I know that week two of the 2012 NFL season is barely behind us but I can’t help but think about what this team will be like next year. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m very excited about this season and I’m one of the stubborn few that still believes that the Colts will sneak into the playoffs this year (Luck may have to pull off his best Manning impersonation and carry the team on his back however). As promising as this team has looked at points this season, there are plenty of holes that need to be shored up before this team can return to the "power house" status that it once held. See my thoughts on the future after the Jump. (Warning: longer read)
By far the most glaring need, in my mind (and I know I’m not alone), is the offensive line. The only position on the O-line that isn’t a question mark is the left tackle spot. Castonzo has looked pretty good so far in only his second year, especially considering the quality of players he’s had to go up against in back to back weeks. Satele at center is the only other spot that can be described as at least being “adequate ” at his respective postion. The three other O-line spots need immediate upgrades. Considerable upgrades will really only come from the next off season, either through free agency or the draft. There are many potential answers set to hit free agency in the off season, especially at the tackle position. Jake Long, Ryan Clady, Sam Baker, and Byant McKinnie all have expiring contracts and could be available. Usually the Colts would be unable to pursue any high profile free agents, but after dumping half of the incumbent super stars from former glory days, Ryan Grigson will have tons of cap room available for next season. I’d be alright with the Colts doubling anyone else’s offer on Jake Long, and yes, I know that he’ll probably become the highest paid non-qb NFL player of all time, but hey, the Colts deserve to splurge a little. He’s currently making $11.2 million and that’s from his rookie contract so he’ll come with a hefty price tag but the Colts can afford whatever he asks and would still have plenty of room to resign some of our own FA’s as well as make some moves on other's free agents. Long is entering his prime IMO (Also he's an iron man only missing 2 games in his career). He is currently 27 years old and will come into Colts camp next year at the ripe age of 28. To me that means a 5-7 year contract that is probably not too far from Peyton Manning’s contract ball park. What do you know, we just cut a Peyton Manning sized contract this last off season (Peyton Manning’s to be specific), Long fits us like a glove! Seriously though I’m hoping that Long wants to get out of Miami and go somewhere that has a chance to win, and I hope that’s the Colts. The signing of Long would mean that the Colts could slide Castonzo over to right tackle and all of a sudden they have one of the, if not the, best offensive tackle tandems in the league to protect the new face of the franchise. That move in itself would make a huge difference but Grigson shouldn’t stop there. It’s a little more slim pickings for the Guard position in 2013, Kevin Boothe and Eben Britton being the only names that really stand out to me. Hopefully Grigson can find someone to replace at least one guard position, if not by free agency, then perhaps by high draft pick. Improving the interior line would pay huge dividends to the running game and that would make Luck’s play action passes all the more deadlier, as well as adding the ability to run out the clock (wouldn’t that be nice). With a dominant O-line there is no need for a stud, and pricey, running back like a Jones-Drew or a Peterson. If given space and lanes to run through, both Brown and Ballard could be more than effective. As of right now the running backs are not the reason for the poor rushing game, that fault belongs to the interior linemen.
If those issues are both addressed, then any additional upgrades to the team would just be icing on the cake IMO. The defense does need help, but I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far from players like Redding, Mathis, Nevis, Bethea (who defines consistency), and Powers has also looked very sharp so far. I think that V. Davis will catch on and once the Defensive play calls start putting him in more man to man coverage he’ll start to become the player that we all expect him to be. Really there are a lot of strengths on defense. Linebacker is stacked with Angerer, Freeman, Fokou, Conner, and Mathis. Corner is solid as long as Powers is re-signed after this year and some role players are brought in. Really the improvements would be noticed most at Nose Tackle (or D-line in general), and then maybe get a guy to take over for Tommy Z. at the other safety spot and this defense, with a full year in the new 3-4 scheme, maybe very formidable.
My keys to the team’s success (longterm)…(like next year long term):
- Keep Andrew Luck alive through his rookie season
- Address interior Oline through draft or Free agency (I kinda like Britton, then draft project center)
- SIGN JAKE LONG- Gain an All-Pro Left tackle and put the one good lineman the Colts have on the other side to compliment him and Luck may finally have a Brady pocket to pass in, that may not be fair to the other 31 teams though.
- With remaining draft picks/cash find the diamonds in the rough to augment the core of the team that has been established. Pass rushers are always nice and may be needed if Freeney walks
- In future years get Luck some new toys on offense, the current corps of guys look good and will only get better with time (guys like Fleener, Allen, Hilton, Adams, Brazill)
For those that have foolishly wasted their time reading all of this, take some more time to leave some comments and let me know what you agree/disagree with me about. Anyone else have some ideas on the what the Colts should do next year?