Former defensive player of the year Bob Sanders was released by the Colts Friday, ending a seven-year career that featured tons of big plays and even more injuries. Below are some thoughts on why the Colts cut Sanders, and what might be next for him. We’ll then comment on another notable safety transaction from Friday – Erik Coleman’s signing with Detroit.
Sanders was a Colt for seven years, but he played double-digit games in just two seasons. When he played, he was incredible – a tackling machine who hit like a truck, dropped into coverage, and made plays all over the field. Those traits won him the 2007 Defensive Player of the Year award and Pro Bowl berths in both of his (more or less) full seasons. In many ways, Sanders was like Troy Polamalu in that he was a joker on defense who raised the overall level of play of his unit by adding a scare factor. But Sanders, who is just 5-8, 206, couldn’t sustain the pounding of the position, and he missed 39 games (out of 48) in the last three seasons. That came at a high price for the Colts, who gave him a five-year, $37.5 million contract after his DPOY season in 2007. So the Colts cut the cord with Sanders instead of being on the hook for $5.5 million this fall and $7 million in 2012. Perhaps the Colts will bring Sanders back at a lesser cost, hoping for lightning to strike. But the truth is that Sanders is a longshot to be a full season contributor at this point. In fact, his best move might be to sign with a contender and sit the first half of the season, hoping that he can stay healthy enough to add a dynamic element to a defense down the stretch. But even that would have to happen on a low-guarantee, incentive-laden gamble.
Coleman, meanwhile, was released by the Falcons this offseason after losing his starting job in 2010. The ex-Falcon and Jet isn’t a huge playmaker at this point, but given the Lions’ sorry performance in the secondary, he could help. Moreover, it’s savvy of the Lions to get Coleman signed now given the current labor situation. Since no one whose contract expires will be able to change teams until a labor deal is done, only a few veterans who have been released will be on the market. By signing Coleman now, the Lions at least add an option who will be learning their system no matter how long the lockout goes.