The Indianapolis Colts lost to the New England Patriots 45-7 in the AFC Championship game and enter the offseason clearly in need of more pieces to build to reach their ultimate goal of the Super Bowl. They have a number of needs on the team, though some are greater needs than others, and we'll be taking a look at some of those needs over the next week or two. Today, we continue our series by looking at the wide receiver position - and, again, note that this series is not ranking the needs but rather exploring them one by one, regardless of how big of a need that particular position is.
Yesterday, we reviewed the 2014 season for the Colts' wide receivers, and there were certainly some encouraging things that came from the position this year, especially the play of T.Y. Hilton. But we also noted the uncertainty of the position moving forward. Reggie Wayne is considering retirement and his return is far from certain, and both Wayne and Hakeem Nicks are free agents this offseason. It's unknown whether neither, one, or both of them will return, but their contracts are up. Furthermore, neither Griff Whalen nor Josh Cribbs should factor into the discussion here, as they're not legitimate receiving options - Whalen is a good depth receiver and role player, but for the sake of our discussion, he's not the answer to this need for the Colts. That leaves just T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief for the Colts in 2015 at this point.
Now, this is a great time to be looking at the wide receiver position need because the Colts just reached an agreement last night, per multiple reports, with CFL wide receiver Duron Carter. The son of NFL Hall of Famer Cris Carter, Duron is a 6-5, 209 pound receiver who spent the last two seasons in the Canadian Football League after off-the-field incidents derailed his collegiate career. He's a player who possesses great talent but is very raw. It's hard not to like the signing by the Colts, as they're banking on him reaching that potential (in which case it would be a home run move), but we need to temper our expectations a bit for Carter. He'll essentially be a rookie in the NFL and will need work, and while he'll likely get some playing time, he's not the solution to the Colts' wide receiver problems at this point. He could absolutely develop into that down the road, but it's not likely in 2015.
What the Colts need at wide receiver, in my opinion, is a veteran guy who can create separation from defensive backs. The Colts, overall, stunk at this in 2014 - and that was evidenced in the playoff loss to the Patriots. The Colts need to add someone who can help take the pressure off of T.Y. Hilton, who has seen a lot of double teams due to his talent and the Colts' lack of other explosive weapons. Could this be Donte Moncrief next year? That's certainly the hope and Moncrief possesses a lot of potential, but there are questions about whether Moncrief will be ready to take that step in 2015. It's likely, however, that Moncrief could be starting alongside Hilton next year.
What do the Colts do from there? Firstly, they have to figure out what to do with their own free agents. Does Reggie Wayne want to come back? If so, it would likely just be as a situational, role-playing slot receiver, but if he really wants to come back the Colts would likely bring him back. Secondly, what about Hakeem Nicks? He had some nice games towards the end of the season, and on another low-risk deal, it might not be a bad idea to bring him back. With that said, however, my guess is that the Colts will look elsewhere in free agency and the draft to add players at the wide receiver position as well - regardless of whether they bring back Wayne or Nicks or both. They likely can't spend big on a wide receiver and there are bigger needs, so they'll have to be wise about who to add. Should they spend a draft pick on a wide receiver - and if so, who is going to step in right away and help? If they sign a free agent, how much would/should they be willing to spend on a receiver with other glaring needs along the offensive line and the defensive side of the ball?
These are the questions that the Colts must ask themselves this offseason and then must figure out an answer to. They need to keep surrounding Andrew Luck with plenty of weapons, and they've certainly been doing a good job of laying a young foundation there with Hilton, Moncrief, and then an intriguing signing in Carter - all three of whom are 25-years old or younger. But they'll need more than just those three in 2015, and it will be interesting what moves the Colts decide to make in an effort to put Andrew Luck in the best position possible to succeed.