Indianapolis Colts: Time for an offensive overhaul?
2019 was a weird season for the Indianapolis Colts. In the third week of the preseason Andrew Luck retired, thrusting the season into a what could have quickly become chaos. It also put Jacoby Brissett back in charge of the offense for the second time in three years. Surprisingly, the Colts surged out of the gate to a 5-2 record and even at 6-4 had a chance to make the playoffs. Injuries hampered them as four straight losses and five in their last six meant they finished below .500 at 7-9. However, it was still a very impressive season for a team that was dealt such a major blow so close to the season.
General Manager: Chris Ballard
Head Coach: Frank Reich
Since taking over after Josh McDaniels walked away from the Colts two years ago, Frank Reich has done an extremely good job. In 2018 they turned around a rough start to make the divisional round of the playoffs, and then 2019 saw them surge out of the gate. One concern would be that so far the Colts have not really been able to put together a full season at any point in the last two years. Despite that, Reich has one of the safest jobs in the league right now.
Chris Ballard has also been very impressive since arriving at the end of the 2016 season. The Colts franchise looks to be in good hands and nothing emphasises that more than their current salary cap situation.
Cap Space: $92.9 million
Not enough is made of the great job the Colts have done managing their cap and still remaining relatively competitive in the AFC South over the last two years. Their $92.9 million in space places them second behind just the Miami Dolphins, but with a far stronger talent base than the Dolphins have entering the offseason.
Remarkably if they wanted to they could open up more space without really incurring significant dead money situations. T.Y Hilton ($14.5m), Ryan Kelly ($10.35m), Pierre Desir ($6.85m), Kenny Moore ($6m), Denico Autry ($5.3m), and Margus Hunt ($4m) could all be cut without a single penny of dead money for the Colts. If they were so inclined Justin Houston could also be cut for just $1m in dead money while opening up $8m in cap space. Given the amount of cap space they have it is unlikely we see many, if any, of these players cut this offseason, but the flexibility they have is remarkable.
Impending Free Agents
The Colts do have some interesting questions among their free agents. Anthony Castonzo has been with the Colts for nine years and ranked among the top-15 at the tackle position in pro football references approximate value metric. Eric Ebron came down to earth after a fantastic 2018 season, but was still a reasonably valuable contributor for the offense. Both of those players will likely be expecting a big money deal, especially Castonzo who could be signing his last contract. If I had to guess, I would say that Castonzo comes back and Ebron does not.
Other stand out names include Jabaal Sheard, who has been a solid player with 15.5 sacks in three years for the Colts. His production this year was a little less prolific and it would be no surprise if he was on his way out of the door.
Adam Vinatieri will test the heart strings of the Colts front office, but with his struggles recently he should be on his way out of the door. He ended his season early with a knee injury and the Colts will likely look to see how he returns before making a final decision.
Major Need: Quarterback
It feels unfair to say this because Jacoby Brissett was fine last year. Until injuries slowed him down he was proving very effective at leading the team. However, Brissett is probably not the man to lead this team to a Super Bowl in the next five years. What he does offer them is time. With Brissett in place for at least one more year, the Colts now have time to evaluate their options at the position in the next two offseasons.
That is a wonderful luxury to have and it may mean we do not see them address the position this offseason. If no one they covet falls to them, or they simply do not like this years class, they can roll it back with Brissett and re-evaluate for next year.
One other option is the Colts turn to a veteran at the position. The likes of Philip Rivers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees could all be free agents this offseason. The Colts would be an attractive proposition for those players, as they have a top-five offensive line and plenty of cap space to offer.
Major Need: Offensive Playmakers
Perhaps the biggest downfall of this Colts team the last few seasons has been their skill position players. T.Y. Hilton is incredible but injury prone, and Marlon Mack is hardly a beacon of health either. The good news is that this draft is stacked with talented receivers who they draft and utilise alongside Hilton and Parris Campbell.
Running back might be a bigger issue, but there are always talented backs available in rounds three or later in the draft. If the Colts can identify the right one then they could have a wonderful one-two punch with Mack.
The Colts have tended to steer clear of free agency for these types of players so expect to see them addressing these concerns in the draft. Potentially we may see one veteran at each position come in to offer stability, but it is unlikely we see major splashes. Instead, it is more likely we see them add more defensive talent in free agency before addressing their offensive concerns in the draft. After ranking in the middle of the pack when it came to their pass rush, further experienced defensive linemen could be valuable additions.
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