AFC South: Lawrence Sidbury

The Indianapolis Colts got a jump on Tuesday’s mandatory roster cuts when they waived 11 players and placed another on injury reserved Sunday

There weren’t any surprises on today’s list.

CB Johnny Adams

CB Allen Chapman

G Danous Estenor

DT Kellen Heard

P/K Brandon McManus

RB Davin Meggett

LB C.O. Prime

C Rick Schmeig

S Ashante Williams

WR Maurice Williams

CB Teddy Williams

OLB Lawrence Sidbury was placed injured reserve. He injured his shoulder in the Aug. 18 game against the New York Giants.

The Colts have until 4 p.m. ET on Tuesday to get down to the league-mandatory 75 players.
One tight end is headed back to the practice field while the other will be on the sidelines for at least a few days for the Indianapolis Colts.

Dwayne Allen, out for almost two weeks with a foot injury, will take part in some monitored reps during practice this week, coach Chuck Pagano said.

Allen originally was expected to be out a couple of weeks, bringing into question whether he’d be ready for the Sept. 8 season opener against Oakland. Allen is erasing any doubts about that.

“We’ll see how he does,” Pagano said. “He’s come back relatively quick.”

The good news for Coby Fleener is that the MRI on his sprained knee came back negative. The bad news is he’ll miss the first few days of practice. Fleener could return to practice later in the week if all goes well with his knee. The sprained knee follows the concussion he suffered in the Aug. 11 game against Buffalo.

In other injury news:
  • The MRI on linebacker Lawrence Sidbury’s shoulder also came back negative. He’s day to day.
  • The Colts are holding out hope that starting free safety LaRon Landry (knee) can practice this week and play in Saturday’s game against the Cleveland Browns at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Reassessing the Colts' needs

April, 3, 2013
The Colts have restocked their roster in a big way since free agency opened, adding 10 veterans from the outside.

Some are sure to be upgrades, like right tackle Gosder Cherilus and safety LaRon Landry. Others require a wait-and-see approach as we find out how strongside linebacker Erik Walden and defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois fare with expanded roles.

Despite an 11-win season, Indianapolis headed toward the second season of Ryan Grigson as the general manager, Chuck Pagano as the head coach and Andrew Luck as the quarterback with some significant holes.

With all the additions, the pressure to find answers at certain spots in the draft is significantly lightened. That makes for a far better atmosphere in which to draft.

Here’s my assessment of what they’ve done to fill roster gaps and what now rank as the team’s primary needs with the draft drawing near.

[+] EnlargeGosder Cherilus
Tim Fuller/USA TODAY SportsGosder Cherilus, left, provides an infusion of talent to a Colts O-line that was lacking it last season.
Offensive line -- Cherilus is a physical player who can help change and set a better tone for a position that simply didn’t have enough talent last season. Donald Thomas will upgrade a guard slot as well. Is it enough? I think they should add at least one more lineman in the draft who can contend for a guard spot or at center.

Cornerback -- Greg Toler could be a fine second starter, but they qualify as three deep at best with Vontae Davis, Toler and Darius Butler. They have to have another solid guy in the mix, and the draft should provide someone who will automatically qualify as better than Cassius Vaughn.

Wide receiver -- Can they get more out of Darrius Heyward-Bey than they got out of Donnie Avery? I would think so. Is DHB going to be the ultimate successor to Reggie Wayne? I highly doubt it. They need to be looking for that guy to go with T.Y. Hilton, their lone long-term sure thing at the position.

Safety -- LaRon Landry is a significant upgrade over Tom Zbikowski. He and Antoine Bethea should be a nice tandem. Joe Lefeged is fine as depth. But in a good safety year and with Bethea heading into his eighth season, I think it would be a good move to add a young player at the spot.

Outside linebacker -- Walden was a controversial addition, but they’ve emphasized his ability to set the edge. That does not make for much of a pass rush opposite Robert Mathis. I hope they aren’t counting on big production from Jerry Hughes or Lawrence Sidbury. They still need a pass-rushing outside 'backer.

Defensive end -- They resigned Fili Moala and hope Cory Redding will be more durable. Newcomer Ricky Jean Francois could start outside and move inside in nickel. Another guy in that mix wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Running back -- Vick Ballard, Donald Brown and Delone Carter are the three-pack that will return. Ballard showed a lot of promise, but the other two are not sure things. Bruce Arians’ offense didn’t throw to backs much. Pep Hamilton’s offense will do so more. If Grigson sees a versatile back as a value, I expect he’ll add one.

Defensive tackle -- Went from being a need to not being a need. Jean Francois will play some tackle and some end. Aubrayo Franklin can be an early-down run-stopper. And they expect Brandon McKinney and Josh Chapman to be healthy and equipped to contribute. They could have a lot of options at this spot who fit the 3-4 front.

Quarterback -- They did well replacing Drew Stanton with Matt Hasselbeck as Luck’s backup. The No. 2 was never going to come from the draft.
The figures I have access to said the Colts had $43.427 million of salary-cap room back on Feb 21. There may have been some jiggling of that number before free agency opened on Tuesday.

Since then, they’ve re-signed defensive lineman Fili Moala and cornerback Darius Butler, and brought in seven free agents: Right tackle Gosder Cherilus, safety LaRon Landry, defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois, cornerback Greg Toler, outside linebacker Erik Walden, guard Donald Thomas and outside linebacker Lawrence Sidbury. The Colts also put a franchise tender on punter Pat McAfee at $2.977 million.

Collectively, they will count $34,330,333 against the cap.

The team cut safety Tom Zbikowski today, gaining $1.158 million against the cap. So the Colts have roughly $10.181 million in salary-cap room remaining.

Still enough to make some acquisitions if they want to.

General manager Ryan Grigson, who was named NFL Executive of the Year in his first season, said in a news conference this morning that he feels great about the roster work the Colts have been able to do.
"I really feel like you need to strike a balance [with free agency and the draft] and if there’s players that you can get and help create more competition and raise the bar and you know is going to make your team better as a whole, you have to at least explore those options. Even from the beginning, just seeing guys that we played against, the scout in me, you see guys and I say, ‘Wow, this guy plays hard, or this guy has a great inside move.’ You take mental notes of all your opponents. We played against LaRon this year. We played against Walden. We watched the film. We go through a process with all the pro scouts and then the coaches remember who they couldn’t block. It’s an entire process. You whittle it down, you target your guys and you look at how much money Jim [Irsay] is willing to spend, and as opposed to last year, we were in a completely different situation, so why not take advantage of that? I had the complete support of a great owner who’s been ultra-supportive in this whole process. He’s as passionate, if not more passionate than any of us. When you talk to him, he wanted to be aggressive. I wanted to be aggressive. Chuck [Pagano] did, because we want to win. I think you have to take these opportunities to acquire talent wholeheartedly, and I feel we did as an organization.”
With Jerrell Freeman, Darius Butler and Mike McGlynn, with the re-signings of Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis, with a wonderful draft class and with his even temperament, Indianapolis Colts general manager Ryan Grigson bought himself the benefit of the doubt.

[+] EnlargeRyan Grigson
AP Photo/Johnny VyColts general manager Ryan Grigson was busy during the first day of free agency.
Because of that, I absolutely second the opinion this morning of Indianapolis Star columnist Bob Kravitz: “[F]ans are best off to simply trust his judgment -- until he starts missing on guys.”

Gosder Cherilus qualifies as a big name and has proven he can be a physical right tackle in the NFL, though I can’t help but wonder about his knee.

Beyond Cherilus, the Colts added four free agents they see as having big upside in their system: outside linebackers Erik Walden and Lawrence Sidbury, cornerback Greg Toler and guard Donald Thomas.

Walden got $4 million a year, which at least one Packers observer found to be way too much. Sidbury’s done very little in Atlanta. Toler (three years, $15 million, per the Baltimore Sun) is talented, but like Jerraud Powers, who he likely replaces, has an injury history. Thomas has mostly worked as a backup.

But they clearly fit with Grigson’s strategy, which he explained to Kravitz.
“We went after under-the-radar free agents. I’m not a person who likes to put all my eggs in one basket, if I can get good players and a handful of them. It just makes good common sense to help the team in a balanced sort of way instead of going for broke with one guy. That’s my mindset.”

That is completely reasonable.

I doubt he’s done. Odds are Grigson still adds a safety, perhaps LaRon Landry. The biggest need now may rank as receiver.

Even if he doesn’t do anything more and just awaits the draft, Grigson has done some serious roster replenishing.

Fans of rebuilding teams who like their leadership often start saying things like, “In Grigson We Trust.”

His record so far has bought him that. If just two of these four guys wind up qualifying as hits, he’ll have done little to lose that faith.
Right tackle Gosder Cherilus was just the start.

He heads a class of five the Colts have reached deals with in the opening hours of NFL free agency.

Also on board are:
Can Walden and Sidbury serve to fill out a four-man outside linebacker group with lead dog Robert Mathis and holdover Jerry Hughes and help produce some consistent pass pressure?

Walden was fifth on the Packers with 71 tackles last season and had three sacks in nine starts and 15 games playing left outside linebacker in Green Bay’s 3-4. Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said it's a four-year, $16 million contract and that Walden expects to start opposite Mathis. One friend who is very familiar told me that money is "outrageous" if accurate.

Says Scouts Inc. on Walden: "He has good size and athleticism and excellent functional strength to set the edge as a run defender. He understands angles and pad level to leverage blockers and has developed active hands. Walden has range in pursuit inside-out to the ball. He appears to have developed some effective counters as an edge pass-rusher and became more active in coverage in 2012. Walden was able to secure 24 starts the past two seasons. He has made the most of his opportunities and possibly solidified his status in 2013."

Sidbury, a defensive end in Atlanta’s 4-3, appeared in 10 games with no starts. He was in on just one tackle all season. At 6-foot-3, 261 pounds, he’s sure to be cast as a backer in Indy and based on Scouts Inc.’s report, we can see how they’d see promise in him: “He has above-average upfield acceleration and ability to bend and close on the pocket. He has a tendency to rely on speed alone too much and needs to develop counter moves and power to mix things up. "

I thought Toler might qualify as the sort of corner the Jaguars would look at. He had 27 tackles and two interceptions in 11 games with two starts for the Cardinals last season. Scouts Inc. rates him a four out of five in both man and zone coverage. At 6-feet and 192 pounds, the Colts will like his size, and if Chuck Pagano and secondary coach coach Mike Gillhamer can refine his tools, he could develop into a starter opposite Vontae Davis.

Thomas finished last season as the backup to Logan Mankins at left guard for the Patriots. He played in all 16 games with seven starts on the left side and has started 21 games in four years. Scouts Inc. said Thomas’ success is based on his “great technique and effort.” He’ll have a chance to displace Joe Reitz with the Colts.

As a group, beyond Cherilus there is more promise than production here. It's the sort of avenue I expected the Colts to travel. I just didn't think they'd get this far down the road this quickly. We need to see more details about the finances of the deals to have a better sense of the potential rewards.