After the events of this past week, many Colts fans are left wondering how or when the Colts will be able to compete at a high level again. What will this new era of Colts football look like? Gone are the familiar and beloved names many of us have been rooting for this past decade of success; Manning, Addai, Clark, Bracket, Bullitt and eventually even Freeney. These recent cuts have left even more holes on the roster than I care to count, but it now seems to me that the Colts biggest needs are:
Primary: WR1, WR2, NT, CB1/CB2, SS, OG, C, TE
Secondary: CB3, DE/OLB, MLB, HB
That is a very large amount of primary needs, meaning this rebuilding process will be a very exciting, but daunting task. However, I think with the recent cuts, the Colts will have some cap space this offseason to sign some established players to fill the holes on the roster.
Follow me after the jump to see some ways the Colts can effectively start rebuilding the Colts roster to be competitive, starting tomorrow, March 13, the first day of Free Agency.
The Colts will lose Reggie Wayne and most likely Pierre Garcon to FA, leaving Austin Collie, who is primarily a slot WR, as the only reliable weapon from a WR corp that was considered elite as recent as two seasons ago. What was once a major strength is now a weakness with at least two WR spots open. Because of this, the first position that I would like to see the Colts target in FA is WR. At one point, there was a bumper crop of WRs available in FA, but that number has since dwindled significantly, due to franchise tags and contract extensions. But a solid amount of talent still exists and many of them can be had at a fair price. The Colts should be targeting young players with upside who will still have many productive years left. The player I would like to see the Colts acquire is:
Meachem is a former 1st round pick from 2008 that has been under utilized on the Saints. He possesses a combination of excellent size and speed, making him one of the better deep threats in the league. I think his upside is even greater than that and with an expanded role, he could become a solid WR2 for the Colts. He would provide Luck with an established target to throw to and also allow whichever potential WR1 the Colts draft to have time to develop.
*In addition to a WR acquisition, I think the Colts should use a high pick on a WR with WR1 potential. Even though I want the Colts to draft BPA, the WR class in this year's draft is ridiculously deep and I don't see how the Colts will not choose one of the many big, fast options available to them in rounds 2-3.
With the defensive philosophy shifting to the Pagano's hybrid 3-4, it becomes imperative that the Colts acquire a 3-4 nose tackle this offseason. There are a few names that I would like the Colts to explore in FA:
Option 1 - Paul Soliai
This would be the blockbuster acquisition of the offseason for the Colts. It would solidify the NT position for the foreseeable future with pro bowl-caliber play. Soliai is a hot commodity and will have many teams interested, so I do not know how likely it is the Colts will win his services, but a man can dream.
Option 2 - Red Bryant
Like Soliai, Bryant is a young space-eating NT who could anchor the line of a 3-4 defense. And like Soliai, he will be in high demand this offseason, but will probably come with a slightly cheaper price tag.
Option 3 - Aubrayo Franklin
Franklin struggled in the Saints' 4-3 and is best served in a 3-4, where he has played well for the 49ers in the past. Because of his age and recent struggles, he will come at a fair price and would provide a good stop gap until the Colts can draft the potential NT for the future.
*Keep in mind with all of the NT acquisitions, I think the Colts could also address the position in the draft. However, outside of Josh Chapman falling to the 4th round, I do not think the Colts can get good value at the NT in this draft. Because of this, I would like to see the Colts possibly draft a low-round project or UDFA at NT and give them time to develop. Then next season, when the NT depth is much deeper with possibly 3-4 1st round players, use a high pick on the NT position to draft a future stud at the position.
Good CBs get paid a lot of money on the open market and as much as I would like to see the Colts grab Brandon Carr or Cortland Finnegan, I just don't think the cap space is there. Because of this and because this draft's CB class is very deep, I think the Colts will target a potential CB1/CB2 in the rounds 2-4. I would not be surprised to see a depth acquisition in FA, but I would not expect it to be a high-priced one.
The need for a SS became quite apparent last season and now with the recent release of Bullitt, the Colts will have to add a player or two to this position. Because this draft's SS class is very weak, the Colts will more than likely have to acquire a SS through FA. The player that I would love to have:
Landry is a big, fast run-stopping safety who would fit perfectly into the new defensive philosophy. He has had injuries in the past, but that is nature of the position. Though these injury concerns bring about risk, I think Landry is definitely worth it and there will be several teams that agree. He has star potential and is still fairly young. If he can stay healthy, he could solidify the SS position for several years while the Colts draft and develop a replacement.
The offensive line showed some improvement this past season, but the Colts still have a lot of work to do. One player that could help solidify the OL and might be available at a decent price:
If the Chargers are silly enough to let him go, I would love for the Colts to snag him up on a moderate deal. Though the Colts just drafted a LT and RT in last year's draft, Gaither is a pro-bowl talent who could slide in at LT, move Costanzo to RT and Ijalana to G.
*There are some big-name players available this offseason at both OG and C. Players like Carl Nicks and Scott Wells will more than likely be too expensive for the Colts, but I think the Colts will need to sign some mid-level talent for depth purposes. Depending on how the new regime prioritizes the OL this offseason, the Colts could be players in FA or the draft. I do not know enough about the available OL outside of the big names so I would like to hear your thoughts on potential FA and draft acquisitions.
Due to the release of Dallas Clark and Jacob Tamme being a FA, the Colts will most likely have to acquire a TE in FA. Tamme might re-sign with the Colts, but I see him as nothing more than a solid backup. There are not a lot of available TEs this offseason, so I think the Colts will sign someone for depth, possibly Tamme or John Carlson, and then draft Coby Fleener if he is available.
I think the Colts will go into next season with a committee of Donald Brown and Delone Carter at HB, with Carter seeing an expanded role. So although it is not a primary need, the recent release of Jospeh Addai will necessitate acquiring some depth for the HB position. There are several HB options on the FA market, but they all have questions and do not represent much of an upgrade to Addai. I think the Colts will either re-sign Addai to a cheap vet contract, if he is willing, or sign someone from the practice squad like Darren Evans. The Colts could also take a late-round flier on a HB, but any move will be made solely for depth purposes. This will allow the colts to draft Marcus Lattimore next season after he falls to the 2nd round...I wish.
*These are just some of the potential moves the Colts can make starting tomorrow, the first day of FA. I am not sure if the Colts can make all of these moves this offseason, but I think they can make several of them. Either way, it will be exciting to see an active offseason and how the Colts begin to rebuild this team through FA and the draft. What moves would you like to see the Colts make this offseason?