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 safety 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.
Entering the 2014 season, there was no bigger concern for the Colts than the safety position. LaRon Landry held one of the starting spots, though he was coming off of a bad 2013 campaign and there were concerns about his performance. The other safety spot, however, was a huge question mark, and the Colts really didn't bring in any sure starter. It appeared that the job would go to Delano Howell - that is, until Howell suffered a neck injury that forced him to end up on injured reserve during training camp. It then turned into a battle between Sergio Brown, Colt Anderson, and Mike Adams, and it soon became apparent that Adams was the guy who would be the team's starter at safety.
Adams signed with the Colts later in the offseason (in June) and he was brought in to compete for a spot, having no guarantee. Howell's injury thrust him into that position, however, and the safety position continued to give reason for concern for fans.
Looking back on it now, the addition of Mike Adams was arguably the biggest one that general manager Ryan Grigson made last offseason. He stepped into a position with a number of question marks and became a consistent playmaker, earning a Pro Bowl nod for his performance. He started all 16 games and recorded 87 tackles, 11 pass deflections, five interceptions, and two forced fumbles while also recovering two fumbles - tying for the NFL lead with seven takeaways. Adams was absolutely what the Colts needed this year, not only providing a consistent safety who was in the lineup every game but also providing a safety who could make plays and produce on the field. Adams was the answer to the Colts' questions about the position entering the season.
But now, after the 2014 season, there's a new question about the safety position, although it's one that fans had last offseason as well before being overshadowed by the other safety spot. And that's the question of LaRon Landry. By cutting Landry this offseason, the Colts could save $2.25 million in cap space, and Landry has not been very good since coming to the Colts. In 2014, he was suspended by the NFL for four games and he lost his starting spot upon returning (only to win it back later in the season). If the Colts decide to cut Landry, they'll need to find a starting safety. If the Colts keep Landry, they'll need to find an upgrade. So regardless of what they decide to do, they're going to have to look at safety help.
This is especially important because Mike Adams and Sergio Brown are free agents this offseason. Brown stepped in for Landry during the suspension and played well, earning the starting spot. He's a much better safety in coverage and brings an energy to the Colts' defense that the players and coaches were quick to point out and praise. Plus, he's a good special teams player. All in all, both of these guys are players the Colts should bring back, but their status as a free agent shows even more that the Colts have to address the position somewhat this offseason.
What the Colts need at the safety position is what LaRon Landry was supposed to be - a hard hitting player who could be a force against the run. They also need that player to be well-rounded enough that he's not a liability in the passing game, however. That player likely isn't LaRon Landry, though there's a real chance that he'll be back next season - which would lead to even more questions about the safety position for the second straight season.
The Colts absolutely should re-sign Mike Adams, at least giving them some consistency at a position with a lot of questions. But even then, Adams will be 34-years old when next season starts. The Colts need to find a long-term option at safety too.
The questions at the safety position this offseason are different than the ones last offseason, and that's thanks to the great play of Mike Adams. But the bottom line is that there are still plenty of questions about the position and it's one that the Colts absolutely could stand to address this offseason.