Nov 11, 2012; Baltimore, MD, USA; Oakland Raiders wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (85) scores a touchdown as Baltimore Ravens defensive back James Ihedigbo (32) defends in the second quarter at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports
Well, it’s finally done. A week after hosting former Raiders receiver and first round pick, Darrius Heyward Bey on a free agent visit, Colts owner Jim Irsay announced that the team had signed him to a one-year contract. USA Today’s Mike Garafolo reported shortly after that DHB’s contract will be for $3 million with $1.5 guaranteed.
Unless the team finds a true gem in this month’s draft (or LaVon Brazill makes some huge strides), Heyward-Bey will take over for the departed Donnie Avery as the number two receiver on the outside. At 6-2, 216 pounds with a 4.3-second 40-yard dash time, Heyward-Bey will bring a rare combination of speed and size to the Colts offense. (more after the jump)
His catch rate has never been great, but it has been slightly higher than Avery’s the past two seasons despite playing through the Raiders’ constant coaching carousel (three different offenses in four years). His aforementioned size should make him a bit more versatile than Avery, who struggled at times in traffic and the red zone.
The Raiders acquired Heyward-Bey with the seventh overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, passing on a few receivers who’ve enjoyed better careers. With the pick came a huge contract and high expectations. Though he never became the star player the Raiders were hoping they’d found, Heyward-Bey does have all the tools to be a solid receiver in the NFL.
Last season, Heyward-Bey caught 41 of 80 passes (51%) thrown his way for 606 yards and 5 touchdowns with a 14.8-yard average after suffering a concussion and neck injury from a brutal hit in a September game. Some believed he was a little tentative after the hit, in which he was knocked unconscious by Steelers safety Ryan Mundy. His best season as a pro was in Hugh Jackson’s offense in 2011, when he caught 64 of 115 passes (57%, 3-4% below Palmer/Campbell's completion rates) for 975 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 15.2 yards per catch. If he can recapture that same solid level of play, he will prove to be an improvement at the number two receiver spot or the Colts, where Avery caught 60 of 125 (48%, 6% below Luck’s completion rate) targets for 781 yards, 3 touchdowns, and a 13-yard average.
Lets’ be clear, the team isn’t expecting Heyward-Bey to be the next Marvin Harrison. However, it does seem fair to project him as a decent upgrade over Donnie Avery while the team develops one or two younger receivers, perhaps some draftees or UDFA’s with raw talent and a ton of potential. The move should free the team up to take the best player available in the first round of the draft. If Heyward-Bey turns out to be anything more than an incremental improvement at receiver, the Colts will be in a very good position, as will Heyward-Bey, since he would be looking for a bigger payday in 2014.
In the meantime, Colts fans can hope the receiver who’s never played in a stable situation will be able to find his stride with the Colts. We may never know if this is the "Whopper" free agent Jim Irsay was trying to get signed last month, but he could prove to be a fine addition to a growing team (i.e., the Whopper Jr).
You can also stop by and like our Facebook page, as well for article links and some fun Colts content from around the web.