Before I do anything I believe be a good idea to clear the air. I think most of you know my stance on the Colts Front Office and Mr. Grigson. I'm not a big fan. Shocking I know. I will fully admit that I can be abrasive and can come off as foaming at the mouth and that is my fault. Well today is a new day. After Sunday's game the season is officially over and it is time to seriously talk about the future of the team.
So what is the point of this post? Well it is in the darn title. The defense was a massive disappointment this year and something must be done to change that. Did the defense play some great games? Sure it did but they had plenty of really bad ones-the Pats and KC game included. In the NFL even the worst units are going to have great games. The Jaguars defense played an amazing game against the Broncos and had Peyton on his back or running for his life all game but nobody thinks the Jags need anything sort of a total overall to have a good defense. The sad truth is that the Colt's massive investment and commitment to defense has been an utter failure. Now I really don't like these types of articles. The articles were somebody makes a grand wish list of players to obtain a great 'dream team'. It very quickly becomes a unrealistic fanboy wet dream. I wrote this trying to create a plausible plan for the off season. It is not about getting the flashiest players---it is about getting players that are great values, have upside, fit the system, etc. In a few years this team will be forced to devote large sums of money to it's young offensive players but until then use that money to build a defense that can win games. Defense wins championships. There is simply not enough time or enough picks to build this defense all through the draft---not going to happen. It would take 2-3 years to do that. Until those rookie contracts are up this team needs to win more games on its defense then its offense.
1) FIRE GRIGSON BECAUSE HE IS THE WORST GM IN THE NFL AND IS GOING TO .........
Oh crap---sorry. Fell on old habits. 'New Page"
First---the defensive line. This is the area that I have focused on the most because in my opinion this was the worst unit in the defense by a high mark. As cynical as this sounds I honestly am baffled by other teams did not do what the Pats did. The way to beat the Colts defense is really, really simple---just run it in between tackle. It is just like the Dungy days. I really think we lucked out that other OCs make things so complicated but one of Billy B's greatest talents is just keeping it simple and he wins doing it. That and video taping but I guess cheating falls under the category of 'simple' as well.
As Wilson has wrote-this entire d-line needs to be redone. All of it. It starts with a NT. Nose tackles don't come around often and I for one like Chapman's future. Did he live up to expectations this year? No but the bar was set WAY too high and that is the fault of the Coaches feeding fan's desire for a '900lb safe'. Still NT is a position that seems simple but very, very rarely does a first year player come and blow you away. NT in 3-4 take years to develop. See Dontari Poe. Poe was labeled a bust and disaster just last year and this year was maybe the best NT in the league. This was Chapman's first year and he actually played very well and he seemed to get better as the year went along which is VERY encouraging. Franklin was the stater and is a FA this year and I believe there is no point in bringing him back. He was not very good and Chapman is younger and at the end of the year out played him. As much as I like Chapman he is not ready yet and may take another year or two for him to get to that level. The Colts need to bring in a NT in FA. I see no better option than Paul Soliai. Soliai is an unsung hero of the Miami defense. Yes Miami now plays a 4-3 but Soliai was originally a 3-4 NT and is better suited for it. Randy Starks gets more attention than Soliai but that is because Starks is a strong pass rusher while Soliai is the big '900lb safe' and the space-eater players rarely get much notice. Miami is unlikely to resign both Starks and Soliai and they will most likely let Soliai test the market as Starks is better suited for their system to begin with. How much would it take to get Soliai? Well he is 30 years old and NT's don't hit the market that often but at the same time the demand for a NT is also low from year to year because most teams that run a 3-4 usually already have their NT to start with as it is such an essential position in a 3-4. I believe Colts could sign him for 3 years for 15 million and that may seem high but that would be a great signing that instantly improves the run defense.
Next comes RJR and the DT spot. The RJF contract was dumb. Sorry but it just was. RJF was not awful but came nowhere close to living up to his pay and did not show himself to be a top tier player. It is a pretty big red flag when he missed 7 games from injuries in his first year as a starter . Grigson needs to man up to his error and let RJF go. Now RJF is due 5.125 million this year and cutting him would save 3.25 million and leave 1.875 million in dead money. It is not out of the question for Grigson to swing a trade because any team that got RJF would only have to pay the base salary for him with 0 guaranteed. I still am not sure any team would want to take him even for that much but it is possible especially if he is packaged with a lower draft pick with the Colts obtaining a higher one. Maybe offering RJF and a 7th RD pick for a 4th RD for an example. Does not seem unreasonable. Either way RJF needs to be replaced. With who? There are actually quite a few good candidates but the player I have been saying is still my favorite--Arthur Jones. He was at the Ravens with Pagano and fits the system perfectly. He is great against the run and adds a nice physical pass rush. Trying to project A. Jones contract is hard but I have seen estimates at around 4 million a year which seems low to me but even 5 million per year is less than what RJF would count against the cap in future years.
Now last is the hard one. The DE spot----the spot that Redding holds down. Now I like Redding as a player and he brings a nice energy but let's call it how it is. He was the best player on a terrible line, has one year left on his contract, and is 33 years old. The future is not with Redding. I am not totally opposed to keeping him on the team but I believe that Colts should look hard at other options. What does the RL Plan for Defensive Dominance say? It says that Lamarr Houston appears to have no future at the Raiders and that if Houston is there----cut Redding and sign the man. Trading Redding seems unlikely because of his age but still worth picking up the phones to try. Releasing him or trading him would save 3.5 million and have put 899k in dead money and Houston might come cheap. Sadly Houston's stock seems to be on the rise but he is still way underrated. Why Houston could go so cheap really boils down to the disaster called the Oakland Raiders. See Houston is a freak athlete and defining his position is really hard to----he is that special a talent. Well the Raiders in their infinite wisdom have kept to their 4-3 defense even though they should of moved to a 3-4. Well they put Houston as the RE in this 4-3 because they had nobody else that could play the position. The move was mocked but he played extremely well there to much surprise. Why was it mocked? Houston is 300 freaking pounds. In perspective Cory Reddng is 318lb and Redding is actually taller than Houston. Houston belongs as a defensive lineman and even though he is not the prototypical fit for Pagano's DE position he is a MUST SIGN. Houston is an absolute monster against the run and has shown that he can be an excellent pass rusher---what more could you ask for? He is a nightmare match up with Mathis outside him. Houston has shown he can physically dominate larger tackles thus I'd love to see him get to have Mathis on his right and have him pair up against a smaller LG.. What will he cost? I have no idea. His stock is on the rise but because the Raiders had no idea what to do with him he is sort of a question mark. He has been labeled as a 4-3 DT, a 4-3 pass rusher, a 3-4 weak side OLB and a 3-4 DE. It may seem like this 'jack of all trades aspect' would drive up the price but in the heat of FA it usually results in a player getting passed over. GM's want to know exactly they are spending money on. Also, there are so many 'pass rushers' that could hit FA this year (Hardy, Allen, Orakpo, Johnson) that because he played as a outside pass rusher this year that is what he will be labeled and so he will be compared to these players. It is a perfect storm for a player getting way less than they deserve. I have looked all over and the only projected number I saw was 3 million per year. That seems way low to me. I think he is a steal at 5-6 million per year but if he is going for less than dear God sign him for as many years as he'll take. I'm sure Houston would also love to join a winning program with stability where he gets to play his natural position and oh yeah----have the NFL sack leader next to him.
Just writing that makes me smile
Just screwing around. Mathis is set as the ROLB and we can only hope Werner learns quickly. Mathis is near the end of his run and at this age players can just turn to crap over night (See Ed Reed). I saw very little promise from Werner. I wish I could say "Well at leas the did this well" but in all honesty nothing he did gave me hope. We shall see though and hopefully Mathis can keep it up in the mean time.
Then we get to Walden. The Walden contract was the one that got the most hate this off season. It was a stupid contract don't get me wrong but does not compare to the RJF and Toler contracts in terms of mind-boggling ignorance. In the end Walden was not 'as bad' as we feared but don't kid yourself---he was not good. He delivered near zero pass rush most games and his ability to set the edge was average at best. He also has kept up with this reputation of reading any option run about as well as I can read Latin (Not very well). Idiotically Grigson guaranteed Walden's first 2 years so cutting him would result in no freeing of cap space unless he was traded (I believe this to be the case but correct me if I am wrong). All being said it seems Walden is on this team for one more year and that is the best move with one big 'unless'. That 'unless' is called Anthony Spencer. Spencer is a FA and considering Dallas is like 25 million over the cap you can bet Spencer won't be tagged or signed. Spencer was moved to LE when Monte imposed his stupid 4-3 but Spencer is natural 3-4 LOLB and a damn good one. He is coming off a bad injury and I HATE signing injury prone players but Spencer is an exception. Because of his injury he could come insanely cheap. You hear nothing about him. When you hear people talk about FA this year have you ever heard Spencer's name said? I have not heard it once. If the Colts can grab Spencer to a 2-3 or even a 1 year deal for 4 million or less TAKE IT. If we rewind just a year ago the idea of Spencer making less than 9-10 million seemed silly but in the NFL things change quick and Spencer could easily be the steal of FA this year. When Spencer is healthy he is one of the best OLB in the entire league and not only does he immediately improve this run defense but adds a great pass rush as well. Even Grigson is willing to shill out big money for the Mr. Made of Glass Landry-----he can sign this guy.
Vontae Davis. I believe he should be re-signed but over paying is not ok. At all. My greatest fear is the Colts are going to sign him to a nice contract and his effort will take a nose dive and suddenly he will start missing time for minor, unspecified injuries. As Colts fans we have seen this before----call it "New Contract Syndrome". The Colts need to stop making excuses for over paying. "Oh we had to over pay Cherilus because we needed line help" or "3-4 lineman don't come around often so he HAD to over pay RJF". We are now hearing "Well Davis has been the best CB on the team and we traded for him just 2 years ago so it is ok to over pay some"
Do Colts fans have no memory? This exact same non sense happened with the Polians. You can 'over pay ' sometimes but you can't KEEP doing it. It adds up and ties you down later. Davis has not come close to earning more than 8+ per year. This is was his first full year and he was wildly inconsistent. He has had a slew of discipline problems in the past and his work ethic has always been in question.
If he wants too much then Grigson needs to grow a pair and let him walk. Call his bluff. He won't get big money in FA. I see about 6 million per year as fair. I also say "backload it". Usually backloading is a dirty word but in the case of Davis I say do it. Keep his base salary around 2-3 million over the first 2 years and spread a 1-2 million dollar bonus out each year to try and keep his cap hit only 3-4 million per year for the first 2 years or so. A player that shows lack of effort often should not get too cozy. It is a good plan to make sure he knows he can be cut well before the end of his contract if he starts getting "New Contract Syndrome."
Hopefully Davis works out but the other CB spot is a different story. Toler has to be cut. It defies common sense to keep him. He misses way too much time, his stupid contract gives Davis leverage in contract talks, and he honestly is just not very good. Trading Toler would be near impossible because none of the other 31 teams would want him at that cost. Releasing Toler opens up 4.16 million with only 668k in dead money. Finding a sold replacement #2CB there is a long list but I have 2 that I believe should be the top targets.
First is Sam Shields. I know that seems unrealistic but I believe he could come at a good price. I am a huge fan of Shields and honestly believe he could emerge as a top-3 man CB in this league. I am not a big fan of Dom Capers and tell all my Packer friends he is a garbage DC who should of been fired 3 years ago. I don't watch a ton of Packers games but I watched a few and Shields would be playing extremely well and then suddenly Shields is put in zone---which he is not stellar at---and he gets burned. Shields needs to play tight man coverage which is what Pagano wants out of his cornerbacks. Shield's season did not end near as well as it started but I firmly believe this is the result of a injury-laden Packer's defense that is not very good to start and from having old man Capers coaching him. Shields has never been able to secure a long term deal and I firmly believe the Colts could entice him to a low-guarantee, long term contract to come play under a supposed "Secondary Expert" coach. Cost? I honestly don't know. He was only on a 2 million dollar/1 year deal this year and did not end the year on a high note. If the season would of ended at like week 8 I think he would of been the hottest CB out there and go for 7-8 million but now I actually believe he might go as low as 4-5 which is what Toler was going to make anyway. Even at 6 million per year I say go for it. Having Davis and Shields as your CBs is a possible game changer. Just like with Davis I say backload it. Part of the reason is because there is so much talent in this year's draft at DB and Pagano is supposed to be this secondary genius that in theory Colts can take 2-3 years and develop new CBs to replace either or both of them right at the time they start making bigger parts of their contract. Seems devious but that is how NFL works. Players fall for it. That is exactly what Cherilus contract is (See I'm giving Grigson some credit). Cherilus contract is structured in a way to keep the 2nd and 3rd year pay low so he can be cut after year 3 when he would see his cap hit more than double. If you think this team will not cut Cherilus in 2 years then I'd happily make a wager with you because they planned to cut him after year 3 the day they signed the contract with him.
The more realistic favorite of mine is Tarell Brown. I don't get the feeling 49ers really want to pony up the money and Brown is one of the most underrated CBs in the league. He is no Revis but he plays very physical and he should only command 3.5-4.5 million per year and the guy has missed a grand total of 4 games in the last 5 years. He is 29 but adding a veteran but still relatively young top-CB is a must. Why Grigson paid Toler 5 million is still beyond me but the Colts can easily get a experienced, top CB who is not made of glass for less money than they pay Toler.
My part two will be shorter and focus on the safety and ILB position both of which I have more a 'fluid' idea of what should be done.
I might do an offensive one but I actually don't think a ton needs to be done regarding the offense. Defense is a much larger priority.