2013 NFL Free Agency: Assessing The Colts Free Agent Departures

Scott Boehm

We've been so focused on all the new players that we haven't taken stock of the ones the Colts have lost to free agency... until now.

The news of former Colts safety Tom Zbikowski signing a one-year deal with the Chicago Bears got me thinking... we've been so focused on all the new players the Colts have signed the last two weeks that we really haven't done an assessment of the free agents they've lost.

FEAR NOT! Here it is:

2013 Colts Free Agent Loses Player Departures*

Cornerback Jerraud Powers

Signed a three-year, $10.5 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals

Many in local Indiana media were sad to see Powers go, but the reality is he simply wasn't all that good last season in Chuck Pagano's defensive scheme. Powers is OK in man-to-man coverage, and is a decent tackler. He'd also ended the last three season on the injured reserve list. The man simply could not stay healthy, and, thus, became unreliable.

After Powers got hurt (again) and was placed in IR (again) last year, he was effectively replaced by free agent Darius Butler. Butler was rewarded this offseason with a two-year contract with the Colts. He'll likely function as the team's slot corner, which was the best the Colts could have realistically hoped for regarding Powers.

Loss Impact: Minimal

Quarterback Drew Stanton

Signed a three-year, $8.2 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals

Another Colts free agent that Bruce Arians lured to the desert. Stanton was never needed to play last year (thank god), but acquiring him via a trade with the Jets during the 2012 offseason was a strong move by Ryan Grigson. After experiencing the quarterback disaster that was Curtis Painter in 2011, the Colts were not about to go through that again with an unproven player. Stanton is a smart, capable quarterback, and it made all the sense in the world to bolt Indy for Arizona. He'll have a chance to start there.

The Colts signed Matt Hasselbeck to back-up Andrew Luck this year, and Hasselbeck is a much better quarterback in new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton's system.

Loss Impact: Minimal

Defensive Tackle Antonio Johnson

Unsigned

I'm a big fan of "Mookie" Johnson. He played his guts out last year even though he simply did not fit the scheme. Mookie has played this way throughout his entire five-year career in Indy. However, the team has signed Aubrayo Franklin, and both Brandon McKinney and Josh Chapman are expected back in 2013.

Loss Impact: Minimal

Linebacker Moise Fokou

Signed a two-year, $2.8 million deal with the Tennessee Titans

Letting Fokou was a mistake, in my oh-so-humble opinion. Why give Erik Walden a four-year, $16 million contract and not re-sign a capable, proven player like Fokou for two years, $2.8 million? For much of the 2012 season, Fokou was, arguably, the best inside linebacker the Colts had outside Jerrell Freeman. Fokou clearly outplayed Pat Angerer, who struggled with injuries. Fokou was a strong fit in Pagano's 3-4 defense, and he showed versatility with his ability to play all four linebacker positions.

Loss Impact: Noteworthy

Wide receiver Donnie Avery

Signed a three-year, $8.5 million with the Kansas City Chiefs

Avery revitalized his career in Indianapolis last year with career numbers in catches (60) and yards (781). He was also had the least reliable hands of any receiver on the NFL last year. Still, replacing Avery's production will be a challenge. He'll always be remembered by Colts fans for being the recipient of Andrew Luck's fourteen-yard touchdown pass with no time left on 4th down to beat the Lions by a final score of 35-33 in Week 13.

Loss Impact: Noteworthy

Right tackle Winston Justice

Unsigned

He could still re-sign with the team, but the Colts inking Gosder Cherilus to a five-year, $34.5 million deal means Justice is no longer the starting right tackle despite playing very well for Indianapolis last year. Justice's problem is he can't stay healthy, and playing musical chairs with your tackles will get your team's quarterback killed. Cherilus has started 71 of a possible 75 games. Justice has started in 43 of a possible 59 games over his career.

Still, retaining Justice would seem like a better option than keeping, say, Jeff Linkenbach.

Loss Impact: Noteworthy

Defensive end Dwight Freeney

Unsigned

Everyone likes to point out that he only had 5 sacks last season, but if you're thinking that Erik Walden is going to replace Freeney's pass rushing ability, you're deluded. That's not a knock on Walden, because he'd likely be the first to tell you that replacing the franchise's leader in sacks isn't in his job description.

Freeney was a bad fit for Chuck Pagano's defense, but, to his credit, you never saw Freeney get frustrated or "loaf it" when things weren't going his way. He gutted it out. He played hurt. He led by example. He still required a double team from the opponent's blocking scheme.

Those things will be hard to replace.

Loss Impact: Significant

Notes:

  • UFA wide receiver Austin Collie barely played in 2012 because of concussions and an injured knee. His career in football might be over.
  • Other UFA for the Colts include RB Mewelde Moore and OLB Jamaal Westerman. They were decent players, but not significant loses departures.
  • The Colts let Deji Karim walk after not offering him a tender even though he was a restricted free agent. Karim was the best special teams returner the Colts have had since Terrence Wilkins in 2006. Not replacing him could be a problem. It is possible they could bring him back at a cheaper price, but how much cheaper would he have been if they'd just tendered him?

* Commenter MinerFootball is an Internet grammar Nazi and is in serious need of a hug. Because we cannot hug MinerFootball through the World Wide Web, we've changed every "lose" word into "departure." We also vow never to write articles with the word "lose" in them after we've downed a Starbucks iced coffee and two candy bars. My hands are still shaking. - The Management

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