INDIANAPOLIS – The NFL’s new league year kicked in at 4 o’clock Wednesday afternoon, signaling to everyone it’s time to look ahead.
To that end, 32 teams have spent the week adding and subtracting in the never-ending massaging of rosters. Once again, free agency has commanded the attention, and locally we’re not talking about Aaron Rodgers’ prolonged dance with the Green Bay Packers and New York Jets.
General manager Chris Ballard has used the last three days using every available tool to reshape an Indianapolis Colts’ roster that sorely needs reshaping: trades, signing, re-signing and allowing pending free agents to hit the market.
One of the players retained is being given the opportunity for an expanded role in Gus Bradley’s defense. E.J. Speed signed a two-year extension worth $9 million.
“I can do a lot,’’ he said Wednesday. “Gus has expressed to me plenty of times he trusts me. We’ve already made plays together as a coach/player last year.
“Now in this role, I can make more. We can do more and I’m looking forward to it.’’
The 2019 fifth-round pick has paid his dues with a dual role as special teams standout and defensive backup. Speed has piled up 31 tackles on special teams, blocked one punt and returned two blocked punts for touchdowns. Last season, he was on the field for a career-high 314 defensive snaps and responded with 55 tackles, including 32 solos.
It’s worth noting Speed is the second linebacker taken in a later round to merit a second contract from the Colts. Last offseason, Zaire Franklin, a 2018 seventh-rounder, was given a three-year, $12 million extension.
“Sometimes you feel like people put a box around you, and when you break through the box and become something more than what’s expected, it’s always a warm feeling,’’ Speed said. “It takes a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it at the end of the day.’’
Here’s a recap of the Colts’ roster-shuffling. A reminder: they aren’t finished shuffling.
Comings and goings
- Released quarterback Matt Ryan, which created $17.2 million in salary-cap space. He still will count $18 million in dead money.
- Traded cornerback Stephon Gilmore to Dallas for a fifth-round pick (No. 176 overall).
- Agreed with former Los Angeles Rams’ placekicker Matt Gay on a four-year, $22.5 million contract that includes $13 million in guarantees.
- Agreed with former San Francisco 49ers’ defensive end Samson Ebukam on a three-year, $27 million contract that includes $11 million in guarantees.
- Agreed with former Cleveland Browns’ defensive tackle Taven Bryan on a one-year, $4.5 million contract.
- Signed Speed to a two-year, $9 million extension.
- Signed wide receiver Ashton Dulin to a two-year, $9.2 million extension.
- Signed defensive lineman Tyquan Lewis to a one-year, $2.2 million extension.
- Signed offensive tackle Carter O’Donnell to an extension.
- Saw linebacker Bobby Okereke agree to a four-year, $40 million contract with the New York Giants.
- Saw cornerback Brandon Facyson agree to a contract with the Las Vegas Raiders.
The top Colts who became unrestricted free agents Wednesday at 4: wideout Parris Campbell, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, kicker Chase McLaughlin, safety Rodney McLeod, offensive tackles Matt Pryor and Dennis Kelly, punter Matt Haack.
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