Experts grade Colts’ signing DE Samson Ebukam

The Indianapolis Colts made somewhat of a splash this week in free agency, signing defensive end Samson Ebukam to a three-year deal in hopes of aiding the pass rush.

With a slight change in philosophy from general manager Chris Ballard, the Colts have had far more activity in free agency during the early part of the new league year than they have in previous offseasons.

The signing of Ebukam certainly brings some upside, and it will be interesting to see what kind of role he holds alongside Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo.

You can check out the grade we gave in our instant analysis of the signing.

Here’s a look at how the experts around the league graded the signing:


Experts: Seth Walder and others
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Ebukam had five sacks for the 49ers last season, a career-high, but he has potential for more. He quietly recorded a 21% pass rush win rate at edge, which ranked 11th at the position. It was a breakout season for him, so there are no guarantees he’ll keep up that level of play, but the Colts aren’t paying too much here.

In general, the Colts should be saving their money because they aren’t going to be good in 2023, so it’s best to push assets into the future. It’s OK to make a signing like this, however, if there’s the possibility of long-term upside, which there is if Ebukam continues to improve.

Sporting News: A

Experts: Vinnie Iyer
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The Colts hit it out of the park tapping into DeForest Buckner from the 49ers’ defense so this is another smart bargain move up front.

Pro Football Focus: B+

Experts: PFF staff
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Ebukam set career highs across the board in 2022, with a 69.1 overall grade, 43 quarterback pressures and 11.8% pressure percentage. The former fourth-rounder profiles as a solid replacement for Yannick Ngakoue in Indianapolis, as the smaller wide alignment edge rusher with Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo the bigger defensive end types.

Ebukam has produced in various fronts, earning pass-rush grades above 60.0 in five straight seasons.

The Athletic: B

Experts: Mike Jones
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Ebukam gets a three-year deal worth up to $27 million, in another exit by a 49ers defensive player. This time, it’s to Indianapolis, where the Colts are again starting over.

Ebukam has been steady, yet not quite dominant, averaging 4.65 sacks the last four seasons. He battled injury late last season but did help San Francisco reach the conference championship game.

Walter Football: B

Experts: Walter Football staff
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Samson Ebukam has been a solid rotational pass rusher with the 49ers, recording 9.5 sacks in the past two years and 18 sacks in the previous four seasons. He played about half the snaps, so his sack numbers could increase on his new team.

Based on this contract, the Colts believe that Ebukam is ready for a larger role. We’ll see if that pans out, but the Colts had to take a risk, as they maintained a mediocre pass rush.

Sports Illustrated: B+

Experts: Matt Verderame and Gilberto Manzano
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Samson Ebukam impressed as Nick Bosa’s running mate in San Francisco, but the duo is no more after Ebukam reportedly agreed to a three-year, $27 million contract with the Colts, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Jeremy Fowler.

Ebukam will now look to form a stout front seven in Indy with Kwity Paye, DeForest Buckner and Shaquille Leonard. Ebukam might also be a replacement for Yannick Ngakoue, a free agent of the Colts.

Ebukam might not be as good a pass rusher as Ngakoue, but he offers more in other areas and may not be as expensive.

The 33rd Team: C-

Experts: Jeff Diamond
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Originally a fourth-round pick of the Rams in 2017, Samson Ebukam signed with the 49ers in 2021 and has been a productive defensive end who benefits from playing with the league’s top sacker in Nick Bosa. Ebukam has never had over five sacks in a season and in 2022, he had five sacks, 13 QB hits and 36 tackles. He was not a full-time player in Los Angeles or San Francisco as his play time was 59 percent last season so he was more of a passing downs player. This is too much money to pay for a player who has not proven to be worthy of more play time thus far in his career.

Bleacher Report: B

Experts: Brent Sobleski
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Last offseason, Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard traded for Yannick Ngakoue in hopes of finding the pass rush his defense lacked coming off the edge.

Ngakoue held up that end of the bargain by leading the downtrodden Colts with 9.5 sacks. However, the smallish edge-defender became a liability when defending the run.

While defensive coordinator Gus Bradley prefers rangier and more athletic options to play LEO (rush end) in his defensive scheme, those defenders must still be competent in both phases of the game.

Instead of trying to re-sign Ngakoue, the Colts agreed to terms on a three-year, $27 million deal with Samson Ebukam, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Jeremy Fowler.

Ebukam isn’t as polished of a pass-rusher. He had 9.5 sacks over the last two seasons. He’s a superior run defender compared to Ngakoue, though. And his average annual salary is lower than what the Colts spent on their previous defensive end ($13 million).

With Ebukam’s inclusion to the lineup alongside Kwity Paye, Dayo Odeyingbo and the re-signed Tyquan Lewis, another edge-defender isn’t a priority. Quarterback and cornerback are the primary targets, particularly once the NFL draft begins.

Story originally appeared on Colts Wire