Looking to find a solution to the pass rush questions they faced this offseason, the
Indianapolis Colts went out and signed veteran Justin Houston during free agency.
One of the bigger signings the Colts have made in Chris Ballard’s three offseasons as
general manager, part of the plan is for Houston to help develop the young defensive
linemen, whether that be through conversations or simply leading by example.
While he wouldn’t be considered one of the younger guys on the defensive line, Denico
Autry has enjoyed picking the brain of the veteran edge rusher.
“I was like we got another piece to the puzzle. A great guy coming in,” Autry told
reporters Tuesday on the Houston signing. “It’s going to be deep. I was thinking about
that the other day. We got Justin Houston in and he brings a lot. Just walking around the
locker room with him alone, just talking to him, he helps out a lot.”
Autry himself was a free-agent addition during the 2018 offseason and wound up thriving in
the attacking defensive front. He led the Colts with a career-high 9.0 sacks on the season
working primarily as a three-technique, though defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus slid him
out to the edge at times as well.
The 28-year-old was only able to play in 12 games during his first season with the Colts.
With some new additions to the pass rush along with some hopeful development with younger
players, Autry could find himself in a situation where he surpasses his career-high of
sacks in a single season.
There are still some questions about the pass rush that won’t be answered until the pads
come on, but the addition of Houston should help the entire unit be more consistent and
The signing will also have an impact, whether directly or indirectly, on the improvement of
the pass rushers such as Autry.
One of the bigger free agency moves the Colts made in 2018 was bringing in defensive tackle
Denico Autry, who proved he was a versatile and productive piece when healthy.
The veteran defensive lineman worked all over the Colts front, playing the three-technique
and even kicking out to defensive end at times.
During his first season with the Colts, Autry played 12 games and recorded 37 tackles (28
solo), 13 tackles for loss, 11 quarterback hits and 9.0 sacks, all of which were career-
Autry struggled with some injuries during the first half, but was a big piece of the
defense in the second half as he didn’t miss a game over the final nine regular-season
Autry was brought in to be a pass rush specialist, and he proved to be just that leading
the team in sacks. He recorded 6.0 sacks over the last five games of the regular season
working from both the interior and on the edge.
The 28-year-old found ways to win with quickness on the interior, beating guards and
centers to their spot as soon as the ball was snapped. His strong play earned him
consideration for the Pro Bowl, which he wound up being a reserve. It doesn’t count as a
selection, but it shows he got some recognition for his strong play.
The Indianapolis Colts and defensive end Denico Autry reportedly reached an agreement
Wednesday on a three-year, $17.8 million contract.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reported details of the free-agent signing. Aaron Wilson of the
Houston Chronicle noted the deal includes $6.5 million in guaranteed money.
Autry signed with the Oakland Raiders as an undrafted free agent out of Mississippi State
in 2014. He steadily developed into a reliable piece of the team’s defensive line rotation
over the past four seasons.
The 27-year-old North Carolina native registered 100 combined tackles, 12 passes defended
and 10.5 sacks across 56 appearances for the Raiders. His 36 tackles and five sacks last
season were both career highs.
Autry, who will likely play defensive tackle in the Colts’ 4-3 formation, graded as the
league’s No. 56 interior defender in 2017, per Pro Football Focus.
In December, former Raiders teammate Justin Ellis praised the unheralded lineman’s raw
strength and scheme flexibility after working with him all season, according to Matt
Kawahara of the San Francisco Chronicle.
“I always demonstrate the O-lineman for him during the week,” Ellis said. “I can feel how
strong he is and he’s not even, like, against me. We know Denico’s a good pass-rusher,
inside and outside. I just thought he did the things that we know he can do.”
Autry should slide into a starting role for Indianapolis as part of a rotation with
Johnathan Hankins and Al Woods at tackle. He could also see some snaps on the edge on
Colts defensive lineman Denico Autry has been fined $13,369 for unsportsmanlike conduct
during last week’s playoff loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero
Autry celebrated a fourth-down takedown of Patrick Mahomes with two pelvic thrusts,
directed toward an official no less. The sack dance came with Indianapolis trailing 24-7
midway through the third quarter. Autry, like McCringleberry before him, apparently just
couldn’t help himself.
- Rams cornerback Marcus Peters was fined $10,026 for unnecessary roughness against
Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper during L.A.’s win, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport
- Patriots defensive end Trey Flowers was fined $20,054 for roughing Chargers quarterback
Philip Rivers in New England’s 41-28 win, Pelissero reported.
INDIANAPOLIS — As Chris Ballard began envisioning the pieces needed to build the
Indianapolis Colts’ new 4-3 defensive scheme, he knew having players with versatility up
front would be critical.
While the team would eventually want established starters at all four defensive line
positions, adding players with the ability to play both inside and on the edge — and
having the ability to play both spots with quickness and power — was going to be a major
component to the Colts’ general manager’s offseason roster-building plan.
So on March 15, one day after the start of the league’s free agency period, Ballard didn’
t wait long to add a player with all of those attributes, making Denico Autry the Colts’
first outside signing of the offseason.
Since that time, Autry has been ingrained as a theoretical starter along the Colts’
defensive line during offseason practices, working in as the No. 1 defensive tackle at the
He’s displayed the traits the Colts’ scouts saw in Autry when doing their homework on the
free-agent-to-be earlier this year.
“Just hard-nosed, effort, run all over the field. I can get in any position and play,”
Autry said when asked what Ballard told him he liked about his game. “So, I’ve got to
bring something to the table. So, that’s what they like about me.”
Autry — who turns 28 next month — gives the Colts a player entering the prime of his
career who has displayed flashes of solid play with at-times limited opportunities.
He was signed by the Oakland Raiders in May 2014 as an undrafted free agent out of
Mississippi State, and has spent the last four seasons in Oakland developing his craft on
defense while also turning into a leader on special teams.
Last season, despite starting just three games, Autry was able to collect a career-best 36
tackles, five sacks and seven passes defensed. In four seasons, he has combined to play in
56 games with 18 starts, collecting 100 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 12 passes defensed, two fumble
recoveries and causing one safety.
Jason Witten’s retirement from football and broadcasting career lasted less than a calendar year.
Witten, who announced his retirement on May 3, 2018 to join ESPN’s “Monday Night Football” as an analyst, announced Thursday he is returning for a 16th season with the Dallas Cowboys.
“The fire inside of me to compete and play this game is just burning too strong,” the tight end said in a statement, via the Cowboys’ official website. “This team has a great group of rising young stars, and I want to help them make a run at a championship. This was completely my decision, and I am very comfortable with it. I’m looking forward to getting back in the dirt.”
The Cowboys also enticed Witten with a financial incentive. Witten will receive up to $5 million to come out of retirement, a source told NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. Witten’s deal has a base value of $3.5 million, Rapoport adds.
“I think [Jason Witten] felt like there was still some meat on the bone, some things he wanted to accomplish,” Jason Garrett said per the Dallas Morning News. “I think he loves it and he wants to be in this environment. There’s no doubt in his mind he can still play. There’s no doubt in my mind he can still play.”
With the veteran tight end’s return, the Cowboys’ passing attack just got a little better.
Witten, who turns 37 on May 6, entered the league in 2003 as a third-round pick with the Cowboys and went on to spend 15 seasons in Dallas, where he was a two-time All-Pro selection and an 11-time Pro Bowler.
Before announcing he was stepping away from football last season, Witten amassed 1,152 catches for 12,488 yards and 68 touchdowns. He ranks fourth all-time in NFL career receptions behind Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice (1,549), Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez (1,325) and Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald (1,303).
Witten’s departure last year left a void at the tight end position and in the Cowboys’ offense, which entered training camp without reliable options given the absences of Witten and wide receiver Dez Bryant, who was released during the offseason.
Dallas addressed the wide receiver position by adding Michael Gallup in the draft and trading for Amari Cooper during the regular season before the trade deadline. The tight end spot, however, failed to produce consistency that the Cowboys were accustomed to with Witten, as Blake Jarwin led the position group with 27 catches for 307 yards and three touchdowns.
Witten’s return should be welcomed with open arms by quarterback Dak Prescott and the entire Cowboys organization.