Welcome to my first Devil's Take of the 2013 year. The Colts of 2012 caught the NFL by storm, amassing an unexpected 11 victories and making the playoffs. Prior to the 2012 season, I predicted the Colts had a shot at 7-8 victories based on their schedule, but I didn't expect the season we had. I don't think many of us did. We all saw the raw potential of a guy being thrust into a no win situation, and coming out on top. We saw a raw offense filled with rookies step up each week, while still going through the growing pains.
At the end of the year, we outperformed every projection that anyone could have expected. Our interim coach won Coach of the Year. Our rookie GM won Executive of the Year. Our rookies on offense set the NFL record for combined yards at 3108, breaking the previous NFL and Colts record of 2751, set by the Edgerrin James led class of 1999. Andrew Luck set the single season and single game records for yards by a rookie QB. He was the MVP for the Colts, bar none.
The Colts have had to say good-bye to Tom Telesco and Bruce Arians, both moving on to promotions with other teams. Dwight Freeney and Austin Collie have been let go from the team. So where do the Colts go from here? It's an interesting topic of discussion...
Unrestricted free agents
Donnie Avery, WR
Darius Butler, CB
Austin Collie, WR
Moise Fokou, LB
Dwight Freeney, LB
Tony Hills, OT
Antonio Johnson, NT
Winston Justice, OT
Pat McAfee, P
Fili Moala, DL
Mewelde Moore, RB
Jerraud Powers, CB
Drew Stanton, QB
Jamaal Westerman, LB
Restricted free agents
A.J. Edds, LB
Jeff Linkenbach, G/T
Seth Olsen, G
Cassius Vaughn, CB
To start, the Colts should first shore up their necessary FA's and RFA's. McAfee is almost a given to be franchised, if he isn't re-signed to a deal quickly. Avery, Vaughn, Linkenbach, Justice, and Butler should all be retained, if only to allow for more continuity. The rest of the list is pretty much in my opinion fodder to be dropped. The only question mark is Powers. The guy has routinely been hurt, but he's a quality CB and the Colts could really use him if he can stay healthy. Given the injuries, he would probably be cheap to re-sign. Doing all of this, gives the Colts a much better opportunity moving forward with both the draft and free agency.
If the Colts retain Avery and shore up their offensive line, this is a team that could challenge for the division immediately in the 2013 season. We have the offensive capabilities, we just have to have better line protection. We've seen what Luck and our receivers can do with good protection, so that's got to be the focus this offseason. The running game was in my opinion probably the best we have seen since the 2006 SB win, but injuries once again played a role in that. With the new OC in charge, expect to see more successful running plays this coming year.
Truthfully, if the Colts sign Avery to a new deal, I see no reason to add anything on offense except at the offensive line. If a player were to come free through free agency or a trade, sure sign them. However, I don't feel the Colts need to waste much effort trying to improve the offense, just the protection.
As a sidebar, the Colts would be wasting money and time trying to make a trade for Percy Harvin. While the guy is extremely talented, he's not the kind of player we need right now. The Colts have a young core with good leadership. What we don't need is a Terrell Owens type coming in and ruining the locker room.
The defensive switch to the 4-3/3-4 hybrid defense was for the most part, a failure in 2012. This was primarily due to unexpected injuries as well as in some part, certain players inability to adapt. Some players were exposed in pass defense while others were able to excel. At the end of the day however, the Colts defense ranked near the bottom in most categories, especially in turnovers and run defense. Still, the defense had it's moments where you could see them out there making a 300% effort to win. Freeman was the diamond in the rough for the Colts, and in short, he was the story for the Colts defense all year. The Colts would be wise to lock this guy up long term.
While the Colts can shore up their offensive line issues with a few free agents and possibly one draft pick, they will need to spend most of their draft picks on defense. We need to get a safety, a corner, and honestly two defensive linemen in this draft. Yes, the Colts have a lot of cap room to make deals, but it's best if the Colts can focus on signing guys who understand their roles, not flashy big name free agents.
The Colts have 5 picks as it stands right now, so they have to really make them count. Unfortunately, the Colts cannot afford to spend them all on defense, which I'm sure most of us would like. The Colts need to select an offensive linemen with their first rounder, as the lack of quality protection is what hindered us all season, as well as what eliminated us in the playoffs. I'd lean more towards a right tackle than a guard or a center, as the Colts have adequate players on the roster already. That being said, the Colts cap room does allow them to make some trades based on taking on a player from another team. Signing someone who plays from a 3-4 defense would be a worthwhile endeavor for the Colts.
Free Agency/Spring Training:
I fully suspect that the Colts will probably have to invest in getting help on the defensive side of the ball in free agency as well. The Colts simply have too many holes that need solid players at. The need to find a replacement for Freeney, the lack of a quality backup for Mathis or Freeney, the unknown ability of Chapman, and the lack of any real good CB besides Davis really means the Colts will have to work to get it there.
This year, the defense will have to be the focus for this team to succeed. We counted on luck and Luck too much last year, and this year we need to be able to count on the defense to help.
As always, please feel free to comment. Follow me on Twitter! @DevilsReject97