December 30, 2012; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers nose tackle Ricky Jean Francois (95) sacks Arizona Cardinals quarterback Brian Hoyer (6) during the third quarter at Candlestick Park. The 49ers defeated the Cardinals 27-13. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Shortly after 3:00 PM Eastern Time, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported that the Colts had signed former 49ers Defensive Lineman Ricky Jean-Francois (6-3, 295, 26 years old) to a four year, $22 million deal. Francois is listed as a defensive tackle, but has played both tackle and end for San Francisco, where both 3-4 ends are listed as tackles.
According to the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the Colts were competing with the Titans, Saints, and Philadelphia, which was Francois’s first free agent visit. Some believed the versatile lineman would finish his free agent rounds before signing anywhere, but alas, the Colts won out before he could leave Indy.
Francois was a backup for most of his career in San Francisco before filling in for an injured Justin Smith at defensive end. He played so well at that position; he began to garner interest from other teams in need of a versatile 3-4 lineman. His relevance only grew as the 49ers went on a late season run that propelled them into the Super Bowl. Francois can play both end positions, and while he is undersized for the position, he can hold his own as a rotational defensive tackle.
Francois had 22 tackles and 2 sacks last year for Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers, and based on the contract, it’s likely the Colts plan to give him the chance to start on either side of the nose tackle. In Pagano’s hybrid defense, the player on the left side of the nose tackle, Cory Redding’s position, is called the defensive end. They go from left to right as defensive end, nose tackle, and then the right defensive end is called a defensive tackle. This looks like the most likely spot for Francois, creating a strong three or four man rotation between Francois, Redding, Fili Moala, and possibly another such as Drake Nevis or Ricardo Mathews.
The general impression if Francois is a very good young player who was stuck on the depth chart behind Justin Smith and Ray McDonald. If this holds true, the Colts front office may have unearthed another quality starter. Stick with us throughout the week for more updates, as well as further analysis of each major Colts free agent signing.
You can stop by and like our Facebook page as well for article links and some fun Colts content from around the web.