Free agency will begin in about one day. Last year this time, many of us were wringing our hands over whether or not Edgerrin James would leave, and if he did how would it affect the team. An NFL Championship later, we saw first hand just how it did affect the Colts. I say this a big Edgerrin James fan: it was a good thing he left. The Colts found a younger version of James in Joseph Addai, and with the freed up money they were able to swing a trade for Booger McFarland and sign Adam Vinatieri. So, in a sense, the Colts lost James but gained Addai, Vinatieri, and McFarland with the money it would have taken to keep James. Not bad. Not bad at all.
So, while free agency is highly over-rated, it can help augment a team, or push them over the top. Smart drafting, good cap management, and a solid core of playmakers will get you to the playoffs. A key free agent or a key trade can often get you over the hump. The key is getting equal value for the money you spend, which is an unheard of notion in free agency.
Over at BTB, they have an article posted from the listing the six things the Cowboys need to do to develop a Super Bowl team. I like this idea, and I'm proposing a similar five item list, detailing the five things the Colts need to do to repeat as World Champions. Repeating is not easy. Just ask Pittsburgh, a team that rushed Ben Roethlisberger back too soon from his boneheaded motorcycle accident. Rushing Roethlisberger cost them a playoff spot. Roethlisberger's accident cost Pittsburgh its chances of repeating. Literally, just like that it can change and your team's chances can circle the drain. That's why it is so important to enjoy the journey as much as you relish the championship.
Five things the Colts need to do to repeat as World Champions. I'll list three. The other two have to come from you folks. Either post your ideas in the comments, or email me.
- Replenish linebacker corps. The loss of David Thornton last year to free agency hurt the Colts more than expected. His replacement, Gilbert Gardner, was completely ineffective. Colts defensive coordinator Ron Meeks called out Gardner prior to the Super Bowl, which was essentially Gardner's death knell as a Colt. Rob Morris took Gardner's spot and played well, but he is not a long term solution. Morris is also a free agent, along with starting WILL Cato June. If Morris and June sign elsewhere, only MLB Gary Brackett will remain a holdover from the starting linebacker corps. It's important for the Colts to restock and reload at linebacker, either through the draft or free agency.
- Fix special teams coverage units. The coverage units on special teams were inconsistent all season. In games against KC and Baltimore, they dominated. In games against New England and Chicago, they sucked. In the playoffs, the regular ST players were so bad Dungy benched them and started players like Robert Mathis and Rob Morris on special teams. The Colts rely on rookies and young guys for special teams work, but they need to bring in some good veteran ST help. Dexter Reid was a nice addition last season, but he's since been cut. Improved special teams play is a must.
- Reliable third receiver. I love Brandon Stokley, but he is too injury prone to be trusted or relied upon. Dallas Clark came into his own this season, cementing himself as an elite TE both catching and blocking. However, it's important in the Colts offense to have a reliable third WR that can stretch the seam routes downfield. Teams like New England have fits with receivers like this (ala Dallas Clark). It's probable that Stokley wil not be back, and Clark is not suited to play out wide for 16 games plus the playoffs. It will wear him down. A reliable third WR is important.
There. That's three. What should four and five be?