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:
Cardinals cornerback Greg Toler
Packers linebacker Erik Walden
Patriots guard Donald Thomas
Falcons linebacker Lawrence Sidbury
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.