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.”