Colts bolster linebacking corps by signing John Simon

HOUSTON, TX - NOVEMBER 30: Shonn Greene #23 of the Tennessee Titans is tackled by John Simon #51 of the Houston Texans in the second quarter in a NFL game on November 30, 2014 at NRG Stadium in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The renovation of the Indianapolis Colts defense continues, and has targeted its linebacker corps.

The team has agreed to terms with linebacker John Simon, a rotational player last season with the Houston Texans’ No. 1-ranked defense, and former New England Patriots linebacker Jabaal Sheard, according to ESPN.

Each addresses a glaring defensive weakness. Career sack leader Robert Mathis has retired while Erik Walden, Trent Cole and Chris Carter were not re-signed before the NFL’s veteran free-agent market opened Thursday.

Simon, 26, reportedly agreed to a three-year, $13.5 million contract that could earn him as much as $17 million if incentives are maximized. It includes $5.5 million in guarantees.

“John possesses a strong balance between his pass rushing ability and run defense,” said Colts General Manager Chris Ballard. “He’s a physical linebacker who has matured on one of the top defensive units in the league over the past three seasons. John provides a significant upgrade to our defense and we’re excited to welcome him to Indianapolis.”

Over the past three seasons, Simon appeared in 38 games with the Texans, 12 as a starter. His playing time was limited by the presence of standouts Whitney Mercilus and Bendardrick McKinney.

Simon generated 8.5 sacks the last two seasons, including 3.5 in ’16. He was a fourth-round draft pick of the Baltimore Ravens in 2013.

“He is kind of an unsung hero type of player,” Houston coach Bill O’Brien said during the ’16 season. “He’s a guy who personifies doing your job. He does a good job every week of going out and doing what he’s coached to do.

“John loves playing the game. He’s in here all the time. He just loves being around it. He’s tough.”

Like Simon, Sheard would represent a rising talent with experience. He’s 27 and has appeared in 89 games, 59 as a starter, while spending four seasons with Cleveland and the last two with the Patriots.

“John is a smart, physical player who will make an impact immediately on our team,” said Colts Head Coach Chuck Pagano. “We witnessed his success in Houston and now I look forward to seeing him wear the horseshoe. He will be a great addition.”

In 2016, Sheard started eight of 15 regular-season games and tacked up 5 sacks. He had one-half sack in the Patriots’ Super Bowl win over Atlanta.

The Colts are desperate to strengthen their pass rush and Sheard would do that. He’s had at least 5 in five of his six seasons and 13 the last two seasons with the Patriots.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51