an Ed Johnson-type situation would appear to be doubtful.
Coach Jim Caldwell didn't seem too concerned with the infraction at Nebraska. "We looked into it," he said. "I know he has answered about it a million times about that situation. We feel it was taken care of to satisfaction. We move on."
If all of those factors turn out to be nothing, then cutting Senn and signing Glenn should be a big win for Indianapolis.
But, that's a lot of ifs and a lot of (so far) unanswered questions. Bill Polian has always proved to have an eye for high character, talented players, so, for the time being, we'll have to trust his judgment and see how this plays out.
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