INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – All things considered, Devin Funchess and Pierre Desir find themselves in the right place at the right time of their careers.
That would be as part of what might be a return-to-prominence movement with the Indianapolis Colts.
Each had the opportunity to peruse the NFL landscape earlier this week and determine if there was a better opportunity, perhaps more money and stronger financial security for his family.
Funchess was a second-round pick of Carolina in 2015 who spent four inconsistent seasons with the Panthers before being in position to gauge the interest elsewhere. He declined to elaborate on the level of interest he encountered, but made it clear he was at peace with his one-year contract with the Colts that could be worth as much as $13 million.
“I picked Indy because I felt as if the team was ready to go to that next level and I felt as if my abilities could help take us to the Super Bowl,’’ Funchess said Thursday in a conference call.
He noticed from afar last season as the Colts followed the lead of Andrew Luck, who was the catalyst as the team posted a 10-6 record and earned a wild-card playoff berth. Indy suffered through a 4-12 finish in 2017 as Luck missed the season with his right shoulder issues.
“What I did watch was he came back from a hell of a shoulder surgery and he came back and did what he was supposed to do for the team,’’ Funchess said. “I am just here to contribute and make sure we get to that next level and get that Super Bowl ring.
“That is my main goal. I believe Andrew Luck is ready and everybody else on the team is ready.’’
Likewise, Desir weighed his options on the open market before deciding he already was where he should be. He was projected as one of the top cornerbacks in free agency and reportedly received interest from, among others, Miami and San Francisco.
“For me it was everything – the fans, the city, the players, the coaches and the organization,’’ said Desir, who accepted a three-year deal from Indy with a maximum value of $25 million. “Everyone just welcomed me in since day 1 when I came in from being cut from Seattle.
“They brought me in as a family and embraced me as such. That is something I always took to heart.’’
The Colts claimed Desir off waivers from Seattle in September 2017. It was the latest career hurdle he had to deal with. After becoming the first Lindenwood University product to be drafted in 2014 (round 4 by Cleveland), he would endure being waived by the Browns, San Diego Chargers and Seattle before finding stability in Indy.
“This is where I called home and this is definitely somewhere that I wanted to return,’’ he said. “I’m just thankful that I’m able to come back.’’
The Colts know what they have in Desir. He appeared in all 18 games last season, starting 14, and quickly warmed to coordinator Matt Eberflus’ scheme. He was at his absolute best in two late-seasons wins at Houston – one in the regular season, the other in the first round of the playoffs – when he was instrumental in neutralizing DeAndre Hopkins, the Texans’ standout receiver.
“This scheme allows everyone just to play fast and react,’’ he said. “We pride ourselves on hustling to the ball and attacking the ball. For a defensive back, when you’re able to not think as much and just be able to react to the play and react to what you see, it makes your job a lot easier.’’
With Funchess, there’s still a bit of uncertainty despite the hefty short-term investment. He generated 161 receptions, 2,233 yards and 21 touchdowns in 61 games with the Panthers and possesses intriguing size at 6-4 and 225 pounds, but also had issues with dropped passes.
According to Pro Football Focus, Funchess averaged nearly one drop for every eight catchable targets. Over the last four seasons, that ranked fourth-worst in that category among 92 receivers who were targeted at least 150 times.
In his four years in Carolina, Funchess’s 161 receptions came on 311 targets, a 51.8 completion rate.
He was in no mood to dwell on his “drops’’ reputation, including those that occurred last season.
“I don’t even remember last season,’’ he said. “Today is March 14 I believe. So I am not worried about all of that and I am ready to go. All of that stuff is in the past. I don’t live in the past. I live for today.
“So I am going to try my best. Every time that ball comes to me, I am going to try my best to catch that ball and go do something with it. So as of the drops, don’t worry about that. It’s another year. It’s 2019. I am with the white and blue and we are ready to go.’’
Drops plagued the Colts at times last season, but coach Frank Reich insisted he “can live with a few of those’’ when he was asked at the NFL Scouting Combine about a draft prospect who might have a reputation for dropping passes.
“I’m not afraid of a few drops,’’ he said. “But if you use the word an inordinate amount of drops, I would be concerned . . . but I would like to balance the drops with big-play production.
“Sometimes there are some really big-time players who make a lot of plays who are going to have some drops. I think I can live with a few of those. You can’t live with an inordinate amount, then they have to come down the board.’’