A breakdown of the Indianapolis Colts' 2018 free-agent signings.
Matt Slauson, OL
The Colts agreed to a deal with offensive lineman Matt Slauson, who spent the past two seasons with the Chargers. Here’s a closer look at the signing:
Grade: C. Offensive line has been an issue for the Colts for years. That’s part of the reason why quarterback Andrew Luck (shoulder) has missed 26 games over the past three seasons. They’ve given up at least 32 sacks, including an NFL-high 56 last season, in five of the past six seasons. Terms of Slauson’s deal were not disclosed.
What it means: Slauson brings experience to the roster. He’s started all 108 games he’s appeared in during an eight-year career that has included stops with the Chargers, Bears and Jets. Guard Jack Mewhort is a free agent after only playing five games last season due to a knee injury. Jeremy Vujnovich started every game at left guard last season for the Colts. Slauson can also play center if starter Ryan Kelly suffers an injury. Slauson started all 16 games at center during the 2016 season with the Chargers.
What’s the risk: Colts GM Chris Ballard has routinely talked about getting the roster younger. Slauson isn’t young. He turned 32 last month, which makes him the second-oldest player on the roster behind only 45-year-old kicker Adam Vinatieri. Slauson only played in seven games last season with the Chargers due to a torn bicep.
Ryan Grant, WR
The Colts agreed to a deal with receiver Ryan Grant, who played the past four years for the Washington Redskins. Here's a closer look at the signing:
Grade: B. Grant agreed to a one-year, $5 million deal. The Colts went after Grant right at the start of free agency, but the receiver elected to agree to a four-year, $29 million deal with the Baltimore Ravens. The Ravens voided Grant’s deal after the team announced that he failed his physical due to a previous ankle injury. Grant met with the Colts and Oakland Raiders before deciding to sign with Indianapolis. The receiver said he met with “multiple” doctors and passed all his physicals. Grant, who has never missed a game, has 84 receptions for 985 yards and six touchdowns in his career.
What it means: The Colts needed to add some depth and experience to the roster at receiver. T.Y. Hilton and Chester Rogers are the only experienced receivers returning from last season after Donte Moncrief signed with AFC South foe Jacksonville. Grant and Rogers will be the primary players competing to be the No. 2 receiver behind Hilton. Grant describes himself as a complete receiver and football player. His strength is his route-running ability, which will work well with quarterback Andrew Luck.
What’s the risk: Colts GM Chris Ballard is continuing his trend of signing players to shorter deals. Ballard, who is in his second offseason, hasn’t signed a player to a deal for more than three years. The Colts haven’t had much success in signing free-agent receivers. Darrius Heyward-Bey, Andre Johnson, Hakeem Nicks and Kamar Aiken are receivers who were signed during previous offseasons and didn’t last more than a season with the Colts in recent years
Eric Ebron, TE
The Colts agreed to a deal with Eric Ebron, who played the past four years for the Detroit Lions. Here's a closer look at the signing:
Grade: B-minus. Ebron agreed to a two-year, $15 million deal. He had 53 receptions for 574 yards and four touchdowns last season with the Lions. Ebron was recently released by the Lions after struggling to live up to expectations as the No. 10 pick in the 2014 draft. His best season was in 2016 when he had 61 receptions for 711 yards and a touchdown. Ebron chose the Colts over the Carolina Panthers, who he met with last week.
What it means: Ebron will compete with Erik Swoope to be the No. 2 tight end behind Jack Doyle next season. Swoope missed all of the 2017 season with a knee injury after catching 15 passes for 297 yards and a touchdown in 2016. Ebron gives the Colts three legitimate pass-catchers in new coach Frank Reich's offense. He'll be an additional pass threat for the Colts quarterbacks. Reich's offense is predicated on mismatches, so it's unknown how often the Colts will use two tight end sets.
"I fell in love with the coaching staff," Ebron said about the Colts. "I fell in love with the GM, I fell in love with the staff and that's kind of what pushed the envelope for me to want to be here. I really felt a lot of love and was shown, a lot of support for my game, my family, the things I wanted to accomplish and at the end of the day, my goals. It was something that I prayed on and asked for a symbol, a light, something to shine and that's exactly what happened on this visit. It was a no-brainer after that."
What's the risk: Little. The Colts needed to find a third tight end after the departure of Brandon Williams. The ability to catch the ball will be key for Ebron. He has a career drop rate of 7.3 percent. But Ebron closed out the 2017 season strong, as he had 35 catches for 379 yards and three touchdowns over the final eight games of the season.
Denico Autry, DE
The Colts agreed to a deal with Denico Autry, who played the past four years for the Oakland Raiders.
Here's a closer look at the signing:
Grade: C-minus. Autry agreed to a three-year, $17.8 million deal with $6.5 million guaranteed. He compiled 100 tackles and 10.5 sacks during his four seasons in Oakland. He's coming off his best season where he had a career-high five sacks and 36 tackles.
What it means: The Colts are moving to a 4-3 defense under new defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus after spending the past six seasons using a 3-4 scheme under former head coach Chuck Pagano. Autry adds to the competition along the defensive line that already features Tarell Basham, Henry Anderson, Grover Stewart and Margus Hunt at defensive end. Autry also played nose and defensive tackle last season in Oakland.
What's the risk: There's no risk in adding depth and competition to the roster when you're coming off a season where your defense was ranked 30th in the NFL. Autry is more of a rotational player than one you can expect to be on the field every down. He'll likely be a defensive end on first and second down and then shift to defensive tackle on third down.