Out of luck: that seemed to be the theme of the Indianapolis Colts’ season.
Whether it was Andrew Luck’s shocking retirement, the Colts terrible injury issues or even Indy’s woeful kicking problems, the organization struggled to get on the right track after a wildly successful 2018 season.
Put in a ridiculously tricky spot after their franchise quarterback called it quits, coach Frank Reich and general manager Chris Ballard did the best they could in an unfortunate situation, leading the team to a bumpy 7-9 record. Now in Year 4 of Ballard’s tenure, the most important goal in the offseason must be to find a new franchise passer as Jacoby Brissett has proven he simply isn’t a long term answer.
Flush with over 100 million in cap space and armed with three top-45 picks, Indianapolis has the assets to make massive free agent and draft moves, although it remains to be seen if a notoriously cautious Ballard will risk going “all-out.”
Ultimately, if the Colts can upgrade their passing attack (a big if) with a new signal-caller and some upgraded outside weapons, their chances of returning to the playoffs in 2020 look awfully bright.
THREE CONTRACTS TO RENEW
Besides the QB position, addressing Anthony Castonzo’s future is the most critical part of the Colts offseason. The 31-year-old was arguably the team’s MVP providing effective pass protection and opening massive holes in the run game. Unfortunately, Castonzo has hinted at possibly retiring, which could leave a formidable Colts offensive line without a blindside protector. Add in the fact that the team may be playing with a rookie quarterback, and it becomes vital that Castonzo re-signs with the team. Let’s hope for Indy’s sake that Ballard can entice him to come back.
Jabaal Sheard is not nearly as vital as Castonzo, but on a team with few UFA’s and a whole lot of cap space, retaining a veteran edge presence is a smart move. The old phrase “you can never have too many pass rushers” is always true, and Sheard is a dependable defender who can consistently log 4-plus sacks a year.
Key RFA’s (Zach Pascal, Mo Alie-Cox)
With their absurd amount of cap room, it seems highly unlikely that the Colts priority restricted free agents wouldn't be kept, but it’s still worth noting here. Of their impending nine RFAs, wide receiver Zach Pascal and tight end Mo Alie-Cox should be the top names retained.
One to let go: Eric Ebron
Ending the year on injured reserve, Ebron’s second year in Indy didn’t go nearly as smoothly as his first. Without Andrew Luck, the tight end was barely used, with his stats and overall play dropping in a big way as a result. With inconsistent hands and less valuable than fellow teammate Jack Doyle, Ebron is an expendable piece that this new Colts team has no use for. Former basketball player Mo Alie-Cox can fill a similarly athletic role for a fraction of the cost, which makes letting Ebron go a no-brainer decision.
THREE KEY FREE AGENT SIGNINGS TO MAKE
Robby Anderson (New York Jets)
Of all the wide receivers that could be headed elsewhere this February, Robby Anderson’s combination of youth and likely availability make him the most intriguing. Stuck on a porous New York Jets team, the Colts would be smart to front-load a large contract at Anderson in hopes of him leaving the Big Apple to chase a better environment. Signing in Indianapolis could allow the team to finally nail down their revolving door at the second wideout position, while the acquisition would also mean that the team could focus more directly on the QB position come draft time.
Quinton Jefferson (Seattle Seahawks)
Chris Ballard loves his versatile defensive lineman and Quinton Jefferson is exactly that. He plays primarily a 3-technique (although able to shift all across the line); and could provide a perfect rotation partner with Denico Autry, improving the interior pass rush and limiting Grover Stewart’s pass down snaps. He’s not a very big name, but the Seattle Seahawk lineman could be one of the top values of free agency. Indy would be smart to try and prioritize him.
Shaq Lawson (Buffalo Bills)
Another piece to add to the defensive front, Shaw Lawson is a former first-round pick who finally started to come into his own this year with the Buffalo Bills. He posted 6.5 sacks in 2019 and provided strong value in a substitution role this past season. Lawson could even take a larger leap with more snaps in the upcoming season. With Jabaal Sheard getting older, Kemoko Turay coming off of injury and Ben Banogu still unproven signing a player like Lawson would serve the Colts well.
Swinging for the fences
Armed with extra second- and sixth-round selections, the Colts are in a position where they can take a few risks. This seven-round mock draft has them doing just that.