The NFL's new league year begins at 4:00 PM ET tomorrow (March 12) and with it comes the official start of free agency. The Colts, with plenty of money to spend, are "sure to strike early", according to Sports Illustrated's Peter King.
Who might they strike at? There have been several names tossed around as players whom the Colts are interested in, but that doesn't mean they will sign them. As Mike Chappel pointed out on twitter tonight,
Talked to an agent today who said 98 percent of what you're hearing about team and interest in players 'is complete BS.'— Mike Chappell (@mchappell51) March 11, 2013
That said, it is our job here to report the speculations and rumors leading up to the point where the Colts can actually sign people tomorrow afternoon. So far, here are some of the names associated with the Colts:
Baltimore Ravens OLB Paul Kruger - there is reportedly a bidding war in the makings between the Cleveland Browns and the Colts (and perhaps the New Orleans Saints as well?). Kruger registered a career high 9 sacks last season and helped the Ravens to a super bowl championship. His contract year came at the right time, and he figures to get paid very well. Also important to consider is that the Ravens' former defensive coordinator, Chuck Pagano, is now running the show in Indy. Pagano's presence will mean that several Ravens' free agents will give the Colts a serious look.
Detroit Lions OLB Cliff Avril - it could very well be that the Colts will get either Kruger or Avril and the Browns will get the other. If that is the case, I'd rather have Avril. The 26 year old has 39.5 career sacks compared to Kruger's 15.5 (27 years old). His contract will likely be similar to Kruger's, but I would be more comfortable signing Avril to that type of deal than Kruger.
Baltimore Ravens S Ed Reed - back before the super bowl I was saying that Ed Reed to the Colts made a ton of sense and was a real possibility to happen. I'm even more confident now. In fact, if he doesn't stay in Baltimore I expect him to sign with his former coach Chuck Pagano and the Colts. And according to Jason La Canfora on twitter, it appears that a departure from the Ravens could be coming. Of course the Patriots are likely to make a push for Reed, but the Colts make the most sense. They have Reed's former college roommate Reggie Wayne (who now shares the same agent with Reed) and Reed's former coach in Chuck Pagano. Plus, they are a team in need of a leader in the secondary and a team that is improving very quickly. On a short term deal, this one looks like it very well could happen.
Baltimore Ravens CB Cary Williams - another of Pagano's former Ravens, Williams was given a shot by Pagano and eventually became a starting corner. He would love to play for Pagano again, and no doubt the coach and the Colts would like to sign him. The issue is for how much money?
San Diego Chargers CB Antoine Cason - Cason is a name that has been thrown around in association with the Colts by many, perhaps most notably by Rotoworld's Evan Silva, who undertook a massive project in which he projected the destinations and contracts of the top 100 free agents. Silva has Cason going to the Colts (as well as Cliff Avril, Ed Reed, and Louis Vasquez). The Colts' new VP of Football Operations Jimmy Raye also came from San Diego, so there is a good chance that he would be interested in signing him, plus Colts' defensive coordinator Greg Manusky was Cason's defensive coordinator for one year with the Chargers (2011).
Buffalo Bills OG Andy Levitre - there is no bigger need for the Colts than offensive guard. None. And the Bills' Andy Levitre is the best available (though not by much - see Louis Vasquez below). Reports say that the Colts are "chasing" both Levitre and Vasquez, so the chances they get one of them is likely.
San Diego Chargers OG Louis Vasquez - I think the Colts chances of signing Louis Vasquez are much greater than that of Andy Levitre, but that's just my opinion. Vasquez is also from San Diego, so he has the same connection with Jimmy Raye that Antoine Cason has. Also, Vasquez's former offensive line coach in San Diego - Hal Hunter - is the Colts' new OL coach. He seems to be a better fit in Pep Hamilton's offensive system and, while Levitre is probably the more talented of the two, the margin is not that great and signing Louis Vasquez would be a tremendous move for Indy.
Denver Broncos FB Chris Gronkowski (RELEASED) - the brother of Patriots' tight end Rob Gronkowski, Chris was a member of the Colts in training camp last year but was traded to Denver in the trade that sent Cassius Vaughn to Indy. The Broncos recently released Gronkowski and, as George Bremer noted on twitter, if the Colts are looking for a true fullback he would be a real possibility, and for a lower cost.
Green Bay Packers WR Greg Jennings - this one seems to me to be more of Ryan Grigson just doing his due diligence to inquire of players than serious interest. Jennings will earn a big contract despite his injury history and, while the Colts need to find another wideout and while Jennings would seem to be a good fit, I doubt this one happens or even gets into a somewhat serious stage of negations.
Indianapolis Colts CB Jerraud Powers (RE-SIGN) - with his injury history and at times spotty play, Jerraud Powers wouldn't seem to be a prime candidate to be re-signed. That said, the Colts reportedly want him back - but at least two other teams want him too. He isn't worth overpaying and, while the Colts would love to have him back, I would much rather they re-sign Darius Butler first.
Indianapolis Colts CB Darius Butler (RE-SIGN) - I wrote about this extensively yesterday, saying that re-signing Butler should be a priority. I still think so. He was a big part of the Colts' playoff run and could be a very good number three corner. The Colts will need to find that number two guy, but Butler could be their number three CB.
So there's a recap on who the Colts have been linked to already. And the free agency period still has yet to officially again. Real quick, if I had to give my guess on how things end up, I'd guess that the Colts sign Cliff Avril, Ed Reed, Cary Williams, Louis Vasquez, and re-sign Darius Butler, with Chris Gronkowski being a real possibility that I wouldn't rule out. Of course, it won't turn out exactly that way and very well might not be close, but it's fun to speculate. Thankfully, that period of speculation is about to end, and the real news and real signings will begin. Keep it here at Stampede Blue for the latest, plus follow along with us for up to the minute news on twitter @coltsfanwilson (Josh) and @StampedeBlue (Brad).