With the Indianapolis Colts set to hit free agency, general manager Chris Ballard should make Los Angeles Chargers soon-to-be free agent pass rusher Melvin Ingram a top target.
Armed with now around $55 million of cap space, the Colts have enough funds to make at least a ‘big splash or two’ in free agency, and a blue chip pass rusher like Ingram certainly fits that mold.
Originally a 2012 first round pick of the San Diego Chargers, Ingram’s first three seasons with the Bolts were fairly underwhelming before catching fire these past two seasons.
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Specifically, Ingram has combined for 18.5 sacks from 2015-16, consistently being one of the league’s top pass rushers.
During this past season, Ingram made all 16 starts for the Chargers, recording 60 tackles, 8.5 sacks, and 4 forced fumbles–serving as a defensive captain.
Aug 22, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer (3) is sacked by San Diego Chargers outside linebacker Melvin Ingram (54) during the first half at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Per Pro Football Focus (subscription), his productivity was better than his actual sack total indicates, however, as he was graded as their 6th best ‘edge defender’ overall with a +88.1 grade–including a +84.9 pass rush grade (ranked 9th best).
It wasn’t long ago that Melvin Ingram was seen as a first-round draft disappointment, but he has developed into the player that the Chargers thought he could be—it just took him the duration of his rookie contract. Ingram only had eight sacks this season, but posted 72 total pressures and had multiple pressures in every single game of the season. In seven games, he had at least five total pressures, and was also markedly improved against the run this season.
Still only 27 years old, Ingram figures to have at least a handful of elite seasons left under his belt and would figure to be a solid long-term investment for the Colts.
It’s no secret either that pass rush should be the top priority for the Colts this offseason, as the franchise’s career sack leader Robert Mathis recently retired, and last year’s sack leader, Erik Walden, is set to become a free agent himself with no young players pushing through the pipeline.
The Colts tied for the 19th most sacks last season, but in my opinion, their actual pass rush was much worse than such a ranking actually indicates.
Ingram would provide the Colts with a blue-chip ‘alpha dog’ pass rusher, and such a signing shouldn’t even preclude Indianapolis from taking another talented pass rusher early in this year’s NFL Draft–as the franchise could use at least another impact pass rusher.
Potentially also working in the Colts favor is that former San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano, who coached Ingram since the pass rusher’s professional debut in 2012, is of course current Indianapolis head coach Chuck Pagano‘s brother–meaning he should know all about Ingram.
Pass rushers in today’s NFL are always held at a premium, and given the Colts dire need at the position, it makes sense that the team would make a strong push for Ingram in free agency–and rightfully so.