by Ryan Lasal
From being a game away from the Super Bowl to out of the playoffs, the 2015 campaign for the Colts was as disappointing as they come. The fact that Chuck Pagano still has his job shows either an extreme faith in the coach, or an extreme stupidity on the part of the front office. Either way, one has to assume that Pagano is on his last legs in Indy. If things don’t turn around fast, and another year of Andrew Luck is wasted, Pagano will be out and this article will look vastly different next season.
Head Coach: Chuck Pagano
Career Record: 41-23
Offensive Coordinator: Rod Chudzinski
28th YPG, 22nd Pass, 29th Rush
Defensive Coordinator: Ted Monachino
26th YPG, 24th Pass, 25th Rush
The most important position on the field is just about the only position that the Colts don’t need to look to address this offseason. Andrew Luck is as good as they come, and although he had a down season last year, he should return to form this season now that his injuries have had a chance to heal. With the Colts in pretty good shape financially (~$25 million in cap space as this article is being written), they have the funds to address some major holes in free agency. The tough part will be filling their two biggest holes, which is their anemic pass rush (25 sacks in 2015) and porous offensive line. Free agent pickings are slim at both positions.
The Colts currently sit with $25 mil free in cap space, but they need to create more to fill all the holes they have. Watch for these players to be gone, along with the space they’ll create:
Andre Johnson, WR. 41 catches, 503 yards and 4 TDs just isn’t enough to justify the cap hit of $7.5 mil. The Colts will eat $2.5 mil in dead money to free up $5 mil.
Trent Cole, LB. 32 tackles and 1 sack? Not for $7 mil. It will cost $1 mil in dead cap, but they can spend $6.25 mil far better.
Bjoern Werner, LB. He was their first pick in 2013, but was inactive 6 times last season. Dead money is $1.48 million, but they save $1.03 million to cut their losses.
That leaves the team at ~$37 million over the cap, which puts them in a much better position financially. They’ll resign Adam Vinatieri, Jerrell Freeman, Dwayne Allen, and Dwight Lowerey. They may also bring back Colby Fleener and Ahmad Bradshaw. Matt Hasselbeck and Charlie Whitehurst are probably out now that Josh Freeman has signed.
The 18th pick should give the Colts a bevy of options at need positions. Look for Grigson to go with the OL or DL with this pick. If the Colts are able to sign one of the two abovementioned guards in free agency, the pick probably leans toward the DL. But this pick will really come down to who is available and where the Colts have them on their big board.
OT is the first position to look at with the 18 pick. Taylor Decker or Jack Conklin are the two likely candidates and both would give the Colts an immediate starter at the OT position. The only thing that gives me pause about the Colts going OT with their first pick is how much Ryan Grigson seems to like Denzelle Good. At 6’5”, 355 pounds, he has the size to play the position and Grigsoncommented on his short learning curve. Still, if Decker is there and other options aren’t, this pick makes sense.
Two Alabama players are the other options if you ask me. The first is ILB Reggie Ragland. While Jerrell Freeman had a great 2015 season and the Colts should bring him back, they also run a 3-4 defense and will need another ILB to play next to him. Ragland gives them an impact run stuffer that would help shore up the front 7. The second is DT A’Shawn Robinson. Robinson is a dominant run stuffer who has tremendous upside when it comes to his pass rush ability. He is the best DT to come out of ‘Bama since Marcel Dareus and would give the Colts a dominant presence inside.
When it’s all said and done, I think it will be one of the tackles that come off the board here. My guess is it’s Decker.
This is where much of the work will be done by Ryan Grigson and the rest of the Colts’ front office, but don’t look for the familiar big splashes that the Colts have made in the past. This is a new philosophy in Indy and Grigson has said that they are more focused on developing their young players, rather than signing others. But they still will need to fill some holes via free agency.
Interior offensive line is arguably the biggest hole on the Colts and one that they must address in different facets. One way will be through free agency. Evan Mathis of the Broncos and Alex Boone of the 49ers are two real possibilities. While Mathis is probably the cheaper option, Boone is only 28 and will be a long term fill at the guard position. My guess is they push hard for Boone, but stay involved with Mathis in case the former doesn’t work out.
In the secondary, the Colts have one of the better Cornerbacks in the league in Vontae Davis. Unfortunately for the Colts, you need two good to great corners in this NFL and they haven’t been able to fill that other spot. One potential target to finally do it would be Janoris Jenkins of the St. Louis Rams. He’s just finished his rookie deal and had a good 2015 campaign. He finished with 64 tackles, 3 INTs and 15 passes defensed. Adding that opposite Davis would give the Colts a much improved secondary.
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On the Clock: 2015 Indianapolis Colts