Assessments of the Colts roster prior to the draft followed common themes - certain areas of the roster clearly needed improvement. The draft did address some of those concerns, and although we have no idea when free agency is likely to commence, it does make sense to look at the roster to see what we have, whilst casting an eye to our own free agents, as well as other prospects on the horizon. After the jump, we begin..
Quarterback - We currently have Curtis Painter signed to the roster, with Peyton Manning technically unsigned. I consider this signing a formality, and we have to plan as such. The heavy investment on the offensive line will surely make him sleep easier at night, and we'll soon see #18 tearing up the AFC South as per norm.
I expect Peyton and Painter to be the two quarterbacks on the roster for next year, with the potential for a young developmental prospect to take a practice squad spot.
Running Back - The carousel of running backs used by the Colts last year was preposterous. The frequency of injuries to our backs mirrored the issues we had throughout the roster, but when you look at the poor quality pass protection afforded by the offensive line, losing Peyton's 'comfort blanket' in Joseph Addai for long stretches of the season was a real blow. If we look at running backs still on the roster, Donald Brown and Delone Carter are the two that the Colts will likely be looking to take forward. Delone Carter will provide an interesting contrast if he proves himself to be suitable for the role the front office has marked him for. Both Javarris James and Dominic Rhodes cannot be considered locks for the roster - the former due to a poor 2.4 YPC average through last year, (though it must be stated that he was mainly asked to perform in short-yardage situations near the goal-line) the latter due to age. Dom may be retained due to his leadership qualities, but that is something that we as fans cannot really judge, so for now i'll assume that Dom will not return. Mike Hart will very likely not be retained, as he does not provide anything our other backs cannot, without getting into his injury issues. The case of Devin Moore is an interesting one - his roster spot may be in danger due to the change in kickoff rules in the NFL, but I think the Colts will stick with him to see what they have, as he showed good promise in the return game last year. As for Addai - I expect the Colts to make a concerted effort to re-sign him, and due to the diminished value of running backs in the NFL, he will not unduly weigh against the salary cap.
I think we'll take 5 running backs into next year, one way or another. Addai, Brown and Carter will possibly be joined by Javarris James/Dominic Rhodes, alongside Devin Moore for his special teams value.
Wide Receiver - Many individuals within the media suggested pre-draft that wide receiver may be an area targeted by the Colts in the draft. It turned out not to be so, though next year it will becoming a much more pressing issue. The decline of Reggie Wayne is inevitable, and his dropped passes last year were in some cases very significant (I'm thinking particularly of a drop against the Cowboys on 3rd down in overtime). He isn't as reliant as some on physical skills, instead plying his trade as an immense route runner with the reliability to make every catch. Evidently, that has begun to slip. Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon have both shown enough promise to more than guarantee roster spots for next year. Collie in my opinion will have an All-Pro year if he can avoid injury (that's a fantasy tip for all of you) - he became Peyton's favourite target in a very short space of time, and we all recognise the difference in our offense with him on the field. Garcon has still shown a propensity for dropping easy catches, whilst making outrageous grabs in the very same game. His speed is unique within our WR corps, and he can only improve having been introduced to Peyton's route tree. Anthony Gonzalez has a make-or-break year ahead of him, both in terms of producing on the field and staying injury free. He will be the #4 receiver on the roster if no moves are made in free agency, and whilst we have seen flashes of talent, this year will likely be his last. Blair White has shown that he can be a decent backup, but I don't consider him anything more than that. His lack of speed in comparison to Collie is striking, but he's worth the roster spot. Taj Smith showed himself to be a very good special teams player for us, and should be retained due to our shortcomings in that area - his free agent status should be cheap to rectify.
I think we'll head into the season with at least 6 options - Wayne, Garcon, Collie, Gonzalez, White, Smith. We have no really notable free agents within our WR corps.
Tight End: With Dallas Clark and Jacob Tamme, it could certainly be argued that we have the best 1-2 combination at TE in the entire NFL. Tamme's admirable step up last year in Clark's stead was one of the few positives from the season, and with Clark's contract expiring next year, we have a competent replacement if he were to be let go. Gijon Robinson is a free agent, and shouldn't be retained. Tom Santi provides an outlet if, god forbid, one of Clark/Tamme became injured. Brody Eldridge needs to work on his catching skills, and whilst he started last year well, his blocking became progressively poorer as the year went on.
I expect we'll head into the season 4-deep with Clark, Tamme, Eldridge and Santi.
Offensive Line - Our primary offensive woe lay in the form of the offensive line, both in pass protection and run blocking. It became clear throughout the year that Ryan Diem is no longer an NFL-calibre offensive tackle, with his blocking best resembling a turnstile at times. At least one loss is clearly attributable to his inadequate protection, our defeat against the Patriots, where Peyton was heavily pressured from the right side into throwing an interception as we marched down the field. The running game proved to be totally inadequate in terms of relieving pressure on Peyton, as he was forced to throw 679 times, completing 450 of those attempts, the latter a new NFL record. The situation was addressed in the draft with the selections of Anthony Castonzo and Ben Ijalana, who should play at tackle and guard respectively, with a view to a switch to tackle in the case of the latter. Jeff Saturday remains a mainstay in the centre of the line, and a fluid situation at the other guard position will likely be rectified by a training camp competition between Mike Pollack, Jacques McClendon, Kyle DeVan and Jamey Richard, in which you'd hope the former two would prevail having shown an improvement befitting their draft stock. Charlie Johnson will hopefully be resigned and moved over to RT to replace Ryan Diem, who I consider to be at risk of being cut, given his performance in the past couple of years and his exorbitant salary next year. Jeff Linkenbach is a solid backup tackle, and whilst I think he's capable of starting at RT, Johnson has shown decent run blocking ability and has certainly been one of the better performers on our offensive line, if there is such a thing.
I would like to see us head into the season with a starting line of Castonzo, McClendon, Saturday, Ijalana and Johnson. The latter is an unrestricted free agent though should prove fairly inexpensive to retain, given the fact he is not a true left tackle in the NFL. Quality backups in the form of Linkenbach and Pollack should be retained, with Pollack a likely candidate to replace Jeff Saturday once he eventually retires. Either Kyle DeVan or Jamey Richard should be kept on the roster as a final backup, with the loser of that battle deserving the door along with Ryan Diem.
Quarterback: Peyton Manning (re-signed), Curtis Painter
Running Back: Joseph Addai (re-signed), Donald Brown, Delone Carter, Devin Moore, Javarris James (re-signed).
Wide Receiver: Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie, Anthony Gonzalez, Blair White, Taj Smith (re-signed).
Tight End: Dallas Clark, Jacob Tamme, Brody Eldridge, Tom Santi.
Offensive Line: Anthony Castonzo, Ben Ijalana, Jeff Saturday, Jacques McClendon, Charlie Johnson (re-signed), Mike Pollack, Jeff Linkenbach, Kyle DeVan.
In terms of free agents on the market, there are a variety of options, particularly at running back and wide receiver. DeAngelo Williams, Ahmad Bradshaw, Sidney Rice, Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes are the more promising options. Jared Gaither is the only real franchise calibre offensive tackle on the market, and may prove expensive. My two cents? If we are going to delve into the free agent market, much better to do so on defense. Our offense is loaded, now it's time to fix the other side of the ball.
Please specify your answers in comments if you vote for a particular area that you feel needs addressed in free agency.