The Indianapolis Colts released cornerback Pierre Desir Saturday, the team announced, in an unexpected move. Desir was heading into the second year of a three-year, $22.85 million extension he signed with the Colts in 2019, one year after having his best season at cornerback.
Desir had 79 tackles, eight passes defensed and an interception in 2018, emerging as a starter for the Colts as he played all 16 games. He allowed a reception just once every 12.7 coverage snaps, which ranked 21st out of 131 players at the position, per Pro Football Focus. Opposing quarterbacks completed just 54.2% of their passes against Desir, who allowed an 85.6 passer rating and three touchdowns. His run-defense grade of 90.6 ranked third among cornerbacks, as Desir missed just three tackles in the 2018 season.
Desir's coverage numbers were down in 2019, even through he finished with a career-high three interceptions and 11 passes defensed. Opposing quarterbacks threw for 616 yards and five touchdowns against Desir, completing 64.9% of their passes for a 96.5 rating. Desir's missed tackle percentage went from 3.7% in 2018 to 13.8% in 2019.
With a $6.85 million cap hit in 2020 (and no cap penalty for releasing Desir), the Colts believe the timing was right to release the 29-year old cornerback. Desir was owed two years and $13.85 million on his Colts deal. The move was still surprising, given Indianapolis has $45,958,488 available on the salary cap prior to Desir's release (per Over The Cap). Perhaps the Colts wanted to create extra space for Philip Rivers' contract, which was made official Saturday.
A fourth-round pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2014, Desir lasted two years in Cleveland before being waived during final cuts in 2016. He latched on with the Chargers for a few months before landing on the Seattle Seahawks practice squad. He was waived by the Seahawks during final cuts before finding a home with the Colts. He earned a starting job later that season after starting as a third-team cornerback, finishing with 32 tackles, seven passed defensed and an interception in nine games.
Desir should have an interesting market, especially since he can be signed on a team-friendly contract. Teams can take the risk that Desir can replicate his 2018 campaign.