The Colts survived the first round of the playoffs, and with it, several injuries, which means it’s time for roster shuffling. This afternoon, Indianapolis signed free agent and former New England Patriot wide receiver Deion Branch.
They also elevated receiver Josh Lenz from the practice squad, possibly showing that they plan to ride this recently discovered commitment to the passing game as far as it will take them. Branch and Lenz give the Colts six active wide receivers going into their Divisional Round matchup with the Patriots in Foxborough, Mass.
Indy also released defensive tackle Christian Tupou from the practice squad and placed DT Fili Moala and, yes, CB Greg Toler on Injured Reserve.
Many wondered whether Toler, who missed seven games this season, would end up on IR over the past month or two. He tried to come back last week but either re-aggravated something or just wasn’t quite as ready as he’d hoped. No word yet on whether he’ll be requiring surgery.
Here’s some background on the two players added from the Colts’ press release:
Branch set a team playoff record with 153 receiving yards on eight catches in the Patriots’ 2005 Divisional Playoff game at Denver. He also grabbed a 73-yard completion in the game, establishing the longest reception in Patriots playoff history. Branch was the NFL’s leading receiver in the 2004 playoffs, pacing the league in receptions (16) and receiving yards (264). In addition to being named Super Bowl XXXIX MVP, he was selected as the NFL’s Offensive Player of the Week following the AFC Championship Game (1/23/05), when he led all receivers with 116 yards, including a 60-yard touchdown grab.
Lenz, 6-0, 194 pounds, joined the Colts practice squad on November 11, 2013. He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by Chicago on April 28, 2013 and was then signed to the Seattle practice squad on October 8. The Seahawks released Lenz on November 5. In 47 games (19 starts) at Iowa State, he totaled 96 catches for 1,213 yards and 10 touchdowns. As a senior with the Cyclones, he accounted for 430 yards and six touchdowns on 29 receptions.
Branch hasn’t played a regular season game since 2012 with New England when he caught 16 of 29 passes for 145 yards and 10 first downs. The season before that, he had 51 receptions for 702 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Branch likely isn’t as fast as he was when his NFL career began thirteen seasons ago, and he may not see the field on offense for the Colts. However, if he is needed, Indy’s coaches certainly know how to put a receiver, whether a young speedster or an aging veteran, in the best position to contribute.
Lenz has nice size for a receiver, and he ran a solid 4.40-second 40-yard dash at the 2013 Scouting Combine. Here’s CBS Sports’ Dane Brugler’s take on him from back in February:
Lenz lacks explosive ability and is more of a one-speed runner, but he is balanced and tough, breaking tackles and making things happen after the catch. Although he doesn't stand out in any one area and is more of an undrafted free agent prospect, he is one of the more reliable receivers in the conference.
There was no word yesterday on any injured Colts wide receivers Other than DHB, there are no known significant injuries to the Colts' wide receiving corps, so adding depth at the position could indicate a further commitment to what has been working on offense, which has been to let Andrew Luck work out of the no huddle, throw to set up the run, and keep the defense on its heels.