Indianapolis Colts general manager Chris Ballard should be preparing for an aggressive offseason. The Colts experienced a letdown in 2021 after failing to qualify for the playoffs. Ballard's plan to solve Indianapolis' quarterbacking issues by trading multiple draft picks in exchange for Carson Wentz seemingly backfired, and their future together hangs in the balance. Indianapolis is unlikely to solve their signal-caller issues in free agency given the lack of top-end talent available, and trading for yet another quarterback could be pricey given what they've already given up for Wentz. Ballard's best plan of action may be to simply surround Wentz with more talent (while also building up the defense) in hopes of slowing the game down while turning Wentz into more of a fail-proof game manager. Indianapolis currently possesses $36.9 million in available cap space, via Spotrac. That number could rise significantly via veteran releases and restructures. Ballard has plenty of financial freedom to improve this Colts roster. The Colts don’t have a 2022 first-round draft pick as a result of the aforementioned Wentz trade, a fact that could make them even more aggressive in free agency. With cap, team needs, pending free agents, and draft selections all put into consideration, here are three offensive and defensive free agents Indianapolis could target when the signing period begins on March 14.
ALLEN ROBINSON, WR, CHICAGO BEARSThe Colts failed to produce two pass-catchers with more than 395 receiving yards in 2021. They were the only team in the NFL that failed to reach that objective. It speaks volumes of the need opposite the blossoming Michael Pittman Jr., who has developed into a legitimate, top-tier No. 1 pass-catching threat. The veteran T.Y. Hilton is a free agent and contemplating retirement, as his best years are well behind him. Zach Pascal is also a free agent and represents nothing more than valuable depth at the position. Parris Campbell can't stay on the field. The usually frugal Ballard must loosen up and target an appropriate receiver capable of handling 10-plus targets per game on the boundary. Allen Robinson would signal quite the splash for the Colts. Robinson is set to depart the Chicago Bears in free agency after posting career-lows in just about every single receiving category, but his reputation as an alpha on the outside remains intact. Robinson has produced big-time numbers while playing for some terrible quarterbacks throughout his collegiate and professional career. Wentz may actually represent an upgrade compared to what he's had to deal with (Mitchell Trubisky and Blake Bortles) in Chicago and Jacksonville. Indianapolis is seemingly committed to Wentz in 2022, so they should do everything within their power to make his job easier. Landing Robinson would certainly do that.
DUANE BROWN, OT, SEATTLE SEAHAWKSStarting left tackle Eric Fisher will witness his one-year contract expire in a few days' time. Fisher experienced an excellent bounce-back campaign on a short-term prove-it deal. All things considered, Fisher showcased his ability to return from a devastating torn Achilles injury he suffered more than 12 months ago. Ballard and the Colts should have an interest in re-signing Fisher, but the veteran blindside protector will undoubtedly command a long-term commitment now that he's proven himself all over again. Should Fisher price himself out of Indianapolis' comfort zone, Ballard must possess a backup plan. Seattle's Duane Brown is playing at an incredibly high level despite his advancing age. The 14-year veteran has experienced an illustrious and fruitful career. Seahawks general manager John Schneider could look to get younger at the position this offseason, which would allow Brown and his representation to explore intriguing opportunities elsewhere. The Colts are demanding the type of immediate results Brown is capable of providing. Indianapolis must reach the postseason in 2022 after experiencing a letdown in 2021. Brown would slot in beautifully next to Quenton Nelson, giving the Colts one of the more dominant left sides in all of football.
ZACH ERTZ, TE, ARIZONA CARDINALSMo Alie-Cox is a free agent and the Colts could look to replace him with a more dynamic receiver and route runner. Jack Doyle is an excellent all-around player that thrives as a blocker, which would allow Ballard to target more of a pass-catching tight end in free agency. Zach Ertz experienced a career-saving season campaign following a midseason trade from the Philadelphia Eagles to the Arizona Cardinals. Ertz's career appears back on track, and the high-volume pass-catcher hopes to capitalize on his new lease on life in free agency. Reich spent two seasons in Philadelphia as Ertz's offensive coordinator, a shared background that would allow Ertz to hit the ground running in Indianapolis. Familiarity and existing relationships could play a critical role in Ertz's recruitment. We've discussed Indianapolis' need to improve their passing game at length throughout this scenario. There are multiple ways to achieve such desired progress outside of just upgrading the receiver position. Their group of tight ends could also help Reich improve the passing offense going forward. Ertz undeniably makes them better in that department.
CASEY HAYWARD JR., CB, LAS VEGAS RAIDERSNew defensive coordinator Gus Bradley is replacing Matt Eberblus, who departed Indianapolis to become the new head coach of the Bears. Bradley will certainly look to put his spin on things defensively this offseason, and reuniting him with familiar players is an excellent way to ensure his transition is a smooth one. Bradley coached cornerback Casey Hayward Jr. for the previous five seasons in two different destinations. Bradley first encountered Hayward in a stint with the Los Angeles Chargers (2017-20), and the two men followed one another to Las Vegas with the Raiders in 2021. Heyward is now set to reach free agency for the second consecutive offseason and Bradley will almost certainly have an interest in retaining his services. Bradley is expected to bring his Cover 3 preferences to Indianapolis, which is a system that Heyward ultimately thrives in. Furthermore, the Colts must add a cornerback or two via free agency. Xavier Rhodes is a free agent and the position needs some immediate addressing. Rock Ya-Sin and Kenny Moore are solid players, but the addition of Heyward could help this position room take a much-needed step forward.
DEREK BARNETT, EDGE, PHILADELPHIA EAGLESThe Colts struggled to get after opposing quarterbacks in 2021. Indianapolis registered just 33 sacks in 17 regular-season contests. That places them alongside the likes of the New York Jets, Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, and Detroit Lions when it comes to their lack of efficiency in the pass-rushing department. DeForest Bucker is an elite rusher from the interior, but the Colts must flank him with more effective quarterback hunters. Kemoko Turay and Al-Quadin Muhammad are free agents and could play elsewhere in 2022. Turay and Muhammad combined for 11.5 sacks last season, which represented a good portion of Indianapolis' sack totals. Ballard used two premium 2021 draft picks on Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo, who are the future of the position, but the Colts must yield immediate results in 2022. Derek Barnett is an ideal candidate to carry a heavy workload while helping bring Paye and Odeyingbo along. Barnett is an all-around defender that could wear multiple hats in Bradley's new-look defense. Head coach Reich knows Barnett well, as the two crossed paths in Philadelphia with the Eagles. The Colts should re-sign one of Turay or Muhammad, and adding Barnett to a group that already includes the improving Paye and Odeyingbo would almost guarantee better results next season.
RODNEY MCLEOD, S, PHILADELPHIA EAGLESGeorge Odum and Andrew Sendejo are free agents and Ballard could use their impending freedom as an excuse to somewhat retool this position. Khari Willis is a solid starting safety and should help spearhead this group in 2022, but change is afloat. Ballard has always been a fan of making shrewd, underrated signings in free agency that provide good-to-great value without breaking the bank. Despite possessing a ton of cap space, Ballard will also attempt to identify low-cost players that fit Bradley's defensive scheme. It's how Ballard prefers to wisely fill out a roster. Rodney McLeod is that type of defender. Now in the twilight years of his underrated career, the aging McLeod is best suited in a Cover-3 defense that allows him to play forward towards the line of scrimmage while impacting the run game. Competing in a division alongside the run-heavy, physical Tennessee Titans fits McLeod's tone-setting style of play like a glove. Bradley has never personally coached McLeod, but their philosophies line up. Coach Reich spent two seasons with McLeod in Philadelphia and is fully aware of the type of value the veteran safety is capable of providing.
- Nov 29, 2022
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