I had this whole waves vs. ripples analogy ready to go but then I saw that Indy Star had already beaten me to the punch. In all seriousness, I know that many of us expected some big marquee names to be inked yesterday, what with the veritable treasure trove of money we had burning a hole in Irsay’s man cave (and our eccentric owner’s tweets about suitcases full of 100 million dollars did little to lessen that expectation), but I think it’s notable and, dare I say, laudable even that Ryan Grigson practiced what he has been preaching all week and didn’t spend money just to spend it.
While our flush cohorts, Cleveland and Miami, were handing out 8 figure salaries like bong hits at Woodstock, Grigson kept a level head and made some solid under-the-radar signings that will both help this team get better and not cripple the franchise should one or more of them not pan out (I admit, I don’t understand paying Erik Walden $16 million, but that’s someone else’s problem).
Chief among these signing was a reported 5 year, 34 million dollar deal for 28 year old, 6’7”, 325 lbs., right tackle, formerly of the Detroit Lions, Gosder Cherilus. Now, if the immediate reaction on twitter was any indication, I’m sure many of you initially thought, “WHO?” Yes, he isn’t a household name and you wouldn’t find him on any of the top 10 free agents lists that you probably saw inundating the internet in the past few weeks (actually he was on a couple, but not many), but before anyone starts burning Grigson dolls in effigy, let’s take a look at who Gosder Cherilus is and why I think the Colts got themselves a steal.
Cherilus went to Boston College where he started 37 consecutive games at right tackle before moving to left tackle in his senior year. He was taken 17th overall by the Detroit Lions in the 2008 draft where he won the starting right tackle job his rookie year and has started 71 out of a possible 80 games in his 5 years in Detroit. Here’s a blurb from his scouting report heading into that draft from NFLDraftScout.com via NFL.com:
“Has a tall, lanky frame with excellent arm length, large, strong hands, a huge wingspan and room on his frame to carry at least another 25 pounds of bulk without having it impact his quickness [editors note: for what it’s worth, he was listed at 315 then and is now listed at 325]... Communicates well with his guards and tight ends and shows good alertness on the field...Intelligent athlete who will not have problems taking plays from the chalkboard to the playing field...Regarded by the coaching staff as the team's most important player and takes pride in his leadership role, taking younger blockers under his wing...Tough player who works hard to finish and responds well to hard coaching, especially when challenged, and is motivated to work on the little techniques in his game...”
Communicates well, intelligent, and a team first guy… sounds a lot like the kind of player the Colts love to sign.
Somewhat ironically, Cherilus was more of a run blocker in college, the scouting report even lists his pass blocking as a liability, “Needs help in pass protection, as he gets his feet too wide at times and this causes him to struggle to recover vs. quick-twitch defensive linemen,” but we know that pass protection is exactly where he’s made his reputation as an NFL right tackle, per Pro Football Focus:
“Cherilus was in fact knocking on the door of All-Pro consideration at right tackle this season, and in the Lions’ extremely pass-heavy offense he played extremely well, recording a Pass Blocking Efficiency among the league’s Top 10 tackles (96.3).”
It’s a great sign, in my estimation anyway, that he took what was a perceived weakness coming out and turned it into a strength of his game in the NFL. At the very least it seems to reinforce what was stated in the scouting report, that Cherilus is a strong character player who works hard to improve weaknesses in his game. It also doesn’t hurt that Gosder apparently chose Indy as much as we chose him, per his agent, Gregory Diulus, "It only took an hour and 15 minutes, so yeah, it went pretty quickly. We had several others (interested teams), but this is a place where he really told me in advance that he wanted to go, so we were glad they got it done."
PFF graded this deal by the Colts as a solid “common sense” signing that, while not flashy, represents great value at a position of serious need. Cherilus was the highest graded pass blocking right tackle in all of football by PFF last season, giving up only 4 sacks and 7 QB hits in more than 800 pass blocking snaps (Detroit threw the ball a lot, you may have heard). Here's his weekly grading chart which illustrates his consistent high level of play; that's quite a lot of green:
For Contrast's sake, here's the chart for Winston Justice, the man he will be replacing at RT (I will spare you the chart showing Jeff Linkebach, the fillin for Justice, it's just too ugly to make public):
While $6.5 million a year may sound like a lot, consider that the annual salary in the NFL at right tackles is just north of $5 million and it’s worth noting that we don’t yet know the full details of his contract. The Colts got a potential pro-bowl RT for a reasonable price, I’d call that a solid signing.
Here’s what some others around the league are saying about the signing:
Pro Football Focus - “While Cherilus was never a favorite of the Lions faithful, he had developed into a useful starting right tackle. After a tough rookie year he’s graded positively every season since and held up well in the Lions heavy pass based offense. In fact it was his pass blocking that saw him end up our second ranked right tackle last year, with his pass blocking efficiency grade the 12th best of all offensive tackles as he gave up just 38 quarterback disruptions on 787 Stafford drop-backs. For a Colts team that saw it’s offensive line give up a league leading 244 combined sacks, hits and hurries, that’s a big improvement.”
[For contrast sake, and an example of how iffy talent evaluation is in the NFL] Bill Polian appearing on The Herd on ESPN Radio - “Cherilus is a Stanford type right tackle. Does this tell you that they’re going more with Pep Hamilton, what they did at Stanford… as opposed to what Bruce Arians did which was much more what we had done with Peyton, open it up, are they going to be more ball control, pound and ground, play action, all the stuff that Andrew did at Stanford?... Cherilus is not what you would call a great pass protector, but he’s a good all-around tackle and he certainly can run block, he’s very good at that.”
Peter King of SI rated Cherilus his 26th best free agent.
Scouts Inc. of ESPN.com - "Cherilus has been a mainstay along the Lions' offensive line since entering the league in 2008. He has great length with good strength and adequate athleticism for the position. He is tough to contend with if he engages with defenders early in the play, locking on and staying connected. He can be inconsistent at playing with proper pad level, which exposes his lack of recovery agility in pass protection. Cherilus has progressed each season and brings experience to the offensive line."
Matt Miller of Bleacher Report ranks Cherilus as the NFL's 7th best right tackle giving him a grade of 80/100 and 44/50 in pass protection - "Gosder Cherilus (6'7", 325 pounds, five seasons) has quicker hands and feet than you would expect from a man his size. Cherilus has a good kick-and-shuffle move, especially when going back off the line of scrimmage to meet edge-rushers. He has very quick hands and will strike at defenders and stun them. While he can get a bit upright at times, he’s strong enough to overcome most bull rushes he’ll see... Our preseason rankings of the top right tackles didn't put Cherilus anywhere close to the top 10 players, but he earned it this year with top-level pass protection on the back-side."
So what are your thoughts on Gosder Cherilus? Mine? Who names their kid Gosder?
How many linemen can you say would be a household name or flashy pick up? I'd rather get a guy who's solid and "on the cusp of All-Pro" than overpay the big name just because he happened to gain notoriety as a lineman. Sounds like a great pick up to me.
The cherilus/thomas/toler was all solid pick-ups. I would rather have those 3 than a single big name. we filled 3 major needs all we need is to get landry/avril then draft smart and The AFC south is ours once again. Grigson is a smart dude and I like how he always finds under the radar players. Walden is a good run stopper but i dont think he was used to his fullest. We dont need big names to win we just need a solid group who can mesh well. Thats just my thoughts.
@ColtsAuth_Kyle any word on Landry. ?
As a (rare?) BC Alum/Colts fan I love our new LT/RT bookends. Remembering Cherilus from his BC days he was a monster on campus and he played in a system a lot less pass heavy than he did in Detroit which should translate well with Pep Hamilton. On the other hand his history in the passing game is strong as he blocked from Matt Stafford's 5k yd season, Calvin's 2k yd season, and Matty Ice's school record senior season at BC. Also like that we got an RT not a T to compete for the job of either. Shows confidence in AC and can you imagine the outrage if we broke the bank for Jake Long only to have AC beat him in camp (as I suspect he would)? $6M is a great price for a pro-bowl caliber RT when you consider that alternative, however unlikely
@ColtsAuth_Kyle awesome write up
Meh... to heck with Walden, guys. While I agree that he got overpaid, I'm more concerned with bringing in O-line and DB talent, and so far the Colts have made some really solid base hits with Thomas and Cherilus here. If the Colts walk out of the FA signing period with only the one "WTF??", I'll actually be happy.
Anyway, damn... the line is one center and guard away from being solid. And if Ijalana comes back okay, it's only a center away. And who knows? I don't think Samson "Air Block" Satele will magically get better, but at least the leaks will come from fewer directions now with Thomas and Cherilus in.
Just one more halfway decent guard to play next to Castonzo (Not Thomas; he's a RG... and no, I don't agree with moving players for the sake of moving them. Let him play the position he plays *well* at). Do that, and things will look up, even if all we got left at center is Satele playing pattycake with a ghost.
@bradicus18 I think Kuharsky might have started a frenzy with this knee thing. Cherilus denies it even took place and the "procedure" itself is nothing approaching the level of surgery, it's just a blood enrichment procedure to help lubricate his joints and prevent arthritis. I'm certainly no doctor but it doesn't seem to register as a major issue to me. I'd like to believe that Grigson would have done some major fact checking before giving a guy $34 million dollars.
Then again, Cherilus could start the year on IR and I'll look like a moron.
@Colt_Following I hope you're right. The knee was the only reason I was concerned with giving him such a big contract. If he continues doing what he was doing in Detroit, Cherilus might be a huge pick-up.
He's the first player they signed in free agency yesterday. Great big guy. Started 70 games in 5 years for the Lions at right tackle. He's a pretty solid offensive lineman.
Nice post. I admit I'm somewhat disappointed by the signings, but having Avery taken by the Chiefs almost balances things out.
One quibble though "Grigson practiced what he has been preaching all week and didn’t spend money just to spend it." If the Colts aren't spending Money just to spend it how do you explain $16 mill to someone ranked as the worst LB in the league? Perhaps Walden's supposed cover skills will give him a useful spot in the rotation, but I'm not holding my breath.
@hankster Live next door to Packer backer. He isn't sad to see him leave, but he, as all online ever mention is Kaepernick juking him time and again in playoffs last year. Kinda unfair to expect a 250lb LB to keep up with Kaepernick. I trust Pagano with Defense, so I'll reserve my boos till after first couple games. :)
@hankster Walden is a serious head-scratcher, I agree with you there. Honestly, I don't know what Grigson and/or Pagano saw in him that made them think he might be the answer at OLB, and yes, PFF absolutely hates him, but I also have never studied Walden on film and really haven't seen him play other than his game against the Colts. PFF's explanation of the signing runs along the lines of "he had his best career game against Indy so the Colts thought he was good", but I give Pagano and Grigson a bit more credit than that. Like Smonroe says, the money isn't prohibitive and though he reportedly scored a 10 on the Wonderlic (insert Vince Young joke here), he was loved by a lot his teammates in Green Bay and is the kind of guy that Grigson claims the Colts want, hard working, loves the game, etc.
I don't know exactly why they signed him, or what they saw that PFF didn't, but of the 5 players they signed he was by far the worst and I don't know if that one move constitutes enough to say that Grigson is throwing money away. I love the Thomas and Cherilus signings (Thomas for way cheap, he outplayed Logan Mankins last year if we are going to be using PFF numbers), and I think Toler is being pointed to by many as a sneaky good signing (was in Peter Kings top 50 free agents list as well). I guess only time will tell.
Keep in mind we still have quite a lot of cap space left too.
@Colt_Following You're right, he's probably not that bad a signing. I'm still nursing my disappointment that the FO did pick up either Vasquez or Levitre. That and I've probably been reading too much of Nate Dunlevy and his criticism of Grigson.
@hankster I think Walden got $4M guaranteed, so if he sucks were not losing that much by cutting him. I read somewhere that he has great talent but has had horrible coaching (or he's stupid, depending who you ask). And that when he went to GB and was coached up he did great. Time will tell.
@Payton @smonroe @hankster I've certainly heard reports that other teams were vying for his services. An article written last year made it sound like he was a core starter for the Packers and playing almost as well as Clay Matthews. That article suggesting Green Bay might offer him a major pay raise. Here's the link to that article: http://m.jsonline.com/sports/packers/packers-walden-due-for-a-raise-jb7ilmb-178262421.html
Why PFF hates him so much I can't say having never really studied the guy on film, but it's clear that his reputation among front offices is much different than it is at Pro Football Focus (ESPN Scouts Inc. gave him a grade of 65, which puts him in the "solid starter" range by their grading system).