ND product Rochell to sign with Colts

Joel A. Erickson
Indianapolis Star

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis Colts have made their first outside signing of free agency.

Indianapolis is signing former Los Angeles Chargers defensive end Isaac Rochell to a one-year, $2.5 million deal, according to his agent, Brian McLaughlin, addressing a position left open by Denico Autry’s decision to sign with the Tennessee Titans.

The loss of Autry, along with the free agency of Justin Houston and Al-Quadin Muhammad, has left the Colts with a hole at both defensive end spots.

Rochell, a Notre Dame product who will turn 26 in a month, is coming off of his rookie contract, and was a restricted free agent who wasn’t offered a tender by the Chargers. That means he won’t count in the compensatory pick formula, which awards draft picks to teams based on the number and salary of the unrestricted free agents they lose and sign.

But Rochell also fits the profile of defensive linemen like Autry, the sort of players general manager Chris Ballard has often pursued in free agency. Rochell is listed at 6-4, 280 pounds and has played at anywhere from 290 pounds to 270, small for a defensive tackle but big for a defensive end — Autry was listed at 6-5, 285 and played at less than that — and capable of playing both inside and out.

Rochell, a seventh-round pick in 2017, was mostly a rotational piece for the Chargers, but he has shown flashes of promise in a few extended starting roles when Los Angeles star Joey Bosa has been injured. In 2018, Rochell was given a career-high 536 snaps on defense when Bosa went down with a foot injury, and he responded with 29 tackles, a career-best five sacks and seven quarterback hits.

The big defensive lineman also made six starts in 2020 and played 437 snaps, but he finished with 29 tackles and 2.5 sacks, unable to quite match the production of the 2018 season. Rochell has 74 career tackles, 9.5 sacks and an interception in four seasons, and Indianapolis is likely hoping that a move to the Colts’ penetrating scheme is a better fit for the McDonough, Ga. native than the schemes he played in Los Angeles.

By signing Rochell, the Colts have also added a potentially important person for a locker room that has already lost community leader Jacoby Brissett in free agency this season and could lose a few more leaders — team captains T.Y. Hilton and Justin Houston remain unrestricted free agents — before the market is done turning.

Rochell was the Chargers’ Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee last season, in part for his efforts in support of social justice and voter registration. Rochell has an apparel brand, Local Human, that sends all of its revenue to the Do Good Foundation, along with several other community and philanthropic initiatives.

Isaac Rochell, a Notre Dame product who played last year for the Los Angeles Chargers, has joined the Indianapolis Colts.