The Colts safety position in 2013 wasn't great. If they're not careful, however, it could be even worse in 2014.
Antoine Bethea is due to become a free agent on March 11, and the Colts face an interesting decision on whether they will re-sign him. It is anything but certain. In 2013 Bethea wasn't great for the second straight season and can be replaced. At the end of the season, however, Bethea started to play better and to really make some plays like he used to. The veteran leadership of Bethea will be missed if he's not re-signed and he can be replaced. At the same time, however, the Colts would have to replace a guy who has topped 100 tackles in the last 4 seasons and in 5 of the last 6. Bethea has given up his share of plays in the past two seasons, for sure, but he still produces tackles and is an important safety gap for the Colts.
Furthermore, Bethea was clearly the better of the two starting safeties for the Colts. LaRon Landry, who was signed last offseason, was awful. He won't be released and he won't lose his starting spot, but he was not good last year whatsoever.
The interesting question to me is what the Colts think of Delano Howell. I was very impressed with him in 2013 and thought he was the team's best safety when he played, but he ended the season on injured reserve and never did surpass either Bethea or Landry as the starter when they were both healthy. If the Colts were as impressed with Howell as I was and if they think that he can step in as a starter, they will be more likely to let Bethea go in free agency. Even then, if they don't re-sign Bethea, I'd expect them to look at someone else to bring in. But I'm not sure if they'd go after a big-name guy and instead think that if Bethea is gone, the Colts will have Delano Howell and someone else compete for the starting spot. The bottom line is that I think it will ultimately come down to money for the Colts and Bethea - they'll pay the safety but they won't overpay what he is worth. If that's good with the 8-year vet, then he'll be back as the starter for 2014. If not, then the safety position becomes one of need for the Colts.
Potential Safety Options for teams this Offseason:
Free Agents (keep in mind some of these players will be re-signed by their current team)
- Jairus Byrd, Buffalo Bills
- T.J. Ward, Cleveland Browns
- Donte Whitner, San Francisco 49ers
- Chris Clemons, Miami Dolphins
- Antoine Bethea, Indianapolis Colts
- Major Wright, Chicago Bears
- Bernard Pollard, Tennessee Titans
- James Ihedigbo, Baltimore Ravens
- Brandon Meriweather, Washington Redskins
- Stevie Brown, New York Giants
- Haha Clinton-Dix, Alabama
- Calvin Pryor, Louisville
- Dion Bailey, USC
- Terrence Brooks, Florida State
- Craig Loston, USC
- Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois
- Ahmad Dixon, Baylor
- Deone Bucannon, Washington State
- Ed Reynolds, Stanford