Colts better have internal options at LB because free agent market is terrible
The Colts are banged up at linebacker and better hope their internal options are enough.
The Indianapolis Colts’ Week 4 victory over the Chicago Bears came with a price. This team cannot escape a single game without an injury, and on Sunday it was linebackers Darius Leonard and Bobby Okereke who went down. Despite head coach Frank Reich’s unwillingness to rule them out, both seem to be in serious doubt for Week 5.
Leonard suffered a groin injury in the second quarter and didn’t return while Okereke underwent surgery on his thumb Monday after leaving the game late in the fourth quarter.
The Colts defense remained stout without Leonard for the second half after moving Okereke to middle linebacker and shifting Anthony Walker to weakside linebacker. That’s some great versatility when you consider how well the defense continued to play, but there will be serious issues if both Leonard and Okereke can’t go against the Browns.
Another big problem? The free agent market is an absolute wasteland. The biggest names available at linebacker are Darron Lee, Wesley Woodyard and Vontaze Burfict, in terms of those that would fit the Colts’ 4-3 scheme. Edge rushers Clay Matthews, Cameron Wake and Terrell Suggs are out there too, but with Justin Houston and Denico Autry on the outside, there’s no need for those kinds of linebackers.
That means Indy will need their internal options to fill in without much of an issue. Zaire Franklin (MLB), Jordan Glasgow (WLB) and E.J. Speed (SAM) are the backups, but Speed is actually dealing with an elbow issue, so the Colts only have three healthy linebackers on the roster.
That means Franklin and Glasgow have to be ready to contribute. Franklin is no stranger to the Colts’ defense, having appeared in every game since making his debut in 2018, though he’s only started twice and has just 38 career tackles. As for Glasgow, the rookie has appeared in all four games in 2020, but has just three tackles to his name.
The good news here is that Franklin has a ton of familiarity and playing time under his belt while Glasgow was a standout at Michigan his senior season (last year), registering 89 tackles and five sacks. General manager Chris Ballard’s genius could continue to show in Week 5 if these guys are forced to step in and continue helping the league’s best defense.