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Looking Ahead to the Offseason for the Colts

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The Colts season is over, and it means the offseason has begun! Stampede Blue's Andrew Aziz breaks down the Colts free agents, as well as the team needs, the draft and free agency market.

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

The season is done and a whole new one begins. The Colts must shift their mentality into offseason mode. The Colts must deal with the NFL combine, pro days, free agency, the draft and then minicamps until the 2015 training camp begins. It's a big process and one that can dramatically change a team.

Team Needs

What do the Colts need? Let's eliminate what they definitely don't need. They definitely don't need a quarterback, a tight end or a cornerback. That leaves offensive linemen, running back, wide receiver, 5 technique defensive end, nose tackle, inside linebacker and safety as areas they could go in the draft. Also, if Adam Vinatieri were to retire, kicker would become a big need (but we'll assume he sticks around). Of the seven positions/areas named above, let's rank and breakdown each need from least important to most important.

7 -- Wide Receiver

TY Hilton is the future at the position and there is a lot of potential in Donte Moncrief. He's also a longterm answer for the #2 receiver spot. However, with Wayne on the way out (and not effective anymore) and Nicks having a so-so season, there is little depth at the position. It is a position the Colts need to address because the depth is weak.

6 -- Nose Tackle

Josh Chapman did a decent job stopping the run this season but is inconsistent and only plays in 35% of the snaps. Montori Hughes shows good potential, but has only played in 17% of the snaps. They don't have a guy who can go in there, play 75% of the snaps and have a consistent, positive impact.

5 -- Running Back

Trent Richardson is most likely gone, Ahmad Bradshaw is a free agent, Dan Herron is a free agent and as it stands right now, Ballard is the only guy scheduled to return. The Colts have options on their own team and will most likely re-sign one of the two free agents. If they don't re-sign any guys, then the position will become a bigger need, but as it stands, it's a small need.

4 -- 5 Technique Defensive End

Cory Redding is a free agent and even if he is re-signed, his career is almost done and a replacement must be found. Ricky Jean Francois has been nothing more than an average player with the Colts and there aren't any players on the roster who have proven they deserve a starting spot (other than Francois).

3 -- Safety

Mike Adams had a fantastic season, but he's getting up there in age. On top of that, Laron Landry had a very poor season and Sergio Brown's play was marred with inconsistency (although Brown had a lot of good moments). Nevertheless, there is a need for safety. Not only do they need a longterm answer, but they need someone who can play (with consistency) next to Mike Adams. Having a nice safety duo can take this team a long way (ask Seattle).

2 -- Inside Linebacker

D'Qwell Jackson and Jerrell Freeman had average seasons, but Jackson's career is in the final stretch and Freeman lacks consistency. They could use a longterm answer at the position as well as someone who could be a great rotational thumper for the meantime. Because of the importance of the position in the 3-4 defense, it's a more important than need than safety (for example). McNary is most likely gone meaning the depth will be thin.

1 -- Interior Offensive Linemen

Annnnnnnnnd for the 5th year in a row, the top need is getting an offensive lineman. To be specific, it's about getting a good guard, but as demonstrated by the Mewhort pick last year, you can draft a tackle and move him in inside if he has the versatility, knee bend, explosiveness, etc. The Patriots playoff game demonstrated just how big of a need it was. Jack Mewhort was a good start, but it seems that Hugh Thornton, Lance Louis and Khaled Holmes are backups at best. They need another interior linemen and then they would take another step in the right direction.

Draft Preview

Based on the team needs, what will the draft look like? Who should the Colts target? The theory should always be best available player based on your needs. Let's examine players at the top three need positions:

*Round projections and best prospect analysis based on their standing in late January*

Safety

Best Prospect: Landon Collins -- Alabama (Top 15)

Other Top Prospect (with round projection in brackets):

Cody Prewitt -- Ole Miss (2nd Round)

Derron Smith -- Fresno State (2nd Round -- 3rd Round)

Anthony Harris -- Virginia (2nd Round -- 3rd Round)

Jacquiski Tartt -- Samford (3rd Round)

Jordan Richards -- Stanford (3rd Round)

Collins is definitely the best of the bunch and out of reach for the Colts. Prewitt and Smith are good options in the 2nd round.

Inside Linebacker

Best Prospect: Benardick McKinney -- Mississippi State (1st Round -- 2nd Round)

Other Top Prospect (with round projection in brackets):

Denzel Perryman -- Miami (Fla.) (2nd Round)

Eric Kendricks -- UCLA (2nd Round -- 3rd Round)

Ramik Wilson -- Georgia (3rd Round -- 4th Round)

The inside linebacker class isn't very strong this season, but McKinney is a late 1st round option. Perryman and Kendricks are 2nd round options as well and could start next season.

Interior Offensive Linemen

Best Prospect: AJ Cann -- South Carolina (2nd Round)

Other Top Prospect (with round projection in brackets):

Tre' Jackson -- Florida State (2nd Round)

Arie Kouandjio -- Alabama (2nd Round -- 3rd Round)

Josue Matis -- Florida State (2nd Round -- 3rd Round)

Cann is the top guy here and although there isn't a definitive 1st round option (yet), there are plenty of options in the 2nd and 3rd round, all coming from strong schools.

Colts Free Agents

Who are the impending free agents? I'm going to steal Josh Wilson's bit from his recent article:

UFA (Unrestricted Free Agents)No restrictions, the player is a free agent and is free to sign with any team

  • Reggie Wayne, WR
  • Cory Redding, DE
  • Hakeem Nicks, WR
  • Matt Hasselbeck, QB
  • Darius Butler, CB
  • Fili Moala,DE
  • Joe Reitz, OL
  • Josh Gordy, CB
  • Sergio Brown, S
  • Andy Studebaker, LB
  • Colt Anderson, S
  • Mike Adams, S
  • Ahmad Bradshaw, RB
  • Josh Cribbs, WR/KR

RFA (Restricted Free Agent)the player is a free agent but the team can give a qualifying offer, in which case they have the right of first refusal and can match the offer another team gives the player if they so desire

  • Jerrell Freeman, LB
  • A.Q. Shipley, OL
  • Matt Overton, LS
  • Delano Howell, S
  • Daniel Herron, RB

ERFA (Exclusive Rights Free Agent)if the team offers the player a contract, they have no options but to take the contract or not play in the NFL

  • Josh McNary, LB
  • Cam Johnson, LB
  • Xavier Nixon, OL
  • Daniel Adongo, OLB
  • Michael Hill, RB

Free Agency Market

The free agent market is rich in certain areas and weak in others. If we examine the top 3 needs on the Colts, what do those markets look like?

Safety

Antrel Rolle

Louis Delmas

Stevie Brown

Rahim Moore

Darian Stewart

Jerome Miles

Tashaun Gipson

There are plenty of mid-tier options at safety. Stewart and Miles are Ravens players (Chuck Pagano's former team) who have played well in their limited amount of starts. Moore, Brown and Delmas are average starters who provide good value for a team like Indianapolis, who need all the talent they can get (next to Adams). Gipson had a big year with Cleveland (6 interceptions), and although not a perfect fit with the Colts, he would be a good starter next to Adams.

Inside Linebacker

Brandon Spikes

Mason Foster

David Harris

Rolando McClain

Spikes could be a good option for the Colts if they intend on signing someone in free agency. He may be a bit expensive, but he's proven to be a good player in two systems (Patriots & Bills). Foster and McClain are 4-3 guys who fit better in 4-3 systems (and will probably stay on their teams), but nevertheless are options. David Harris is a veteran who has been consistent in his years with the Jets.

Interior Offensive Linemen

Mike Iupati

Stefan Wisniewski

James Carpenter

Willie Colon

Orlando Franklin

Clint Boling

The Colts don't like to look at free agency for offensive linemen often, but Iupati and Wisniewski are two outstanding options. They would cost a lot of money, but both would be huge upgrades for an interior line that lacks a lot of consistency.

It will be an exciting offseason for the Colts and it will be interesting to see what they do during free agency. It will also be interesting to see how the draft plays out, as this will be the first time in a few seasons where the Colts will have their first three picks.