Colts: What Al-Quadin Muhammad signing means for defensive line

Al-Quadin Muhammad #97 of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Rob Leiter/Getty Images)
Al-Quadin Muhammad #97 of the Indianapolis Colts (Photo by Rob Leiter/Getty Images) /

Another quiet, low-impact move for the Indianapolis Colts in free agency! Don’t you know how general manager Chris Ballard operates by now?

On Wednesday evening, Indy re-signed defensive end Al-Quadin Muhammad to a one-year, $3.4 million contract as they slowly replenish their front seven (and defensive line depth), which still needs fortifying.

Muhammad falls in the depth category, but he’s been a key piece on this defense, having appeared in 47 of a possible 48 gams over the last three years.

Over that span, he’s recorded 79 tackles (eight for a loss), five sacks and nine QB hits. He’s also just 26 years old.

What this signing does is add familiarity and, regardless if you’re a fan of Muhammad or not, makes Indy’s depth along the defensive line as strong as it can possibly be without making a significant splash.

While a Justin Houston reunion is still very much needed, the team’s defensive end rotation (Matt Ebeflus loves to keep fresh legs out there) will continue to feature Muhammad, Tyquan Lewis, Kemoko Turay, and hopefully Ben Banogu, who failed to impress during practice in 2020, leading to scarce playing time.

The value here is bringing back someone who knows the playbook, as opposed to adding depth pieces that may have to learn an entirely new system and cope with a change of scenery.

The dream is for Indy to draft another young pass rusher who can join this rotation, adapt to life in the NFL while being put in the best possible position to succeed, and then potentially help the teaam prepare for life without Turay (who will be a free agent) and Banogu (if he fails to make an impact in 2021).

So while the prospect of a promising first- or second-round pick losing reps to Muhammad in the rotation doesn’t sound too appealing, it’s all part of Ballard’s grand plan (at least we’d like to think so).

The Colts front office prides itself on making the most out of its draft selections, keeping productive players around, and ensuring no job is too onerous for one player. The pass rushing line of work is among the hardest in the NFL, so keeping that unit diverse with the proper support system is a shrewd philosophy.

Muhammad is just a small part of it, but his presence no doubt has a bigger impact than the average fan might think.