Enemy Intel: How'd the Colts do in the draft?

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Enemy Intel: How'd the Colts do in the draft?

By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.com

The Colts' draft approach is the inverse of the Patriots. They wait for their turn to come. They take a player. They wait for their turn to come. They take a player. And while their overall team-building approach has been good enough to make them a quasi-dynasty - or at least the greatest team in the history of the AFC South - the draft hasn't been a strong suit, as evidenced by the four drafts preceding this year's.The best players they've taken in that span were Jacob Tamme, Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon and Clint Session. Tamme, Collie and Garcon's resumes to date have been aided by the fact Peyton Manning throws them the football. This year? Seemed very good. In the first round, the Colts took Boston College left tackle Anthony Castonzo. The Colts' offensive line has been borderline embarrassing the past two seasons. Indy allowed it to get old and brittle. They couldn't run block at all. Their protection of Manning - especially against higher-tier teams - was atrocious last season. Castonzo becomes the first offensive linemen the Colts have drafted since team president Bill Polian took over in Indy. Ironically, Polian's son Chris "ran" this draft. Indy came back in the secondround, making a deal to get up and draft Villanova offensive lineman Ben Ijalana. Castonzo will go to left guard; Ijalana becomes either a right tackle or a guard. TheColts came back in the thirdround and got Drake Nevis, a defensive tackle from LSU. Nevis is just 6-1 but he's swollen up to 308. My buddy Wes Bunting at the National Football Post loves him in a scheme like the Colts with asks for penetration from the D-line. Nevis gets off the ball fast and "violently," according to Bunting, and for a team that's also allowed 4.2, 4.3 and 4.6 yards per carry against it the past three seasons, they need D-line assistance .In the fourth round, they again went for a direct statistical need and took a running back, 5-9, 225-pound Delone Carter from Syracuse. He's a between-the-tackles guy and maybe can be the correct complement for the Colts running game that helps Donald Brown be less of a disappointment than he has been. The Colts took a corner in the sixth round, a kid named Mike Rucker from Michigan State. SUMMARYThe Colts were in decline. Manning's ability effectively masked that fact until last year. Butthe talent drain caused by age and years of unimaginativedrafting was approaching critical mass. They moved to fix that this year. Two rookie offensive linemen and an undersized but explosive defensive lineman aren't going to alter everything. But at least Indy moved to protect its asset, Manning.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Arizona Cardinals place franchise tag on Chandler Jones

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Arizona Cardinals place franchise tag on Chandler Jones

PHOENIX - The Arizona Cardinals, in an anticipated move, have placed a non-exclusive franchise tag on outside linebacker Chandler Jones after failing to reach a long-term deal with the player.

The non-exclusive tag allows the Cardinals to continue negotiating with Jones through July 15. If another team makes him an offer, Arizona can either match it or receive two first-round draft picks.

It's unlikely that any team would express interest in Jones, however, given what it would cost.

Under the franchise tag, Jones would receive about $15 million for the coming season.

Acquired in a trade with New England a year ago, Jones had 11 sacks, four forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 15 tackles for loss last season

Jones has 25 1-2 sacks over the past two seasons, third-most in the NFL over that span.

The Cardinals' move came two days before the NFL deadline for making franchise designations.

It also came on Jones' 27th birthday, prompting teammate David Johnson to tweet "Happy BDay to `The Man,' `Mr. Franchise' himself.....The one and only."

The franchise tag move came as no surprise.

Club President Michael Bidwill has stated all along that Jones would not be going anywhere, that the team didn't make the trade - sending guard Jonathan Cooper and a second-round draft pick to New England - to keep him just for one season.

"We're not going to mess around with that," Bidwill said in a recent interview on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. "He's a great pass rusher, but if we can't agree to terms that work for us, we're just going to franchise him, and his people know that."

Jones immediately upgraded what had been an average Cardinals pass rush at best. His fellow outside linebacker Markus Golden had 12 1-2 sacks and seven tackles for loss. Together they form one of the better outside pass rush combinations in the NFL.

By all accounts, the contract talks with Jones have been cordial and Jones has said he wants to stay in Arizona.

"I love it here," he said near the end of last season. "I love the vibe that the people give off and I can see myself being here for a long time."

Chandler heads a long list of free agents that the Cardinals must either re-sign or let go. That group includes starters defensive tackle Calais Campbell, safety Tony Jefferson and inside linebacker Kevin Minter.

Mayock: If I'm Cleveland, I'd be 'stoked' to land Garoppolo for No. 12 pick

Mayock: If I'm Cleveland, I'd be 'stoked' to land Garoppolo for No. 12 pick

NFL Network draft expert Mike Mayock quarterbacked a marathon conference call with reporters from around the country on Monday in order to shed some light on the prospects who will compete at the combine later this week. One thing that stood out? He's not ready to crown anyone in this year's crop of draftable signal-callers.

As a result of the dearth of pro-ready talent at quarterback, Mayock recognized Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo as perhaps the top target for any quarterback-needy team. Garoppolo might interest the Cleveland Browns in particular, Mayock noted, because of the number of picks they have near the top of the draft.

"In my opinion," Mayock said, "if I'm the Cleveland Browns and I've got No. 1 and No. 12, if I came away with either [defensive end Myles] Garrett or [defensive tackle] Jonathan Allen at No. 1, and gave up the 12th pick in the draft to get Garoppolo? I would be stoked.

"I would feel like I had a difference-maker on defense and we had a quarterback on offense. Now let's get to work. We got five in the first 65 picks. Let's get to work. From my perspective, especially looking at the quarterbacks this year, if they gave up No. 12 and could get Garoppolo, I'd be all over that."