The former Chargers exec, recently hired as the Colts VP of Football Operations, likely knows which free agents to target this offseason.
As we sit in a "holding pattern" and wait to see what will happen regarding offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, let's type a few words about new Colts vice president of football operations Jimmy Raye. Raye spent the last 18 years of his professional life working for the Chargers. He started as a scout, and moved his way up to then-general manager A.J. Smith's right hand man. He knows the SD roster inside and out.
More importantly, he knows how good or how bad certain pending Chargers free agents are, and he will likely have a strong say in whether or not the Colts will use some of their $43 million in cap space this off-season on them.
A huge offseason need will be pass rusher. Dwight Freeney (5 sacks in 2012) is either done or simply does not fit the Colts hyrbid 3-4 scheme. Robert Mathis (8 sacks) wasn't great in 2012, but adjusted much better than Freeney. Since Jerry Hughes is now firmly tagged as a first round bust, finding a reliable, game-changer at rush linebacker is critical in 2013. The draft is one route, but free agency might be the better one, and Raye might have an inside track.
Shaun Phillips is an unrestricted free agent this offseason. The former Purdue Boilermaker was drafted in the fourth round by Raye and Smith of the Chargers in 2004. He's played his whole career there, and now, with a new head coach and GM taking over, San Diego might opt to let Phillips go. In 2012, he had 9.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and a safety. He has 69.5 sacks for his career in SD.
The downside to Phillips is he's 31, and other the last two seasons he has just 13 total sacks. Clearly, his best years are behind him.
Still, if the Colts are looking to add a veteran into their pass rush rotation - and they could use one considering the defense had just 32 sacks - Phillips is a strong option IF the price is right.
Other Chargers free agents that intrigue are veteran corners Antoine Cason and Chris Carr. The Colts need to continue upgrading the corner spot with talent. Darius Butler, Cassius Vaughn, and Vontae Davis all showed flashes of brilliance in 2012, but none were consistent. Adding more vets like Cason or Carr would help.
Personally, I'm not a fan of Quentin Jammer, another Chargers impending free agent corner.
Finally, Jackie Battle could add depth at the running back position. He had three touchdowns and 311 yards rushing with SD in 2012, and the year prior, in Kansas City, he had 597 yards, 2 TDs, and averaged 4.0 yards a carry.
Free agent names like Phillips, Battle, and Cason are worth keeping an eye on as the offseason rolls towards free agency. With over $40 mill to spend, I would not be surprised to see Colts GM Ryan Grigson and Raye pluck a few former Chargers players away from the transitioning Chargers.