Colts should aggressively pursue Avril
Back in February, I wrote a column encouraging the Colts to pursue outside linebacker Paul Kruger to be their pass rusher of the future. Well, according to various sources, the Colts seemed to be listening (or at least I'd like to think so).
Kruger was apparently the fuel for a “bidding war” between the Colts and the Cleveland Browns. Both teams are in a very favorable cap situation, but why would Kruger choose Cleveland?
Call me biased, but the Colts were obviously a better fit. However, what if the Colts weren’t willing to pay what Kruger was asking, even if it was much lower (he got $8 million per year) than the reported $11-12 million he was after?
Here’s why Kruger was perfect for the Colts: For starters, Kruger's former defensive coordinator, Chuck Pagano, is now the head coach in Indianapolis.
He's worked with Kruger before and he's a player's coach; a guy's guy. Guys want to play for him and connecting the relational dots is always one of the most significant tells in predicting a player's, coach's, or executive's possible destination.
Last season, Pagano brought former Ravens Corey Redding, Brandon McKinney and Tom Zbikowski to town with him.
Furthermore, the Colts established themselves as a team on the rise, while the Browns have not. In their "rebuilding" year, the Colts managed to go 11-5 and make the playoffs. The Browns aren’t even sure if they want to stick with Brandon Weeden and are undergoing yet another rebuild and regime change. Quarterback Andrew Luck proved to absolutely be worth the No. 1 pick the Colts used to draft him, and like any great band, you have to have a lead singer. The Colts have their rock star, err, franchise quarterback of the future.
What else did Kruger need? Well, a contract offer from the Colts would have helped.
But the Colts could very well come out on the better end of the deal that was never was—much better, actually. Cliff Avril, a big money 4-3 defensive end, who is willing to make the 3-4 transition, should be the Colts ultimate target. Maybe he had their focus all along. Either way, the tape doesn’t lie. Avril has proven himself for years in Detroit, while Kruger has, respectively, had one stellar year.
Some may make the argument that Avril has benefited from a very strong defensive supporting cast in Detroit, but the same can be said about Kruger—Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata, anyone?
The Colts already have one stellar pass rusher in Mathis, but finding a defensive tackle to maul the middle will be a priority. Fili Moala was re-signed, and that’s a smart move by Ryan Grigson to ensure depth at the position, but they need a defensive tackle of the future.
We’ll save that discussion for another column, though.
Whether Kruger wanted more money than the Colts were willing to pay, or the Colts really wanted Avril, or the Colts struck out on both, Kruger finds himself grabbing a handful of cash and a handful of uncertainty with the Browns.
Avril won’t have that problem with the Colts.
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