How re-signing LB E.J. Speed impacts Colts depth chart
The Indianapolis Colts’ first move of the legal tampering period before free agency was electing to re-sign linebacker E.J. Speed to the roster.
After seeing starter Bobby Okereke sign with the New York Giants, a starting spot in the base defense was open for the taking, which Speed will slide right into.
Re-signing Speed also gives the Colts’ defense an insurance policy just in case there are any hiccups in Shaquille Leonard’s recovery from his nerve/back surgery. Because Leonard missed the majority of the 2022 season, Speed has been prepped for the role that he spent doing alongside Okereke and Zaire Franklin.
Speed played on 314 defensive snaps this past season so I would expect for that to remain around the same level, but he could see a slight drop if Leonard is ready to take on his normal workload starting opening day. Perhaps the biggest value of retaining Speed is what he brings to the special teams.
He played in 85% of the special teams’ snaps for Indianapolis in 2022. Speed’s time on fourth downs could decrease with him taking on more of a prominent role on the team with Okereke’s departure so that does create more opportunity for the rest of the linebacker room.
The Colts traded for a special teams ace in Grant Stuard before last season and they also have JoJo Domann, who showed some promise as an undrafted rookie during the 2022 preseason.
A couple of other names to watch throughout the offseason programs that will be competing for a backup job and a role on special teams are Forrest Rhyne and Cameron McGrone.
As of now, the linebacker depth chart looks like this:
WILL: Shaquille Leonard
MIKE: Zaire Franklin
SAM: E.J. Speed
Backups: JoJo Domann, Grant Stuard, Forrest Rhyne, Cameron McGrone
Depending on how Chris Ballard feels about the group behind Leonard, Franklin, and Speed could influence if he uses a draft pick on the position group but the re-signing of Speed does likely eliminate the chances of another backer joining the roster over the next couple of weeks.