Jabaal Sheard can explore free agency for the third time in his career on March 18.
With nine serviceable years under his belt, Sheard offers a reliable veteran presence.
His numbers have been remarkably consistent throughout his NFL career.
In four years with Cleveland, he averaged 6 sacks and just under 50 tackles per season.
New England played Sheard for fewer minutes.
But he still managed 40 tackles and 6 sacks in each of those three years.
Margus Hunt – 13.0
Jabaal Sheard – 13.0
Denico Autry – 12.0
Darius Leonard – 12.0
— Christian Edwards (@ColtsEdwardsC) December 17, 2018
In his first two seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, Sheard gave the team 51 tackles and 5.5 sacks per season.
Then came 2019 and a knee injury that cost Sheard a preseason and the first three games.
He still managed to play the final 13 games for the Colts.
But he finished with a career-worst 25 tackles to go with 4.5 sacks.
That´s far from enough to label someone as an injury risk.
But is it a sign that age is catching up to the defensive lineman?
What Are the Colts´ Options?
Indianapolis has the second-highest amount of cap space in the NFL.
This opens all kinds of options.
The Colts could choose to sign Sheard for another couple of years at a reasonable price.
That would buy time for the Colts to develop Tyquan Lewis and Ben Banogu.
#Colts Working extensions 4 core players…. O-Linemen Anthony Castonzo, Ryan Kelly, Corner Kenny Moore & Punter Rigoberto Sanchez. Prioritizing their own over unknown that arrive via FA. Familiarity w/ Justin Houston paved way for Deal. Puts Jabaal Sheard’s future in Question.
— Chad Forbes (@NFLDraftBites) March 23, 2019
Signing an impactful defensive tackle or two would help that plan work.
But the Colts can´t ignore the fact there are several star-quality edge rushers available in free agency.
Chris Ballard is not one to make big free agency splashes.
But he already said it might be time to do so in 2020.
Indianapolis is rumored to be interested in Jadeveon Clowney.
Such a signing would make Sheard expendable.
What About the Draft?
Indianapolis has four of the top 100 picks in this year´s draft.
The draft class is considered deep at defensive end/edge rushers.
Before rumors recently turned to quarterback scenarios, the Colts’ first pick seemed likely to address the defensive line.
Penn State´s Yetur Gross-Matos is projected to be available at the Colts´ first pick at 13.
Chris Ballard is also rumored to be keen on Javon Kinlaw of South Carolina.
— Stampede Blue (@StampedeBlue) February 18, 2020
But if the chips fall their way, Indianapolis might trade back and still land Gross-Matos or Kinlaw.
Other options will certainly be available, not only at 13 but at 34 and 44, the Colts second-round slots.
The Colts could trade up for their quarterback and still land a quality defensive end at 34 or 44.
Jabari Zuniga of Florida and Notre Dame´s Julian Okwara are rising quickly up the draft ratings.
But both could be available to the Colts in the second round.
What Should the Colts do With Jabaal Sheard?
Sheard can offer some insurance and leadership on a young roster.
Drafting another defensive end to work into the rotation with Banogu is a worthy plan.
Is it time to get younger at defensive end or should Jabaal Sheard return in 2020?https://t.co/2lOAu6op1h
— Kevin Bowen (@KBowen1070) January 24, 2020
But the Colts are just one year removed from playoff football.
How they deal with their quarterback position might determine their best option.
The Colts are rumored to be looking at free-agent quarterbacks to bridge the gap to their next franchise passer.
That move justifies a bigger move at the defensive end.
Clowney, Armstead, Yannick Ngakoue, and any of the other ends who escape franchise tags are worth a splurge in free agency.
Ballard can still use a mid-to-late draft pick on another lineman.
But either way, Indianapolis shouldn´t spend much on re-upping Sheard.