Colts add DL Jean Francois to list of new players
The Indianapolis Colts are on a defensive spending spree.
Less than 24 hours after adding Pro Bowl safety LaRon Landry to
the roster, the Colts struck two more deals, this time landing San
Francisco defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois and re-signing
cornerback Darius Butler. Terms of the deals were not immediately
The latest moves are intended to help revamp a traditionally
undersized defense that has played a secondary role to quarterbacks
Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck and the offense over the 15 seasons.
Now, suddenly, the Colts are getting bigger, stronger and deeper,
enough to convince Francois this was the team he wanted to be
”The Colts have always been known for their offense, but
sometime we’ve got to change the trend and become a defensive team,
too,” Francois told reporters on a hastily arranged conference
call Thursday. ”They’re getting a versatile player, a big dude
that can do just about anything you want him to do besides punt and
kick field goals.”
Indy is certainly making headway in changing its defensive image
after using its first four draft picks last April exclusively on
offense – taking Luck, tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen and
receiver T.Y. Hilton – and then bringing in three new starting
offensive linemen during the offseason.
This offseason started in the same fashion. The Colts
immediately signed right tackle Gosder Cherilus and guard Donald
Thomas to big deals to help protect Luck. Cherilus’ contract is for
five years and $35 million with a $10 million signing bonus and
$16.5 million guaranteed. Thomas’ deal is reportedly for four years
and $14 million.
Since then, the Colts have been fixated exclusively on
They signed cornerback linebacker Lawrence Sidbury, cornerback
Greg Toler and linebacker Erik Walden on Tuesday. Late Wednesday
night, they agreed to a four-year deal worth $24 million, with $14
million guaranteed, to get the big-hitting Landry.
And now they’ve added Francois, a 6-foot-3, 295-pound defensive
lineman who some believed was the only free agent capable of
playing all three defensive line positions in the 3-4 defense
Indianapolis switched to last season. That wasn’t the only reason
he picked Indy. Francois is a Miami native, where coach Chuck
Pagano coached in college and where receiver Reggie Wayne works out
during the offseason, and he’s played previously for Colts
defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.
”I talked to Manusky, a guy that coached me when I first got
into the league. He gave me my first shot. Me and him were laughing
a majority of the time. Drake Nevis, it was good to see him once
again and to be playing beside him again,” Francois said of his
former college teammate at LSU. ”And Coach (Pagano), I loved him
just talking to him and hearing what he was saying, it was like I
already knew who he was because he coached down at Miami and he
knew a lot of the things I already knew.”
How have the Colts done all this?
They went into free agency about $40 million under the salary
cap, and general manager Ryan Grigson made it clear he didn’t want
high-priced, older, big-name players. Instead he opted to stay true
to his mission – keeping the Colts young and bringing in players
who were better fits in the new system.
Jim Irsay, who has never been shy about spending money but has
never made this big a splash in free agency since replacing his
late father as team owner, gave Grigson the latitude to do whatever
he thought necessary.
Francois comes to Indy after making a career-high 51 tackles for
the 49ers last season and recording both of his sacks in San
Francisco’s final three regular-season games.
”Ricky is a quick, aggressive and extremely powerful player,”
Grigson said in a statement released by the team. ”He has been a
mainstay the last four years within a dominant NFL defense with a
lot of special players. He not only has familiarity with our
scheme, but he is versatile enough to play any of our defensive
line positions. At 26 years old, we feel the arrow is pointing
straight up and we’re looking forward to him making a big impact
for us this coming season.”
Butler was New England’s second-round pick in 2009 and joined
the Colts in September as a free agent.
He wound up playing in 11 games, making four starts, picking off
a career-high four interceptions and returning two for touchdowns.
He will likely be in a backup role behind Vontae Davis, the former
first-round pick Indy got in a trade with Miami just before last
season’s opening game, and the recently signed Toler.
And Francois likes the way things are shaping up in Indy.
”Yeah, you could say that basically this is a new start,”
Francois said. ”Because like everybody will get in on time and sit
down and talk to each other and basically get a relationship going
on and get a bond going on. Because the biggest thing is you want
everyone is to become a family. There’s going to be new faces
around here but you want to become a family real quick. That’s how
teams become successful.”