Last week was somewhat trans-formative for the Indianapolis Colts. Certain faces that have been key cogs in the winning legacy of this organization were let go, free to sign with other teams. Granted, this was not like last year where we saw organizational stalwarts like Marvin Harrison leave. However, guys like Raheem Brock and Marlin Jackson are people that were key in getting the Colts over the hump and into the top tier of the league. People like Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison, and Dwight Freeney are people you build your franchise around. Guys like Brock and MJax are the mortar that holds it together; playmakers as well as leaders.
With free agency having arrived in an uncapped year, we've seen the Colts re-sign the soul of their defense (Gary Brackett) to a long-term deal. They signed guard Andy Alleman from the Chiefs, a rare, quick free agency move by the Colts (indicating others had an interest in Alleman). Prior to the end of the 2009 season, Polian and company signed players like former-Titans defensive tackle Mitch King and running back Devin Moore to future contracts. Practice squad players Drew Willy (QB), Jaimie Thomas (OG), Taj Smith (WR), John Matthews (WR), Terrail Lambert (CB), and Brandon Renkart (LB) were signed to the active roster.
Many of these moves make sense, especially when you consider the caliber of players the Colts are letting go.
To go with the before mentioned Raheem Brock and Marlin Jackson, gone are veterans Freddy Keiaho, Tyjuan Hagler, Tim Jennings, Matt Stover, Hank Baskett, Aaron Francisco, and T.J. Rushing. Of those players, five are former starters at certain points in their careers. In 2007, Keiaho and Hagler were starting backers, Jackson was a starting corner, and Brock started at DT. Rushing was the primary punt and kick returner, and Jennings was the nickel corner.
In just two years, all are off the roster. And I haven't even gotten to the Colts cutting Jim Sorgi yet. I mean, I can no longer call garbage time "Sorgi Time," or the pre-season "Sorgi-Season." Makes me kind of misty-eyed.
Jokes about Sorgi aside, several of the players shed from the roster last week are people who made significant contributions to the Colts in recent years. Replacing them will not be easy. Their presence, and their veteran knowledge of the systems the Colts used, allowed the team to win 16 games in 2009 despite a plethora of injuries. To give you an understanding of the depth lost, the Colts current corner depth consists of Kelvin Hayden, Jerraud Powers, Jacob Lacey, and Terrail Lambert.
Hayden and Powers are injury prone, and while Lacey is a nice player, he is not starting material. Lambert (unless he is another diamond-in-the-rough player) is roster filler. This means that CB depth will likely come from the draft, which means more inexperienced rookies needing to play significant snaps in a pass-happy league. Last year, using guys like Lacey and Powers worked because you had vets like Jennings and MJax behind them in case of a meltdown.
Now, the depth is depleted.
The same is true for linebacker. The starters are excellent (Clint Session, Gary Bracket, and Philip Wheeler). However, depth behind them is Cody Glenn, Brandon Renkart, and Ramon Humber. That doesn't give me a lot of confidence if there is an injury, and last season we saw then-starter Tyjuan Hagler get knocked out for the season. Thank God Wheeler finally figured things out and started playing some decent football. Should Wheeler get hurt, we have... Cody Glenn?
Again, the Draft and rookie free agents can only do so much to truly replenish this depth. I think the Colts need to let the first wave of free agency crest and then start to target some guys that will round out this roster. I agree that o-line is the #1 priority this off-season (as it was last off-season), but depth at corner, linebacker, and defensive end are also key needs.
Regardless of who is selected to fill-out the roster, not seeing players like Brock, Freddy, and even Jennings next season will seem a bit odd. Hell, seeing someone wear Sorgi's old number will likely cause me to double-take.