The end of the preseason in the NFL always brings surprise departures, as front offices are forced to narrow down their rosters. One move that was not expected to be made by the Indianapolis Colts though, was their decision to cut linebacker John Simon. Simon was among the final cuts necessary to get to the league mandated maximum of 53 players on the active roster in Indianapolis for this season. As shocking as this move seems, the decision can be justified.
Simon has always been a player who approaches the game with maximum effort. For what Simon lacks in physical size, he makes up for with his relentless style of play. This reckless approach is what ultimately caused a neck injury last season, confining him to only a nine game campaign in 2017. In those 9 games, Simon recorded 43 tackles, three sacks, and one interception. Through his efficient productivity, Simon emerged as one of the few bright spots for Indianapolis on the defensive side of the ball last season. A roster needs reliable leaders like Simon, who show the will to win with every play. But a leader can only make an impact when he manages to stay on the field. Injuries have derailed the Colts in recent years, further showcasing their lack of depth. Their inability to get equal contributions from each level of a position group is what will ultimately hold them back from deep playoff contention in the coming years. So while it may seem like cruel and unusual punishment, Simon's extreme effort is the first reason why the Colts let him go. He made plays when he was healthy, but staying healthy was the only thing Simon could not do consistently. Another reason for this move is the lack of fit Simon presented to the Colts defensively.
Simon was initially acquired to play linebacker in a 3-4 defensive scheme. With Indianapolis converting their defense to a 4-3 alignment this season, it left Simon as an undersized defensive end. In this defensive design, it forced Simon to exert even more energy than he did before. Indianapolis is well known though for making undersized defensive ends work within a 4-3 scheme.
The franchise's two best defensive ends in Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis reeked havoc on opponents rushing off the edge together for a number of years. Their similar skill sets of tremendous agility and pursuit of ball carriers made them a key component to stopping oppositions as a dynamic duo. Indianapolis also has experience converting defensive players to alternate positions with success. Indianapolis made Mathis into an outside linebacker during the last stage of his career, yielding a league-leading 19.5 sacks in 2013.
Yet, Simon was playing deep into the 4th quarter with the Colts this preseason, even reduced to kickoff coverage in some games, a sign that he didn't fit this scheme.
The final and most obvious reason for this move by the Indianapolis Colts is that they feel Simon can be adequately replaced by someone else. Simon was outdone by recent addition to the roster Ryan Delaire. In Delaire's first action during Week 2 of the preseason against the 49ers, he was able to record two sacks for a total loss of 15 yards. Tarrell Basham is another option for the Colts at defensive end that is younger than Simon and better fits the defensive scheme for this year.
Now that initial cuts have been made to their own roster, the Colts will be one of the most active teams when it comes to acquiring players off of waivers. One of the few benefits of having a 4-12 record last season is that the Colts will be positioned third in the waiver claim order. The only other teams in the way of Indianapolis getting dibs on a player first are the Cleveland Browns and New York Giants. Colts General Manager Chris Ballard will not be shy either when it comes to adding players off of waivers. According to Stephen Holder of The Athletic, the Colts have claimed 15 players off of waivers since Ballard took over as GM in February of 2017.
The move to let John Simon go does seem shocking to some fans and observers. There is no doubt Simon was productive during his time with the Colts when he was healthy. But instilling youth and emphasizing a player's ability to stay on the field game by game, seem to be the two most important factors when evaluating talent with the Colts.
By cutting Simon, it is assumed that the Colts are confident in being able to find a younger and less injury prone replacement for Simon this season. Simon himself will also most likely be picked up by a team in need of his services before too long. The team that inks Simon to a deal will gain a steady veteran. A veteran that can be counted on to always give tremendous effort and provide reliable play making ability when healthy. No one enjoys the process of narrowing down a NFL roster. But it is a necessary step teams must take, to hopefully put themselves in the best possible position to win.
Jimmy Kennedy, who isn't that shocked John Simon got cut by the Colts, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org