Why Colts should still add LB depth after Zaire Franklin new contract

Before the legal tampering period ahead of free agency got underway, the Indianapolis Colts made an in-house move to keep linebacker Zaire Franklin under contract for a little while longer.

Franklin agreed to a three-year contract extension that is worth up to $31.26 million. The extension shouldn’t come as too big of a surprise.

Franklin was set to make $3.36 million in the final year of his contract, and he far surpassed that value with his performance over the past two seasons.

This was a crucial deal for Chris Ballard to get done before Monday. That’s because the Colts had no linebackers under contract for the 2025 season since E.J. Speed is also entering the final year of his deal. This includes the backups that are currently on the roster like Segun Olubi and Grant Stuard.

How does this contract extension impact Indy’s draft plans?

It shouldn’t have a major impact. At least, it shouldn’t keep them from adding to the room if they want to.

Even with the extension, the Colts need depth in their linebacker room. They need to add some competition for the No. 3 linebacker slot on the depth chart. Franklin’s extension can provide some patience in targeting the position unless there is a prospect the front office really likes.

Ballard did that in 2019 when they had Shaquille Leonard and Anthony Walker as the starting duo. They added Bobby Okereke in the third round and E.J. Speed in the fifth round of that draft. Ben Banogu also could be thrown in there, but he was viewed more as a pass rusher than a linebacker.

Prior to this deal getting done, it would have been understandable if Ballard elected to take a linebacker as high as the second round if he entered the draft with no linebackers under contract beyond the 2024 season.

As I alluded to, if Ballard loves the potential of a linebacker prospect, it still wouldn’t be a major surprise if Indianapolis took a linebacker as early as the second round since as of this writing, there is no guarantee that Speed will be on the roster in 2025.

That of course if Ballard doesn’t trade away that pick in the coming days to add to the secondary.

The wide expectation will remain that the Colts focus their draft capital on other positions. The Franklin extension was necessary, but it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t keep an eye on the future if the right prospect is available.

Story originally appeared on Colts Wire