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March 15, 2013

Landry, Jean Francois join Colts defensive unit

INDIANAPOLIS — After adding five veteran free agent players to the Indianapolis Colts roster on Tuesday, general manager Ryan Grigson plucked two more plums late Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon.

New York Jets safety LaRon Landry and San Francisco 49ers defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois both signed contracts with the Colts. Landry, a strong safety who appears to be a bigger version of former Indianapolis Pro Bowler Bob Sanders, and the versatile Jean-Francois are expected to make immediate impacts on the Colts’ defensive unit.

Both Landry (2003-06) and Jean-Francois (2005-08) played collegiately at Louisiana State.

A first-round pick by Washington in 2007 (sixth overall), the 6-foot, 220-pound Landry spent five seasons with the Redskins. He was with the Jets last year, posting career highs in tackles (113) and forced fumbles (four), while tying his personal best for interceptions (two). He was selected for the Pro Bowl for his efforts.

“We’re ecstatic about this signing,” Grigson said in a prepared statement. “We feel LaRon is an absolute game changer and a true impact player. We’re talking about a 220-pound safety that runs 4.3 and plays to that speed. His approach to the game and his style of play are lights out and embody the culture we’re building on the defense and this team in general.”

Landry signed a four-year, $24 million contract with the Colts, with $14 million being guaranteed.

Jean-Francois, meanwhile, was a seventh-round pick by San Francisco in 2009. The 6-3, 295-pound defensive lineman spent the last four seasons with the 49ers, recording 51 total tackles and registering two sacks last season.

He had 21 tackles and two sacks during the final three games of the regular season. Jean-Francois notched five tackles during San Francisco’s postseason run to the Super Bowl. He had 106 career tackles with three sacks, two passes broken up and a forced fumble.

What makes Jean-Francois so valuable, especially in Coach Chuck Pagano’s 3-4 hybrid defensive scheme, is that he is big and physical enough to play inside at defensive tackle or nose tackle but also has the athletic skills to move outside to defensive end if needed.

“Ricky is quick, aggressive, an extremely powerful player,” Grigson said. “He has been a mainstay the last four years with a dominant NFL defense with a lot of special players.

“He not only has familiarity with our [defensive] scheme and defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, but he is versatile enough to play any of our defensive line positions. At 26 years old, we feel the arrow is pointing straight up and we’re looking forward to him making a big impact for us this coming season.”

Jean-Francois — who signed a four-year, $22-million contract with the Colts — admitted during a teleconference Thursday afternoon that he can’t wait to get started.

“The Colts are coming up on the rise. They’ve got a great quarterback. They are building their defense. The Colts have always been known for their offense but sometime we’ve got to change the trend and become a defensive team too. They’ve got a lot of great coaches after sitting down and talking with them. I talked to Greg Manusky, a guy that coached me [in San Francisco] when I first got into the league,” he said.

“[Manusky] gave me my first shot. Me and him were laughing a majority of the time. Drake Nevis, it was good to see him once again and to be playing beside him again. And Coach [Pagano], I loved him just talking to him and hearing what he was saying. It was like I already knew who he was because he coached down at Miami and he knew a lot of the things I already knew.”

Grigson and Pagano may have more signings planned. They are scheduled to meet with the team’s media at 11 a.m. today to review the newest Colts’ free agent additions and to look ahead to next month’s National Football League draft. Indianapolis will have the 24th overall pick in the first round.

 n Veteran free agent signings — FA DT Ricky Jean-Francois (San Francisco, 4 yrs., $22M, 11M the first year, $8.5M guaranteed, $6.5M fully guaranteed); FA S LaRon Landry (NYJ, 4 yrs., $24M, $14M guaranteed); FA OT Gosder Cherilus (Detroit, 5 yrs., $35M, $16.5M guaranteed); FA OG Donald Thomas (New England, 4 yrs., $14M, $1M SB); OLB Erik Walden (Green Bay, 4 yrs., $16M); CB Greg Toler (Arizona, 3 yrs., $14.25M, $5M guaranteed); OLB Lawrence Sidbury (Atlanta, 3 yrs., $715,000).

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