Originally this article was intended to be one part, but due to space I will separate it for readers' ease. The first part will be related to the offense, part 2 will cover the defensive side of the ball.
The attitude around this site has been far too focus on the politics of the organization. I'd like to change the landscape a bit by talking about the thing we ultimately come here for, the team. Its time we convey the issues relating to our roster and how it maybe different come next year. What changes coming?... What might we expect?... Now, I've been here before with my team down in the dumps, only to see them rise back to glory. The individuals like myself, who are devoted to the team and not one man, are ready for life after Peyton Manning. As for the others whose only care is to ride the bandwagon until his departure, this article is not for you.
Change is surely coming, whether its good or bad, that's yet to be determine. What I think many of you out there fail to realize is, your voices are being heard and the actions may result in consequences you didn't expect.
There are plenty of fans soured by the taste of this season's unforeseen turn-of-events. People are calling for the heads of the front office down to the coaching staff. Let's pull ourselves away from the picketing line for a sec and consider the fallout if Irsay decides to clean house. On the business end of things, a new GM would not be committed to any aspect of this team, including its current roster. His goal would be to insure the best likely hood of a success during his tenure. Without a doubt, he'd trade away some of the cornerstones of our franchise, much like Bill Polian did with Marshall Faulk when he arrived in Indy. The hash reality is, even if somehow Manning regained his form, he most likely would be looked at as a bargaining chip. A youth movement would begin and from there its down to determining who else is expendable.
The next step is to construct a roster with the brightest possible future of winning championships. Let's step into the shoes of a GM and breakdown the roster for by position for 2012, starting with the offense...
(I'm not going to list the entire roster to conserve space)
This is the position in the most possible flux. Next March, Peyton will be 36 years old and is owed $28 million before the start of the season. If word hit the streets he's capable of playing by the end of the year, a decision on his fate will be made. Under new management, look for us to select Andrew Luck (assuming we have the first pick) and trade Manning off to another team (someone like the Redskins would be a good suitor). Manning himself said - "If the team decides to go with Luck, he will leave the team peacefully." The current going rate for a franchise quarterback would have to be in the ballpark of what the Raiders gave for Carlson Palmer (two 1st rounders). This may sound like blasphemy to say, but the picks acquired would be building blocks for the team's future.
Far as Curtis Painter is concerned, he's expendable as a backup. This leaves us with the possibility of finding someone in free agency to fill the void. I've read before Matt Flynn would be a good candidate, but my fear is his asking price will be out of the question. Someone like Brady Quinn, baring he's not resigned, would be more along the lines of a educational guess able to accommodate the team. He has been a starter and the Broncos have already corrected some of his tendencies of throwing erratically. This could create a situation like the Vikings had this season, in which they allowed McNabb to start until Ponder was able to take the reins.
- Running Backs
Looking over the current stable of backs on the roster, there isn't a single member who can individually strike fear into opposing defenses. Collectively tho, they have a variety of good skill sets. Unfortunately, I don't see Joseph Addai staying with the team after this year, injuries have plagued him for far too long... Running back careers do not last for long periods of time, punishment on their bodies force them out of the game around the age of 30. While he's not quite there yet (age 28), he's not offering more to the team than what's now available.
Over the course of a few weeks, the duo of Delone Carter and (considered bust) Donald Brown have done a admiral job of maintaining over a 4.0 YPC average. There was a rather nice write-up on their performances on the main page by Stampede Blue writer nopuntintended. Its believed that Carter has the best shot of becoming our featured back, he has the body style of a smaller Micheal Turner. Still, I'm not so sure the front office wouldn't want to upgrade at the position. If indeed the Colts could obtain a second selection in the first round, the pairing of Luck and Trent Richardson could be too enticing to refuse. Keeping in mind, we'd need a partner to trade with a top 20 selection and most likely have to move back up in the draft. On the other hand, he could slip a little bit, running backs do have a tendency to fall in drafts as of late (see Mark Ingram 2010 draft).
The only alternative I see for the Colts would be to monitor if the Bears sign Matt Forte to a long term deal. Otherwise there isn't many options currently for running backs in free agency, but that all could change. However, the draft has been able to produce many star running back in the deeper rounds. Of course, unearthing the next Arian Foster is like a fisherman finding a marlin. Sometimes shelling out big bucks for one with tread worn out on the tires is the only option available.
- Wide Receiver
Here is a perfect example of a job mistake by Bill Polian... How do you manage to put three of your five wide outs in contract years at the same time? As boneheaded of a decision this was, they technically lucked out since this is a very talented and deep draft class. Out of the three players, only one is worthy of receiving a contract extension, Pierre Garcon. I'd estimate his deal would be in the same range as James Jones of the Packers (three years, $9.4 million).
As for Reggie Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez, their contributes won't be required in our new found direction. Wayne is reaching the age of decline and Gonzo cannot stay healthy. Replacements for them in the draft maybe available at the start of the second round. I'll try to holdout hope Notre Dame's Micheal Floyd will drop to us because of his past legal issues. There's potential prospects in Nick Toon, Mohamed Sanu, and Dwight Jones all with great size and speed as other possible candidates in early rounds. While I also believe Jeff Fuller and Ryan Broyles would make nice additions to any team, included ours.
The surge of youth from the draft is far and away more appealing than the list of free agents headed to the market (Mario Manningham and Robert Meachem best available). That is of course true, unless the Dolphins were to release Brandon Marshall. An unlikely target though, considering he'd be more of a headcase than a role model to the team.
- Tight Ends
The NFL has evolved the position of tight end from an inline blocker to a over-sized wide receiver of sorts. Teams have made it a trend to find athletic hybrids between the sport of basketball and football to become match-up nightmares. Players like Antonio Gates and now Jimmy Graham are paving the way, creating blueprints for others to follow. And to think of how big of steals these guys were, Graham was taken in the 3rd round, while Gates went completely undrafted.
This year might certainly be the last for Dallas Clark ($4.5 million base, $7.3 million cap hit, $3.7 million cap hit if cut). The team may not justify his production to warrant his base pay. Not to mention, his disciple Jacob Tamme is younger and ready for a full-time role. Between the both of them there's a small gap in overall talent, Clark being more explosive and a tad faster of the two. That's not to take away anything from Tamme, in his own rights he's just as capable of carrying the responsibility required of the position. Off the top of my head I don't know of any team willing to make a trade offer to pry his services from us (doesn't mean there's isn't one). Yet, desperation could rear its ugly head and open avenues for trade talk to ensue.
Don't look for any high profile guys to be available in free agency either. The Green Bay Packers appear ready to lock-up Jermicheal Finley through franchise tag or a long-term contract. There are no other names out there to really ponder over. Our best bet would be to join the treasure hunt and discover a hidden gem within the draft like the Saints and Chargers did.
- Offensive Line
The offensive line is a mix bag of developing talent and other team's castoffs. Between the cocktail that is the Colts line are players with potential like Anthony Castonzo, Joe Ritz, and Ben Ijalana. Each has displayed a potential hope for the future of our quarterbacks. At the same time, Jeff Saturday and Ryan Diem careers maybe coming to a close at the season's end. Manning the void left by their departure shouldn't be too difficult; their replacements may very well be on the staff already. Indianapolis Colts 2008 second round selection Mike Pollak has done an acquit job when he's at his natural center position. While the last spot on the line appears to be wide open for the taking. Out of the remaining bunch, I think Quinn Ojinnaka is the man to beat, being able to play guard or tackle.
In the mock drafts I've seen, many have the Colts picking offensive tackle Matt Kalil if we miss out on Luck. Now this to me doesn't make very good business sense. Especially, when just the prior year our first two selections were used to shore up the line. You have to give those guys more than one season to develop before considering position changes. However, using one of our picks to solidify the interior of the line might be the wiser choice. No matter what direction we head in, protecting whoever is behind center should be of the utmost importance.
For years the mantra of the higher-ups has been to stick them all in a pot and see what comes out. That philosophy has proven to fail us time and time again. We shouldn't put band-aids on open wounds when clearly they needs stitches. The best medicine to cure the damage done would be to acquire Carl Nicks (age 26) or Ben Grubbs, (age 27) who are to be free agents. Nicks (Saints) and Grubbs (Ravens) both play guard at a pro-bowl level and are unlikely to stay with their current teams. Either one would be moves in the right direction for future success.
Please, comeback soon when I reveal the second part of my write-up. Until then, I hope you enjoy this and here's to the future of the team...