The 2012 Indianapolis Colts had a great 11-5 season in which they made the playoffs, but they were still a team with numerous issues that needed to be addressed this offseason. Luckily, the Colts had plenty of money to spend in the offseason, and spend they did. Pre-draft, it appears that they signed six new starters. First, however, let's look at who would likely start for the Colts if the season started today:
Quarterback: Andrew Luck
Running Back: Vick Ballard
Wide Receiver: Reggie Wayne
Wide Receiver: T.Y. Hilton
Tight End: Dwayne Allen
Tight End: Coby Fleener
Left Tackle: Anthony Castonzo
Left Guard: Donald Thomas *
Center: Samson Satele
Right Guard: Mike McGlynn
Right Tackle: Gosder Cherilus *
Left Defensive End: Cory Redding
Right Defensive End: Ricky Jean-Francois *
Nose Tackle: Josh Chapman
Inside Linebacker: Jerrell Freeman
Inside Linebacker: Pat Angerer
Rush Linebacker: Robert Mathis
Outside Linebacker: Erik Walden *
Right Cornerback: Vontae Davis
Left Cornerback: Greg Toler *
Strong Safety: LaRon Landry *
Free Safety: Antoine Bethea
Kicker: Adam Vinatieri
Punter: Pat McAfee
Long Snapper: Matt Overton
Alright, so let's look at the positions the Colts' addressed and rate it as either an upgrade, downgrade, or a push (even); as well as the positions they still need to address in the draft.
Left Guard: Donald Thomas was signed as a free agent from the New England Patriots. The five-year veteran has appeared in 43 career games, starting 21. He was a very underrated player on the Patriots' offensive line, and being a backup on their o-line is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. The only thing I don't know about Thomas next year is whether he will be starting at left guard or right guard. Right now, he would probably be penciled in at left guard, but I think it might be better for the Colts to - gasp- start Jeff Linkenbach here and Thomas at right guard. Either way, the Colts very well may not be done addressing this position, but for now we will call this one a push because, while Thomas has potential, he is in large part unproven. PUSH
Right Tackle: While Winston Justice played decent at times last year, he was injury-prone and inconsistent, which made the right tackle spot a big need. The Colts upgraded it by signing former Lion Gosder Cherilus. Cherilus was one of the best pass rushers in the NFL last year for the Lions, and with franchise quarterback Andrew Luck taking waaayyyyy too many hits last year, it made the signing even that much more important. Cherilus also missed very few games in his five years, making him a very good signing for the Colts. This one is clearly an upgrade. UPGRADE
Right Defensive End: Ricky Jean-Francois was a backup on the San Francisco 49ers defensive line, but like the Patriots' offensive line, there is no shame in that. Jean-Francois' biggest strength is his versatility, as he can play any of the spots along the defensive line. He is a good player, but he is not used to playing the majority of the snaps, which he likely will have to in Indy. If he can handle that well, then this will be a great signing for the Colts. Like with all of these, we will need to wait and see. For now, we will call it a push since he is a talented player but rather untested with being a starter. PUSH
Outside Linebacker: When Dwight Freeney left, I thought that the Colts could do much better at outside linebacker. Unfortunately, they could also do worse. And I fear that may be what happened with signing Erik Walden. While Walden is clearly an upgrade at run defense, he is even more clearly a downgrade at pass rush. A lot has been made about his contract (which is ridiculous), but the bottom line is that he is not an upgrade at the position for the Colts and should not be viewed as such. DOWNGRADE
Left Cornerback: Greg Toler replaces Jerraud Powers in the Colts' lineup, and the two players are somewhat similar in the fact that they are both young, talented cornerbacks who have struggled with injuries at times. However, Toler has not struggled with injuries to the level that Powers has and if for nothing else that makes this a slight upgrade. Added to that, I think Toler has the potential to be a very good player, and like most of these signings, the Colts are banking on that potential. I think that Toler has as good of a shot as any of them to reach it. I'll call this one a slight upgrade at this point. SLIGHT UPGRADE
Strong Safety: LaRon Landry brings the most accomplished resume of any of the Colts' free agent signings, besides for veteran quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Landry had a career year in 2012 and made the pro bowl, and with his physical style he is a great fit in Chuck Pagano's defense. He is a good player who is in a defense where he fits really well, and this seems to be a massive upgrade over Tom Zbikowski - whose struggles were well documented last year. BIG UPGRADE
1) Pass Rusher - the only place where I think the Colts got worse than last year was in the area of pass rush, and that wasn't great last year anyways. This is clearly the most obvious need.
2) Wide Receiver - the Colts need to find a replacement for Reggie Wayne, who is nearing the end of his career, and also they need to find a guy to play alongside Wayne and T.Y. Hilton now.
3) Offensive Guard - Donald Thomas was a nice signing, and Jeff Linkenbach was solid last year. Mike McGlynn also played decent at times last year; but the Colts still don't have a real good offensive guard. If they can find one in the draft, that would be huge.
4) Nose Tackle - the defensive line needs to continue to be addressed, as the DL is a major key in the 3-4 defense working. Finding a starting nose tackle is huge, and while Josh Chapman has the looks of a starting-caliber NT, it never hurts to have options.