INDIANAPOLIS (AP) The Colts are betting big on experience.
On Tuesday, they fortified one of the NFL’s younger rosters with three longtime NFL veterans – outside linebacker Trent Cole, running back Frank Gore and defensive end Kendall Langford – in a free-agent spending spree that may not be over. Indianapolis also is reportedly interested in adding former Texans receiver Andre Johnson.
”I’ve watched the Colts over the past few years and I know what kind of team they are,” said Cole, a pass-rushing linebacker who spent his first 10 seasons with the Eagles before being released last week. ”They’re a Super Bowl-caliber team. The biggest thing of all, they have a great quarterback.”
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Cole, Gore and Langford are joining a team that has made three straight playoff appearances, won back-to-back division crowns and advanced one step deeper in the playoffs in each of Andrew Luck’s three seasons. In January, the Colts reached the AFC championship game before losing 45-7 to eventual Super Bowl champion New England.
That postseason run convinced Indianapolis general manager Ryan Grigson to become even more aggressive filling holes with his trademark unconventional approach.
Last month, he signed two CFL veterans. Last week, he brought in a defensive end from the Fall Experimental Football League.
And now Grigson has gambled on a powerful 31-year-old runner with a consistent NFL track record; added a 32-year-old pass-rusher to serve as a complement to 2013 sacks champion Robert Mathis; found a 29-year-old defensive end who can hold the edge; and re-signed Mike Adams, a 33-year-old safety who made his first Pro Bowl appearance.
If Johnson joins the club, Indy also would have a 33-year-old receiver to replace Reggie Wayne. The Colts have announced they won’t re-sign the 36-year-old fan favorite.
But the most surprising move Tuesday was the deal for Gore.
Just two days earlier, the former 49er appeared headed to Philadelphia. When word leaked Monday night Gore might back out of a three-year deal with $7.5 million guaranteed, the Colts jumped into the conversation.
About two hours after the signing period opened, the Colts announced they had agreed to terms with San Francisco’s career rushing leader for a deal that is believed to be almost the same. Gore is expected to take questions from local reporters Wednesday.
”Wow Frank Gore leaving our division,” Rams defensive lineman Chris Long wrote on Twitter. ”Always had a great deal of respect for his game. Brings it every carry. Doesn’t say much just plays.”
Gore had eight 1,000-yard seasons and made five Pro Bowl appearances with the 49ers, including 1,106 yards on 255 carries last season. Gore ran for 11,073 yards and 64 TDs in 10 seasons with the 49ers. He could be a short-term answer to finding the perfect backfield tandem.
It’s been a struggle.
After running for 814 yards as a rookie, Vick Ballard missed all but one game over the past two seasons because of injuries.
Ahmad Bradshaw showed promise in his two seasons with the Colts, but finished both seasons on injured reserve. He’s now a free agent and is facing drug charges in Ohio.
Trent Richardson, acquired in a 2013 trade for a first-round pick, had two subpar seasons in Indy, finished last season with a two-game team-imposed suspension and is expected to be released.
That created an opening for Gore, one he couldn’t turn down. One thing that could be different: not seeing Gore in his familiar No. 21 jersey.
Cornerback Vontae Davis already has that number and wrote on Twitter he has turned down Gore’s offer for the number out of ”respect” to former Colts safety Bob Sanders.
Cole, who had the second-most sacks in Eagles history (85 1/2) behind only Reggie White, agreed to a two-year deal worth roughly $16 million, with $8 million guaranteed, according to a person with knowledge of the negotiations who requested anonymity because the Colts haven’t announced terms of the deal.
And he wasted no time recruiting others.
”It’d be nice to get all these veterans, high-producing veterans, on one team,” Cole said. ”Think about the impact it would have on the Colts in helping them get to the Super Bowl. Tell them to think about it.”
Langford didn’t think long, either, about where he was headed.
The 6-foot-6, 313-pound defensive end is coming off a 51-tackle, one-sack season with Miami.
The Colts also re-signed Adams and Colt Anderson, crucial signings for a team that started the day with only one safety on the roster after releasing LaRon Landry and letting Sergio Brown test free agency.
Adams, an undrafted rookie in 2004, had 93 tackles and five interceptions, both career highs, last season. He led the league with seven takeaways and earned his first Pro Bowl trip in 2014.
Indy also announced Tuesday it has re-signed versatile offensive lineman Joe Reitz and backup linebacker Cam Johnson signed his one-year tender.
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