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What Colts’ release of Hickman may really mean

Justin Hickman celebrates during the Colts' 2012 win over the Green Bay Packers.
Justin Hickman celebrates during the Colts' 2012 win over the Green Bay Packers.
Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Yesterday afternoon, the Indianapolis Colts waived third-year outside linebacker Justin Hickman. Among general manager Ryan Grigson’s first batch of “hidden gem signings” in 2012, Hickman was signed from the Canadian Football League’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

The Colts announced the move with the following press release:

“Hickman played in 12 career games with the Colts in 2012 and made 14 tackles (six solo) and three special teams stops. Last season, he was placed on Injured Reserve on August 14, 2013. Hickman was originally signed by the Colts as a free agent on February 9, 2012 after spending three seasons (2009-2011) with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League.”

Although he was one of the team’s more consistent pass rushers and special teams defenders in 2012, Hickman spent all of 2013 on season-ending Injured Reserve after tearing an ACL in August. After Hickman went down, the Colts had very few options to rush the passer, relying on Robert Mathis’ 19.5 sacks to carry the defense.

With Mathis suspended for the first four games for the 2014 regular season, and still with very few proven edge players, the Colts parting ways with Hickman now is a bit surprising. However, there is some speculation that there may be some lingering issues from Hickman’s injury, but that is nothing more than hearsay at the moment.

Whether Hickman is suffering from any lingering injuries or not, his release shows that the Colts are comfortable with their young pass rushers to play effectively while Mathis is out and for them to provide quality depth throughout the entire season.

The Colts drafted defensive end turned outside linebacker Bjoern Werner in the first round of last year’s draft, and are said to be counting on him to embrace a starting role in Mathis’ absence. The Colts also drafted edge rusher Jonathan Newsome in the fifth round of this year’s draft, and have young players Daniel Adongo and Cam Johnson on the roster, as well. One of last year’s starters, Erik Walden, will also be counted on to rush the passer, but he is far along enough in his career to where the team already knows what they are getting with him.

Relying on so many young players to play such a crucial role early in the 2014 season shows the team trusts in the development of those players.