The Indianapolis Colts are entering a new era this NFL offseason, as the team drafted Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson in the first round of the 2023 NFL Draft. To help their new signal-caller succeed, the team made solid moves in free agency and in the draft to build up the offense around him and create a solid defense to take the pressure off the rookie. But what was the riskiest move they made? The Samson Ebukam Colts’ free agent signing is the biggest risk the team took in the 2023 NFL offseason.

Why the Samson Ebukam Colts’ free agent signing is the riskiest move of the 2023 NFL offseason

The Colts’ free agent period was relatively conservative this NFL offseason. The team lost some important players like linebacker Bobby Okereke and wide receiver Parris Campbell, re-signed a few players such as WR Ashton Dulin and LB E.J. Speed, and brought in a few free agents in defensive end Samson Ebukam and kicker Matt Gay.

Indianapolis’ biggest loss was DE Yannick Ngakoue who is still a free agent at the beginning of June. Ngakoue was the team’s big Colts’ free agent acquisition last summer, and he played well, racking up 9.0 sacks in 2022.

Live and breathe the NFL?

🚨 Get viral NFL graphics, memes, rumors and trending news delivered right to your inbox with the Clutch Newsletter.

Ngakoue did have his issues. He’s not a good run defender, and his advanced stats, such as pass-rush win rate don’t match up with his impressive 19.5 sacks in the last two seasons. Still, he was productive for the Colts last season, and the team needed to replace him.

That’s where the Samson Ebukam Colts’ free agent signing comes in. Ebukam is a 28-year-old edge rusher who’s played six NFL seasons for the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers. At those stops, Ebukam was a semi-regular starter, playing in 96 games and starting 61.

Last season in San Francisco, Ebukam played 59% of the team’s defensive snaps, the second-most of his career. That playing time led to the highest sack total of his career, although he only managed 5.0 sacks to bring his career total up to 23.5.

Ebukam has somewhat the opposite problem of Ngakoue, where his talent and rushing make him seem like a productive pass rusher, but the stats have just never backed that up. As he told, he’s “pissed” he didn’t get more than 9.5 sacks in his two seasons with the 49ers.

The Colts basically swapped out a productive but flawed player for another with more talent and upside but lesser production, and that is why the Samson Ebukam Colts’ free agent signing is the biggest risk the team took in the 2023 NFL offseason.

If it works out and Ebukam becomes a double-digit sack player on the team’s defensive line, it’s a great move. If the DE can only muster his usual 4.5-5.0 sacks again this season, then the team lost out on important production and quarterback pressure.

The Colts also gave Ebukam a good amount of money to come in and be the team’s leading pass rusher. This NFL offseason, he signed a three-year, $24 million contract with a $9 million signing bonus and $10.75 guaranteed.

If he succeeds in Indy and plays out the contract, the $8 million annual average value of the deal will be a steal for a top-end sack artist. However, if he fails after one season, the team does have an out with just $6 million in dead cap next NFL offseason. That will mean, though, that the team spent $11.26 million on him this year, which is not great value for a mediocre DE.

And while the money and production make the Ebukam signing a risk, the specter of having an average or below-average defense is even scarier.

Chances are, Anthony Richardson is going to start this season, and having a strong Colts defense is paramount to his development. The team can’t get behind and force the rookie to throw every down. Close games where Richardson can rely on the running game and play-cation passing are key to him becoming the QB the team thinks he can be.

In the end, in terms of risk, the Samson Ebukam Colts’ free agent signing isn’t a massive one. That said, it is the biggest one the Colts took his NFL offseason, and if it fails, rebuild mode will continue into 2024. And that's not what the franchise is hoping for after all their moves in this offseason.

However, like most risks, if it succeeds next season, the team may have found a steal at DE who will help anchor a young and dangerous line with players Kwity Paye, DeForest Buckner, and rookie Adetomiwa Adebawore on it for the next three seasons.