The deal: Per Ian Rapoport, the Colts signed former Chargers CB Patrick Robinson to a three-year deal worth more than $12 million.
Grade for Indianapolis: B
What it means for Indianapolis: Last year at left cornerback, the Colts started Greg Toler (35.9), who didn’t live up to expectations after a breakout season with the Cardinals in 2012. Toler is a free agent who hasn’t received much interest (at least publicly) to this point. The Colts have now found his replacement in Patrick Robinson (79.4). Robinson finished 2015 as PFF's 30th-highest-graded cornerback, and was recently declared by colleague Mike Renner to be the third-best free agent remaining on the market.
In five years, Robinson typically graded out above-average with the Saints, and had a career resurgence with the Chargers. He allowed just 8.9 yards per catch, which was the best for cornerbacks thrown at 40 or more times last season. He would play outside in San Diego’s base defense at times, and then would play in the slot in the Chargers' nickel. When he lined up in the slot, he allowed just 0.78 yards per coverage snap—2nd best for cornerbacks with at least 200 coverage snaps in the slot, behind only Chris Harris.
The Colts have already announced that he will be the starter opposite Vontae Davis in the base defense, but where things get interesting is in Indianapolis' nickel defense. Over the past several years, Darius Butler has been the Colts' slot cornerback, but he is coming off the worst season of his career. He allowed an NFL passer rating of 118.2. when targeted, 18th-worst among cornerbacks. The Colts also spent a third-round pick in 2015 on D’Joun Smith. He only played 20 regular-season snaps, but when he saw more time in the preseason, he spent half of his snaps in the slot. We could see any one of these players line up outside across Vontae Davis, and anyone in the slot.
What it means for San Diego: The Chargers already prepared for Robinson’s departure earlier in free agency by upgrading with former Packer CB Casey Hayward (82.7). Hayward is also a cornerback who can play outside in the base defense, and excels in the slot in nickel. His 22 stops in the passing game was good for second-most among CBs in 2015.
Hayward will play across from Jason Verrett (86.8), who had our best coverage grade for an outside cornerback at 91.5. Brandon Flowers had a down year after allowing a 67.7 percent catch rate, but in all of his career prior to 2015, he allowed a 55.9 percent catch rate. If Flowers can return to being the player he once was, the Chargers will have an excellent trio of cornerbacks.