David Thornton cut short his free agency tour, convinced that Tennessee was the right fit for the former Colts linebacker.
Thornton, who just completed his fourth year with Indianapolis, visited with the Titans on Sunday and was supposed to head to Seattle to meet with the NFC Champion Seahawks next. But he extended his stay in Tennessee, and according to an Associated Press report, Thornton then told his agent to scrap that trip and make a deal with Tennessee.
The result was an agreement on a four-year contract that reportedly averages about $4.5 million and includes $8 million in bonuses. Pending the outcome of a physical scheduled for today, Thornton will then get ready to face his old teammates twice a season, suited up as a Titan in the Indianapolis – Tennessee AFC South rivalry.
Thornton was a fourth-round pick by the Colts who started out as a weakside linebacker, but switched to strongside. He’ll join Tennessee veteran Keith Bulluck, who also has both weakside and strongside experience. Over the last three years, the durable Thornton only missed one start. And over his first four seasons he has been credited with 394 tackles, three sacks, three interceptions, five passes defensed and four forced fumbles.
Thornton’s departure opens questions for the Colts at the linebacker position heading into 2006. Middle linebacker Gary Brackett is under contract and weakside starter Cato June has been offered a mid-range contract tender that would allow the Colts to match any offer for him or receive a first-round draft pick as compensation if he signs elsewhere.
But looking down the rest of the Colts depth chart, weakside backup Gilbert Gardner is the only other player with any starting experience. He’s logged three starts during his first two seasons in the NFL.
The only other veteran linebacker capable of playing outside -- who also has a wealth of starting experience -- is Rocky Calmus, who spent the 2005 season on injured reserve due to a hamstring tear. But Calmus is an unrestricted free agent, and based on reports from our sources, he hasn’t heard from the Colts about a new contract yet even though he appears to be fully healed and ready for offseason workouts.