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Colts Free Agency: The Colts Need a Veteran Wide Receiver this Offseason, Not a Rookie

Most fans agree that the Colts need to add help at the wide receiver position this offseason, but not everybody agrees that it should be a veteran. But here's why the addition the Colts really need is a veteran wide receiver, not a rookie.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The offseason is a time for teams to improve, and there are normally two huge areas in which this happens: free agency and the draft.  When we lay out team needs at the start of the offseason, it's typically not distinguished whether the team needs to add a position specifically through the draft or through free agency, because most of the time it's rather flexible.

I don't think that's the way it is for the Colts' wide receiver position this offseason, however.  Rather, I think the receiver position is one that the Colts must address in free agency and not in the draft.

Most Colts fans would agree that the team should add help at the position.  After watching the AFC Championship game in which the receivers really struggled to create separation and get open, most people agree that the Colts should add help there.  But far less people agree that the player should be a veteran, and because of that you'll even find some people saying the Colts should use their first round pick on a receiver.  What the Colts don't need this year, though, is another rookie receiver - what they need is a veteran receiver.

The Colts have the most impressive group of young offensive players of any team in the NFL.  Andrew Luck is only 25 years old, T.Y. Hilton is 25, Donte Moncrief is 21, Dwayne Allen is 25, Coby Fleener is 26, and Anthony Castonzo is 26.  Realize that every single core piece to the Colts' offense right now is young.  The average age of the most common starting eleven for the Colts in 2014 was 25.9 years old, and if you take Reggie Wayne out of the equation the average age was 24.9 years old.  The average age of the team's eleven offensive starters for the AFC Championship game was 26.7 years old, and without Reggie it was 25.8 years old.  Clearly, the Colts are a very young offense.  For having a team that did reach the AFC title game, won eleven regular season games, and won the AFC South division, this was a very young offensive unit - one that finished as a top-five unit in the NFL.

And just consider their wide receiver outlook for 2015: the three most notable players currently under contract are T.Y. Hilton (25 years old), Donte Moncrief (21 years old), and Duron Carter (23 years old).  Heck, even throw Griff Whalen in there, who's only 25 years old.  The wide receiver position currently under contract for 2015 for the Colts is the youngest of any position on the roster.  The oldest receiver under contract for next season is 25 years old.  Hilton has emerged into a star receiver and one of the top in the league, making the Pro Bowl last season and being a huge part of the Colts' dynamic passing attack.  In his three-year career so far, Hilton has been tremendous, catching 214 passes for 3,289 yards and 19 touchdowns.  Every other receiver currently under contract for the Colts for 2015 have 168 receptions for 1,901 yards and 12 touchdowns combined in the NFL, and most of that production comes from Josh Cribbs - who the Colts absolutely won't use as a receiver, if he's even on the team at all.

I think you see what I'm getting at, but if not, here it is: the Colts need a guy who can step in right away and contribute, not another young, developmental receiver.  If you think the Colts should use a draft pick on a receiver, then perhaps view Duron Carter as that draft pick - he's a young player and very talented, but he needs work.  Any receiver the Colts draft would be the same way, just with some perhaps more polished depending on when they were drafted.  And we saw in 2014 better than any other year that rookie receivers can step in and produce right away, but without fail there is always a learning curve and there is always an adjustment period.  Unless you are getting someone like Odell Beckham Jr. (who, by the way, still had to make an adjustment to the NFL level), it will be very noticeable.  Last year, Donte Moncrief impressed but was largely one-dimensional, yet nobody feels disappointed with him because with rookie receivers (especially third rounders like Moncrief) they are drafted primarily for the future.

T.Y. Hilton is a legitimate number one receiver.  He's young, explosive, and a well-rounded receiver overall who can shoulder the load as the primary guy, like he did in 2014.  But he needs help.  The hope is that Donte Moncrief can step into that number two role, but he'll be entering just his second season.  And it's important not to get too high of expectations for Duron Carter in his first year with the Colts, because while he'll likely contribute some to the offense, there will still be an adjustment period and he'll still need work.

What the Colts need this offseason is a veteran receiver who can come in and play opposite of T.Y. Hilton (or perhaps in the slot with Moncrief on the outside) and produce right away.  And unfortunately, I'm not meaning Reggie Wayne, even if he does return.  If he comes back the team will likely use him in the third/fourth wide receiver role similar to that of Hakeem Nicks last year, but he's likely not a viable starting wide receiver for the Colts in 2015.  He might be able to help, but he's not the answer to the need.

There have been reports that the Colts are indeed in the market for a veteran wide receiver, and that's a good thing.  Because while young rookie receivers are very appealing, that's not what the Colts need right now.  What the Colts need is a receiver who can step in right away and produce, and that's why they need a veteran instead of a rookie.