Today's discussion is about what the Colts need to do between now and the start of the season regarding their roster and various player movement. While it's always difficult to try and nail this kind of thing down early, I actually feel that this year, the Colts lineup is pretty much set.
The Colts have addressed virtually of their needs via the draft and through various signings to start the first two weeks of the NFL season. What the Colts need to do now, is look to making moves to improve this team for next year or even possibly this year.
So how do they do that? Well let's first take a look at what I believe will be the final roster for the Colts to start the year.
LT: Anthony Costanzo, Jeff Linkenbach
P: Pat McAfee
LS: Justin Snow
This leaves 4 open spots on the roster, of which all will be special teamers:
Spann/Moore are most likely KR/PR candidates and since I think the Colts are going to give Moore a legit shot to regain his job, I expect Spann will be added to the PS. I'm not even going to bother trying to keep track of the practice squad, but three players who stand out to me as most likely candidates are Joe Horn, Jake Kirkpatrick, and Ollie Ogbu. All 3 bring things the Colts want on this team, and all 3 are really good talents that could be used by this team.
I'm going to break down a bit of my reasoning in each area, and also address possible moves I think the Colts SHOULD make.
Obviously, the Manning is our supreme leader and our #1 player. The Colts signing Nate Davis to a 2 year deal is quite damning if you think about it for Curtis Painter. Adding insult to injury is bringing in a quality veteran in Orlovsky. To be blunt, I'm not entirely sure I'm even sold on the Colts carrying 3 QB's into the season. Still, these signings pretty much put the nail in the coffin for Painter in my view.
Painter - Cut
Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon. All 3 guys are proven, talented, and work well in this offense. Many people like to harp on Garcon's catching ability, but the guy routinely is targeted on deep throws which were much of last year not on target. Sure, he's had a few drops, but the Colts receivers (WR, TE, RB) led the league for about half the year in dropped passes. You can point to 1-2 of Garcons, but even Clark and Wayne and Addai were dropping balls that were between the numbers.
Blair White is an X-Factor, as the kid came in and showcased some Stokely moves and ability. He won't beat you with speed, but the guy is a robot, and he's capable of playing the game as he's already shown the Colts faithful. I cannot see him not being on the active roster.
What this ultimately means, is that I expect the Colts to either cut Anthony Gonzalez or to trade him. There's not a huge market out there for him, but the Colts don't really need him at this point. They have two quality #4 WR's on the roster in Blair/Horn, both who have no injury issues and are exactly what the Colts want in terms of talent.
The loss of Dallas Clark last year was one of the major reasons the Colts faltered down the stretch. Still, you almost wouldn't have known that with the emergence of Jacob Tamme. This guy had 6 career receptions in like 3 years prior to Clark going out with injury. In fact, if not for a freak injury to Clark's backup Tom Santi, Tamme never sees playing time at all. As it is, Tamme would go on to lead all receivers in receptions and yards for most of the remainder of the year. He would finish the year with the most yards/receptions for a TE in that period as well. Eldridge wasn't able to do much more than block and catch a few passes, but he showed flashes of why he was drafted. I expect him to remain the #3 guy and play ST's.
Tom Santi - Waived
Addai was re-signed, Brown had somewhat of a good breakout towards the end of the season, and Delone Carter is looking to be a bowling ball for the Colts running game. Spann is an interesting X-Factor as he could easily be the Colts KR/PR and unseat Devin Moore, who himself is coming off a nasty injury last year. Both players could still wind up on the roster as the Colts are thin in the ranks of DB and with injuries to Collie last season, I don't expect the Colts to play him as a returner this season.
With the loss of CJ, the Colts are basically saying one of two things: CJ wasn't going to keep the job, or Costanzo is going to be your season starter. To me, just drafting him signaled that he would be your season starter. This coupled with Ijalana's drafting basically says to me that the Colts plan on starting the pair to start the year. Crazy? Perhaps, but if they can prove themselves in camp, I expect it will happen. If anything, Linkenbach is your Week 1 starter. He's done it before, so it won't be unfamiliar territory for him. Saturday, Diem, and DeVan should be your starters across the rest of the line to go Week 1. Now, while we all know Diem is in decline, let's give him a fair shot this year since the Colts look to be, at least on paper, a better unit on the O-Line than they were last year. Just being able to run the ball for a league average 4.0 yards would be a great start.
I also believe that Joe Reitz, who is a beast of a player, is why Diem was kept. I originally suspected Ijalana might be, but the Colts are looking every bit of trying to play him as a Guard. Reitz, who was snagged off the Ravens last year, is 6'7" 325lbs, and the kid could be a cornerstone similar to Tarik Glenn if he can learn to play the position well.
Jaimie Richard - Cut
As usual, the terror twins of Freeney and Mathis are back as your starters. Backing them up is last year's #1 draft pick Hughes coupled with Jaamal Anderson. Now, as we all know, some players excel better in one environment than another. I believe Anderson was never used in the best manner for his talents, and I think he'll fit in better in this playing scheme. I also think the continued criticism of Hughes by several people around the media, including our head writer here, is unwarranted and overblown. This kid was a backup to two of the league's best defensive ends in the league. Adding to that, the Colts carried Foster and Dawson on the roster all last year due to the myriad of injuries across the entire team. Foster/Dawson could play DE, DT, and special teams. If your team is losing players left and right, you carry a guy who can play 3 positions so you can bring in a replacement for one position. Hughes almost nonexistent playing time coupled with the lack of reps, pretty much made sure he would not do well when he got a shot. I'm not saying he's the next coming of Freeney, but Reggie Wayne certainly looked like crap his rookie year... Give the kid a break and a chance. Anderson also has the ability to play DT, so in essence, he could replace Eric Foster's position on the team. He's also a better overall talent, so we could see improvement in both areas.
Eric Foster - Cut
Keyunta Dawson - Cut
The signing of Tommie Harris to me is probably the most prolific signing the Colts have made other than re-signing Manning to the Colts. It helps of course that I went to high school with the guy and watched him play out in Oklahoma. Still, the guy is the best DT we've had since Manning arrived, and yes, I'm putting him over Booger. Booger was on the downside of his career, and Harris is still quite capable of playing several more years. The addition of Nevis in the draft is also a sure sign that at least one of the replacement players (Foster/Dawson) is a guaranteed goner. Adding Moala and Johnson, two decent players who will most likely serve as backups behind Harris/Nevis, this has got to be the best DT group we've had. Nevis coupled with Harris could make the Colts D-Line extremely nasty, providing a line that you can't exactly overlook. Teams used to be able to double up Mathis/Freeney and run up the middle. Now with a voracious style player in Nevis and a big mean body in Harris, teams are going to have to pay more attention in the middle and worry about those guys.
Foster/Dawson - Cut
Ricardo Matthews - Cut
Gary Brackett is still the unquestioned leader of the defense. Following up a year where he saw a ton of playing time, I think it's safe to say Angerer is now a proven player and while still raw, has shown he warrants being your starter. Newcomer Ernie Sims is penciled in as the other starter, simply because he's everything the Colts need at linebacker. The guy is smart, fast, and he's a Cover 2 style linebacker. He's exactly what we need to replace guys like Wheeler and Sessions. While Sims struggled in Philly, he did well under Marinelli's Cover 2 defense. Some guys are built for 4-3, some are built for Cover 2. Kavell Conner and Cody Glenn both played admirably and are decent ST players as well. While I expect him to play ST's mostly, I think Kerry Neal can make this team because of his playmaking ability. He has a nose for finding the ball.
What this ultimately means is the kicking to the curb of one Phillip Wheeler. The thing that really pisses me off about this kid is that he simply never showed the talent he HAS. It was almost like watching a guy half ass it most of the time. I really think this kid could be good, but he just doesn't seem to have it right in the head.
Wheeler - Cut
I think the defensive back group has to be split up, but I think you have to for sure pencil in Powers and Tryon as your starters. Throw in Lacey as the 3rd CB starter depending on the package. Thomas and Rucker are going to push Powers and Lacey for playing time, and I expect will see time on Special Teams. Rucker is the real wild card here because he really projects better as a Safety. I think the Colts may look hard at that.
FINALLY! Melvin Bullitt is officially the Colts starter at Safety. Alongside Bethea, we should see a tandem that'll play all year and provide quality playmaking skills. Behind them however, is a very thin set of backups. Vaughn is the only real player on the Colts roster behind these two with quality playing time, so it leaves room to see what the Colts do. King is also a promising player, and his injury last year was unfortunate. He has the ability to possibly unseat Bullitt.
As you may have noticed, a lot of the team is pretty well set for starters. A lot of this has to do with the fact that the Colts are a veteran team. Most of their needs were DT and O-Line, plus letting players heal up. Now that the injuries are healed, and the signings the Colts have made thus far, looks like this team has a lot of potential this year. Still, there are a few things the Colts need to do.
1.) With the waiving of Tom Santi, a very promising tight end, it signals that they are happy with Tamme's production and progress.
2.) With the development of Collie and White, I just don't see how Gonzalez even makes this roster.
The Colts need to shore up their safety and linebacker position. Now, the linebackers aren't in the kind of shape as the safeties are, but both are relatively thin for talent beyond the starters. I think we have enough players at DT, DE, and OL to be safe for the year. I expect the Colts to stack up on OL and a few other players on the Practice Squad. So here's what I'd like to do...
1.) Look to trade Gonzo with perhaps a draft pick in next years draft for a LB/SS/FS. Gonzo is a decent WR who hasn't played much due to a knee injury and the emergence of other players. Adding to that, he's a former 1st round player who still could produce for several teams. Detroit, Minnesota, Kansas City, even Tennessee could benefit from having the guy in their lineup. Maybe even setup a 3 team swap perhaps.
2.) Trade Jacob Tamme. The kid has proven he's got the talent and stones to be a starter. We have a proven quality starter and a decent incumbent in Eldridge. Tamme's value won't get any higher than it is right now unless Clark is out with an injury/traded. Why not make a trade that garners us something of value?
3.) Start Ijalana/Costanzo. The Colts have nothing to lose by doing this. Why? The alternatives aren't really much better. Ijalana is still better as a rookie than Pollak/DeVan. They also still have McClendon who I think is still being groomed to replace Saturday. Costanzo should be able to tell you by Week 1 if he's ready to start. You have Linkenbach to fall back on. With Clark healthy, you can use him or Addai to chip if needed. I think this is just a case of where you need to see if the kid is Tarik Glenn or Tony Yugo...
Ultimately, I think the Colts have got to be aggressive on getting value out of a few players who simply aren't going to be here much longer or aren't being used as they could be. To some degree, that's a great thing. Unfortunately, it involves saying goodbye to some guys who helped us in the past.
As always, I love discussion and debate. Thanks for reading!