INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts will be making the transition to a 4-3 base defense without one of their top defensive contributors from the previous season.
The team announced today that it is releasing veteran defensive lineman Johnathan Hankins.
Hankins, who turns 26 on March 29, was signed by the Colts last April as an unrestricted free agent. In 15 games — all starts — for the Colts in the 2017 season, Hankins finished tied for fifth on the team with 44 tackles (four for a loss), while also adding two sacks, five quarterback hits and three passes defensed.
But at the conclusion of the 2017 season, the team announced it was parting ways with head coach Chuck Pagano, who brought a 3-4 base defense with him when he was hired back in 2012. Then, a few weeks back, upon hiring his next head coach, Frank Reich, Ballard said the team would be making the transition back to a 4-3 base defense under new defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus.
The Colts' new coaching and scouting staffs have been spending much of the past few weeks in meetings to figure out which players from the current roster would be ideal fits in the new schemes — both on offense and on defense — as well as which college prospects and free agents the team should pursue.
By releasing Hankins, the Colts are likely addressing some of those needed fits along the defensive line in their new scheme, while also giving Hankins, coming off yet another solid year heading into his sixth NFL season, a chance to once again test the free agent market.
Among those primarily interior defensive linemen left on the Colts' offseason roster include Margus Hunt, Anthony Johnson, Henry Anderson, Johnathan Calvin, Caraun Reid, Hassan Ridgeway and Grover Stewart.
Newly-signed free agent Denico Autry along with Jabaal Sheard, John Simon, Tarell Basham, Arthur Miley and Josh Perry could each be candidates to move from outside linebacker to defensive end in Indy's new 4-3 scheme.