As we are less than 24 hours away from the new league year starting, thus bringing about the start of free agency, there is nothing that Colts fans are paying attention to more than the status of cornerback Vontae Davis, who has yet to re-sign with the Colts. Davis was the team's clear-cut number one priority this offseason, but now they are less than a day away from Davis hitting the open market, where it would be unlikely for him to return to the Colts.
Today, according to a report from Pro Football Talk's Mike Florio, Davis is nearing a deal, but it's not with the Colts. Florio cites a league source, saying that Davis is likely going to sign a deal on Tuesday but that it is unlikely to be the Colts at this point and that, in fact, Davis is close to a deal with another team (who Florio doesn't mention). Florio wrote:
"Per a league source, Davis is expected to sign a deal on Tuesday, the first day of free agency. At this point, it likely won't be the Colts.
"The situation is fluid and dynamic and subject to change, as evidenced by the fact that, as of last night, there was a report that Davis was close to re-signing with the Colts.
"For now, he's not. He's close to signing with someone else. And he could do just that on Tuesday."
The first thing to bring up is that, at this point, there is a lot of smoke screens going up. There will be many wrong reports. Just last night, Jason La Canfora reported that the Colts and Davis were close to a deal, Stephen Holder and Mike Wells both reported otherwise, and today Mike Florio is reporting that Davis is close to a deal with another team. Obviously, they can't all be right, so take every report you hear with a grain of salt.
On the other hand, however, it does seem likely at this point that Vontae Davis will hit the free agent market. While I don't know the team Florio is reporting to be close to a deal and can't speculate on who it might be, it does seem likely that Davis will hit the market. If that happens, it won't officially rule the Colts out, but it makes it very, very unlikely that the corner will return. If the Colts are unwilling to pay him now, they won't be much more likely to change their mind.
At the very least, the Colts had better be getting their backup plan together. I'm not very confident that they have a solid one, as they were clearly making Davis their primary target. Several corners will be available, but the Colts have to be careful as to who they sign. For example, would Alterraun Verner - one of the top corners available - really be the wisest choice for the Colts if he is going to get a similar contract to Davis when he is a zone cover corner (the Colts rely on man coverage for their corners, at which Davis excels)? I don't think so. But there is no doubt about the fact that IF Vontae Davis hits the free agent market, the secondary automatically becomes easily the biggest need for the Colts. Both Davis, Cassius Vaughn, and safety Antoine Bethea are due to become free agents tomorrow. That's two of the four starters from last year, and really the only two reliable players. The fact of the matter is that the Colts are going to have to spend for a cornerback or else face a gaping hole in the defense which teams will exploit. I'd be much, much more comfortable paying Davis than paying most of the corners on the market, but it appears that might not happen.
If the Colts had really wanted to keep Davis, they should have placed the franchise tag on him, which would have signed him for one year and $11 million. At the very least they could have placed the transition tag on him, which would have given them the ability to match any offer. The Colts did neither, confident that they could re-sign one of their own to a longer deal, but it didn't happen. Davis turned down offers because he wanted to see what other teams would offer, and apparently, the Colts wouldn't give him as much as he wanted. This is where it will be very interesting for me to see how much Davis ends up getting (whether from the Colts or from another team) because every indication I got was that the Colts highly valued keeping Davis. If Davis gets anything short of $10 million a year, I'd be very surprised unless it's with the Colts. But again, this is speculation.
At this point, some have even wondered whether the entire report is just a smokescreen to try and get the Colts to give Davis more money, and it honestly could very well be that. I haven't heard of a team being close to a deal with Davis yet (that doesn't mean I'm doubting the report, just that I can't confirm it yet).
This is a hard position for general manager Ryan Grigson because many fans will be upset no matter what the Colts do. But I think fans would be much more upset after seeing the defense without Vontae Davis next season than they would be at signing Davis to a deal now. We're getting down to crunch time here for the Colts, and there is a report today from Mike Florio saying that Davis is likely to leave the Colts and sign with another team. There's still a lot that can happen, but one thing is certain: either the Colts had better sign Vontae Davis or else they'd better have a backup plan ready, because if Davis leaves the secondary will be a major, major need.