On the first day of free agency, the Colts were certainly active and they made several good moves. They signed defensive lineman Arthur Jones from the Baltimore Ravens, re-signed cornerback Vontae Davis, re-signed kicker Adam Vinatieri, re-signed safety Sergio Brown, and re-signed running back Ahmad Bradshaw.
Here's my initial take on the moves made yesterday (contract information from spotrac.com):
Arthur Jones, DE - 5-years, $33 million ($10 million guaranteed) - The Colts lone signing from another team yesterday, they had their sights set on Jones and they scooped him up just minutes after free agency began. Jones will absolutely help the Colts defensive line and brings the ability to play both the end and nose tackle spots, which makes him especially valuable. He has played for Chuck Pagano before and they both are fond of each other, and Jones is good friends with Cory Redding as well. There was no doubt that the Colts needed defensive line help, and they got it. The contract was significant, but it's nothing that I'm going to complain about. Initial Reaction: B+
Vontae Davis, CB - 4 years, $39 million ($20 million guaranteed) - I have made my point of view very clear, and that is that I believe Davis was a player the Colts absolutely had to re-sign. Several will disagree with that and even more will disagree with giving Davis $9.75 million a year on average, but I think that's exactly in line with what the market was determining for cornerbacks and the 25-year old Davis got a contract that fit right into the market. He is an important player for the Colts and a good fit for their system, and he was the Colts primary target in free agency from the very first day they started discussing who to keep and who to sign. The Colts had to go into the new league year a bit to do it, but they got Davis under contract. Initial Reaction: B+
Adam Vinatieri, K - 2 years, $5 million ($500,000 guaranteed) - The legend is back. Vinatieri, arguably the greatest kicker in NFL history, had one of his best seasons ever last year with the Colts and absolutely deserved to be back, even at 41-years old. At $2.5 million a year, I'll gladly take that contract for Vinatieri. I love this move. Initial Reaction: A
Sergio Brown, S - unknown - It won't get the attention that the others are getting, but the Colts re-signed safety Sergio Brown yesterday as well. I haven't seen the contract details yet and so that might sway my opinion a bit, but I fully expect it to be a reasonable deal and if so, then I love this move for the Colts too. Brown provides good safety depth, sure, but he is a tremendous special teams player and a great gunner - and important part of the Colts coverage units. This shows that the Colts are committed to special teams and it was a great move to help in that area. Initial Reaction: A
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB - 1-year, unknown amount - Assuming this isn't an unreasonable money amount, then there's not much wrong with this deal. It's a low risk, very high reward signing. Bradshaw was the Colts' best running back last year before getting injured in week three and missing the rest of the year. He will be coming back to give depth, but if he stays healthy he will likely once again be the team's best back. To get that potential reward for a low risk signing, what's not to like? Initial Reaction: A
Compared to last offseason, I like the moves a lot better early on. But that doesn't mean the Colts are done. They still have several holes left to address. What might they do at those positions? Earlier this offseason I did a series of articles about the positions of need that the Colts would have. I'll list all of those positions below - if it already has been addressed I'll include that and if it hasn't been, I'll look at how and when they might look to address it.
Re-signed Ahmad Bradshaw
The Colts still need a wide receiver. Reggie Wayne is 35 years old, coming off of a torn ACL, and is entering the final year of his contract. Da'Rick Rogers and LaVon Brazill are talented young players but they still have a lot of work to do and shouldn't be counted on to play a major role next season. If they do, great, but I'm stunned how many fans think those two (especially Rogers) are good enough and I'm amazed how many fans would be comfortable with those two. I'm not. The Colts aren't. And the Colts are going to look to add a wide receiver. Ideally, it would be a number one who could eventually replace Reggie Wayne and not force star receiver T.Y. Hilton into the number one role, but there's not a number one receiver in free agency this year. If it were up to me, I would address this position in the draft, as it is a deep position this year and by the time the Colts pick in the second round there will still be some very good receivers. Additionally, it's better to play with a rookie wide receiver in a significant role than, say, a rookie offensive lineman. At the same time, however, I don't think the Colts will wait until the draft to address the receiver position. They have interest in several receivers, including Eric Decker. Other possibilities include Hakeem Nicks, James Jones, Golden Tate, and Emmanuel Sanders. At this point it's hard to predict who they will end up getting, but there is enough legitimate interest from the team's management that it leads me to think they will address the receiver position in free agency. Right now, they're waiting a bit and letting things settle - which is a good thing and could drive prices down.
Offensive Line (Center)
By far the biggest free agency need in my opinion, the Colts need a center. They released Samson Satele (great move) and now only have Khaled Holmes and Austin Thomas at center on their current roster. If Holmes couldn't get into the lineup last year after playing well in very limited time, being drafted by Grigson, and especially seeing how awful the center position was for the Colts, then there is something wrong. I'm not saying that Holmes isn't or won't be a good player, just that relying on him as the starting center for next season is something that the Colts absolutely cannot afford to do. Ryan Grigson has stated before how he doesn't like playing rookie offensive linemen, but last year should have been an exception for Holmes if he could have played. This year, however, I don't think it's wise at all for the Colts - a team without a first round pick - to count on adding a center in the draft and then having addressed the position adequately. There are several options at center for the Colts in free agency, and in my opinion this is the most important position to address with a free agent signing. There is still a chance that a team could pry Alex Mack away from Cleveland, but don't expect that whatsoever and don't count on it. It's very, very, very unlikely. For all intents and purposes, we'll just rule it out. Evan Dietrich-Smith, Jonathan Goodwin, and Brian de la Puente are three good options for the Colts. If they go without signing any of those three, then I will have serious questions for Ryan Grigson.
Defensive Line (Nose Tackle)
Signed Arthur Jones
Signed D'Qwell Jackson
Re-signed Vontae Davis
Longtime Colts safety Antoine Bethea left in free agency, leaving a hole in the Colts secondary at the safety position. Especially with LaRon Landry at the other one, the biggest thing the Colts need is a consistent player to man the other spot. While this is definitely a need, I would say that of the three positions we're singling out as a major need, this is easily the most likely to be addressed in the draft. Delano Howell is coming back next season and he was the most reliable safety the Colts had in 2013, playing well and playing better than Landry while filling in for him. I even said that Howell should start in place of a healthy Landry, but shortly after that Howell's season was over with an injury, as he was placed on IR. The Colts like Howell, and I do as well, and I wouldn't be surprised whatsoever if they gave him a serious look at being Bethea's replacement. Having Howell already gave Ryan Grigson more leeway to let Bethea go (which, as hard as it might have been, it was the right decision considering the contract Bethea ended up getting). The Colts could pick up a safety for cheap in free agency, but I wouldn't expect anything big and most likely is that they add a safety in the draft and have him compete with Howell for the other safety spot.
Re-signed Adam Vinatieri
Re-signed Pat McAfee
Re-signed Sergio Brown
The Colts have other needs besides the three I looked at above, but those are the three that I consider to be major needs - ones that they absolutely must address in some way or else it will be a big failure. Other needs - like more depth along the offensive and defensive lines and maybe another pass rusher - are ones that the Colts can get by without addressing and are there primarily for depth and competition at areas that are weak. The major needs that I see are wide receiver, center, and safety.
The Colts have made several moves so far. The big deals might be over, but there are surely more to come for Ryan Grigson and the Indianapolis Colts as he continues to build them into a championship-caliber team.