The 26-year-old Willis, a strong safety who played for the Horseshoe for three seasons, hung up his cleats to pursue a full-time career in ministry on June 15.
Alas, it didn’t materialize as Willis pursued a higher calling.
Best of luck in retirement, Khari! pic.twitter.com/Ir1bJXKGZr
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) June 15, 2022
Willis’ abrupt retirement continued a trend among Colts players in recent memory including Pat “Boomstick” McAfee and Andrew Luck.
Let’s delve deeper into how Willis’ retirement will affect Indy’s secondary in the 2022 NFL season.
The Secondary Will Hold Its Own Even Without Khari Willis In 2022
Khari Willis had 219 tackles, four interceptions, 3.5 sacks, and one fumble recovery in 33 games for the Horseshoe from 2019 to 2021.
There’s no question Willis’ departure is a major blow to the Colts’ secondary – he was a versatile performer for Indy’s defense during his three-year NFL career.
They will miss his ability to play both safety spots, tackling prowess, and leadership skills.
Fortunately, Colts GM Chris Ballard fortified Indy’s safety corps in the offseason.
McLeod is Willis’ likeliest replacement at strong safety for the Colts in the 2022 NFL season.
McLeod, who has racked up 16 interceptions in his 10-year NFL career, has had a proven track record.
He also has 593 tackles, 11 forced fumbles, and eight fumble recoveries so far.
McLeod’s experience – he has started 123 games at safety and was with Frank Reich on the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl LII-winning squad – should pay massive dividends for the Horseshoe.
Colts Rookie safety Nick Cross will wear #20 pic.twitter.com/eQJW23Heyp
— Thank You Khari (@coltsmilitia_) April 30, 2022
Rookie safety Nick Cross is also another intriguing possibility at strong safety.
Cross, the 96th overall selection of the 2022 NFL Draft, had 134 combined tackles, 4.0 sacks, five interceptions, and 10 passes defensed during his three-year stint with the Maryland Terrapins from 2019 to 2021.
Cross has the potential to become a game-changer for the Colts especially with Darius Leonard playing in front of him.
Among the three new Colts safeties, Watts is the dark-horse to take Willis’ strong safety spot.
Watts is an incoming fifth-year safety who had 57 tackles, 2.0 sacks, one fumble recovery, and two pass deflections with the Kansas City Chiefs from 2018 to 2021.
He also earned a Super Bowl ring with the Chiefs following the 2019 NFL campaign.
Long story short, Willis’ retirement doesn’t adversely affect the Colts secondary in 2022.
It’s a good thing Ballard stockpiled on credible talent at safety during the offseason.
If McLeod, Cross, and Watts exceed lofty expectations, the Colts should take a step in the right direction in 2022.