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 defensive line - 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.
One of the biggest focuses for the Colts this offseason has to be in the trenches, as both the offensive line and defensive line can be considered areas of need. When Jim Irsay said that the Colts need to get tougher, that starts with the men up front in the trenches.
Of course, just how much the defensive line is an area of need remains to be determined. The biggest question at the position is whether defensive end Cory Redding will retire or not. He is a free agent, but it's very likely that if he chooses to come back for another year the Colts would re-sign him. But will he decide to come back? That remains to be seen. And if he does hang up the cleats this offseason, not only will the Colts be down a captain but their best defensive lineman as well, making the position that much more of a need.
Even with Redding, however, it's a position that stands to be upgraded. Josh Chapman wasn't the force we hoped he could be at nose tackle, and he's not a guy who's going to give the team a ton of snaps either. And while Ricky Jean Francois was much better this season than he was in 2013, the Colts could still save $4.875 million by cutting him (per Spotrac)- a move that I would expect to happen given the significant savings. My guess would either be that RJF will redo his deal to stay in Indy or be cut.
The encouraging part of the defensive line is that Arthur Jones is still there. The Colts gave him a big deal last offseason and he played well this season when he was healthy. If he can stay on the field next year, that would be a big boost along the defensive line.
Still, the Colts could use a nose tackle and a defensive end - regardless of whether Redding comes back or not. There are more questions than there are answers along the defensive line for the Colts, and those are questions that the Colts have to figure out this offseason if they want to begin to truly win in the trenches.