Colts get third-year defensive lineman from Packers

By Tom James/Tribune-Star correspondent/Indianapolis

July 9, 2004

In an effort to help bolster their defensive line depth, the Indianapolis Colts traded for former Green Bay Packers defensive end Jamal Reynolds on Thursday.

Indianapolis swapped a future undisclosed draft choice to Green Bay for the 6-foot-3, 260-pound lineman.

Reynolds, the Packers' first-round draft choice in 2001 (10th pick overall), played 18 games in three years, recording 17 tackles (11 solo), three sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Green Bay's decision to trade Reynolds, 25, does not come as a big surprise. Healthy for the first time in 2003, he was inactive for 11 games a year ago and had just four tackles in five games last season.

He was due a $217,260 roster bonus later this month, but the Packers saved $667,250, his roster bonus and base salary combined, on this year's cap by making the move now.

The former Florida State defensive end, who won the 2000 Lombardi Award as the nation's best collegiate defensive lineman, battled a left knee injury during most of his first two NFL seasons.

Reynolds hyperextended his knee in training camp in 2001 and team medical personnel discovered during arthroscopic surgery that he'd worn away the cartilage in his knee.

Orthopedic surgeons created small holes in the bone, which induces bone marrow and blood to clot in the joint and replace the cartilage as a buffer between the bones.

The injury, however, does not fully explain his lack of any extended playing time last season.

"I don't know what happened," Ron Wolf, the Packers' former president and general manager, told in a recent interview. "You have to take the injury into account. It happened, and the guy's never been the same player. Or, we could have missed on him. It could have just been what it's going to turn out to be a bad pick."

When the Packers drafted the former Seminoles' standout in 2001, he had an impressive collegiate resume that included 12 sacks as a senior. Reynolds weighed in at 267 pounds at the NFL combine, and he later ran the 40-yard dash in less than 4.7 seconds.

"The explosion off the corner, they couldn't block him [in college]. Went right by them. It didn't matter where, he was going to do that during the course of the game and make a play," Wolf said.

According to Packers' officials, Reynolds has good straight-line speed but has appeared to lack lateral quickness or the natural leg strength and balance to stay strong while changing directions. He looked good but not spectacular during the team's non-contact mini-camps in April and May.

"It [was] probably the best he's looked since he's been here from a movement standpoint," said Reggie McKenzie, Green Bay's director of pro personnel. "But he's struggled -- in the power and strength aspects."

Indianapolis Colts officials, however, hope that Reynolds -- who is somewhat similar in size and playing style to defensive end Dwight Freeney -- will mesh better in Tony Dungy's cover two defensive alignment.

Neither Dungy or team president Bill Polian were available for comment on the deal Thursday. But the Colts' coach has stated in the past that some players fit better into his defensive system than in other systems currently employed around the league.

"There are people who can play for me in what we do here that maybe don't fit in someplace else," Dungy said. "We heard that when we drafted Dwight [Freeney] as high as we did. But we've had pretty good success at plugging people in and letting them play once they become acclimated to what we're doing here."