Colts Pluck Starter from NFL’s Top Ranked Defense: Report

Shane Steichen

Getty Head coach Shane Steichen and the Indianapolis Colts are reportedly adding a starter from the NFL's top defense in 2022.

After losing several defenders in the early hours of NFL free agency, the Indianapolis Colts have made an addition to their defense.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Jeremy Fowler reported on March 14 that the Colts have signed defensive end Samson Ebukam to a three-year contract worth as much as $27 million. The deal will include $11 million in the first season.

Ebukam recorded 5 sacks in 15 starts during the 2022 season. He also had 36 combined tackles, including 7 tackles for loss, 13 quarterback hits, 1 pass defense, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery while playing for the San Francisco 49ers in 2022.

During 2021, Ebukam started 11 games and then became a regular starter this past season. The 49ers were ranked first in points allowed and second in yards allowed during 2022.

Colts Sign Samson Ebukam to Three-Year Deal

Ebukam began his career as a fourth-round pick in the 2017 NFL draft with the Los Angeles Rams. He played four seasons with the Rams, starting 35 games from 2017-20.

The edge rusher remained in the NFC West, signing with the 49ers in 2021. He recorded 9.5 sacks and 74 combined tackles, including 12 for loss, in 32 games from 2021-22.

Last season, Ebukam’s 5 sacks, 7 tackles for loss and 13 quarterback hits were career highs.

Pro Football Focus ranked Ebukam as the fifth-best edge rusher and No. 52 overall player available in free agency.

Ebukam will likely be a replacement for veteran edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue. In his first season with the Colts, Ngakoue posted 9.5 sacks, 8 tackles for loss and 16 quarterback hits during 2022, but he is a free agent.

Ngakoue has never had a season in his seven-year career where he recorded fewer than 8 sacks. Meanwhile, Ebukam has never had more than 5 sacks in any of his six seasons.

But PFF actually considers Ebukam to be an upgrade at edge. PFF ranked Ngakoue the seventh-best edge rusher and No. 62 overall player available in free agency this offseason.

Colts Make First Defensive Addition After Several Losses

The addition of Ebukam is likely a sight for sore eyes for Colts fans.

Over the first 36 hours of the NFL’s legal tampering period, Indianapolis has lost linebacker Bobby Okereke and cornerback Brandon Facyson. The Colts also traded 2-time All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore to the Dallas Cowboys on March 14.

Ebukam is the first addition for the Colts defense this offseason. Indianapolis also re-signed linebacker E.J. Speed and edge rusher Tyquan Lewis to its defense.

With Speed, Lewis and Ebukam, the Colts have minimized the losses they will likely have in their front seven. That’s a positive with cornerback turning into a major need after the departures of Facyson and Gilmore on March 14.

Other than Ngakoue, Ben Banogu, Khalid Kareem and Byron Cowart are Indianapolis’ other pending free agents along the defensive line. Of those three players, only Cowart played more than 200 defensive snaps in 2022. Banogu played 115 defensive snaps.

In addition to Ebukam, the Colts have also signed kicker Matt Gay in NFL free agency. Gay will replace Chase McLaughlin, who made 83.3% of his field goals in 2022.

Gay, who won the Super Bowl with the Rams during the 2021 season, has made 87.8% of his field goals in four seasons.

Gay’s contract is worth $22.5 million over four years. It’s a record deal for a kicker signing a free agent contract.

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