The Indianapolis Colts took free agency by storm almost immediately, signing notable veterans such as Frank Gore, Andre Johnson, Kendall Langford, Trent Cole, and Todd Herremans, as well as re-signing safety Mike Adams, cornerback Darius Butler, and others.
One thing that is crucial to keep in mind is that, for a team with as many needs as the Colts had entering the offseason, they're not going to be able to fill every single one of them over a span of just two or three days and with a salary cap they have to work under. At least, they're not going to be able to fill the needs well by doing that. It's a process, and the Colts just need to stick to the process (sorry, I couldn't resist).
Now that the craziness of the free agent period has seemed to calm down quite a bit, we can take a look at the roster and see where the Colts stand. And right away, two things jump out: firstly, the Colts still need to address the defensive side of the football some more, and secondly, the safety position is the most glaring hole.
Keeping Mike Adams was absolutely crucial, and the Colts got him inked to a two-year deal. A year ago he was the team's best safety, started every game, and made the Pro Bowl. While it might not be realistic to expect him to live up to his career year from 2014, he's still a good option and should provide quite a bit of continuity and consistency there, if nothing else. So clearly, Mike Adams will be one of the team's starting safeties when the 2015 season opens. But what about the other spot?
The Colts also re-signed Colt Anderson, and believe it or not he might be the best current option for the team as their starting safety alongside Adams - and remember that Anderson is primarily a special teams guy. The other options currently on the roster? Winston Guy and Dewey McDonald. Between Anderson, Guy, and McDonald, they have played in an impressive 95 games, but a large majority of those have been in special teams roles - with them making 11 starts in the NFL combined. Or, let's put it another way: the Colts currently only have one starting safety on their roster.
So what do the Colts do moving forward? How do they address the obvious hole at the safety position? They really have two options, but neither one of them is a great situation to be in.
Option One: Free Agency
Most figure that the Colts still have the cap room remaining for one more signing, and I can assure you that they're not done looking - particularly looking for defensive help, and it sounds like defensive line and safety could be the primary targets. And you can be sure that the Colts are keeping an eye on the safeties that are available. The problem is that a number of them have already signed.
Devin McCourty, who is one of the best safeties in the league, re-signed with the Patriots before hitting the open market. Tyvon Branch, who the Colts had in for a visit a week ago, signed with the Chiefs. Da'Norris Searcy, who they were reported as having some interest in, signed with the Titans. Antrel Rolle, who might have had interest in joining the "reUnion" in Indy, signed with the Bears. Rahim Moore signed with the Texans. Even Sergio Brown, who spent the last three years with the Colts, signed with the Jaguars.
So who's left? Not a lot of great names, but many of whom would still be upgrades for the Colts. Players such as Louis Delmas, Ron Parker, Stevie Brown, Brandon Meriweather, and Kendrick Lewis currently represent some of the best available at the position. Many would provide a player to fill the need, but not much more than that. Another interesting option could be Tashaun Gipson, who the Browns tendered with a second round tender. And Dashon Goldson might be cut by the Buccaneers too, so that could be another situation to watch.
Ultimately, however, here's the thing: none of the players available provide what the Colts really need at safety, but perhaps it's getting too late to add that difference maker. For now, it seems like they're just waiting it out and waiting for the prices of these players to fall, because at this point there's nobody that I think the Colts would be jumping at the opportunity to sign. So it's a waiting process, and it's still uncertain whether the Colts will pursue a free agent safety at all.
Option Two: Draft
The Colts' second option is the draft, which almost certainly has to be heavily focused on defense after their free agent signings of Frank Gore and Andre Johnson (though don't rule out a running back being selected in the second or third round, either). And unlike in free agency, there's a player in the draft that provides what the Colts need at safety: Landon Collins.
Collins is clearly the best safety in the draft and after him there is a significant drop off, but he would be an ideal selection for the Colts in the first round both based on his talent and the team's need. If the Colts could somehow get Landon Collins, that would be huge. But here's the problem: he won't be around at pick number 29, which is when the Colts select. He'll be long gone by that point. For the Colts to get Collins, they'd have to trade up into the top half of the first round and it would be a pretty steep price - likely meaning it won't happen.
So what other options are available at safety? It's not a very deep class, but some other intriguing names could include Gerrod Holliman (Louisville), Cody Prewitt (Ole Miss), Chris Hackett (TCU), Derron Smith (Fresno State), Anthony Harris (Virginia), and Jaquiski Tartt (Stanford).
After Collins, however, there is a drop off at safety, and while a number of those players would provide upgrades over the current players on the team, there likely could be better options at other positions available in the first round for the Colts (such as defensive line).
So What Should They Do?
Now we get to the biggest question of them all: what should the Colts do at the safety position? And it's not one easily answered. Thankfully Mike Adams is back, and you can see just a bit more why that was so crucial to happen, as the Colts at least have one of their starting safeties locked in. But the other one? It's completely up in the air right now.
If I were the Colts, here's what I'd do at this point. I'd wait a little bit for some of the veteran safeties and let the dust settle, hoping that the price gets driven down a bit. Then, in a later free agency move (somewhat similar to the Mike Adams signing last year), bring in a veteran safety to add to the mix. In the draft, target the safety position specifically, but don't reach. If Collins doesn't fall to the Colts (and let's face it: he won't) and if he doesn't fall far enough to make it realistic for the Colts to pull the trigger to trade up (which likely won't happen), then there will likely be a player in that second-tier of safeties available in the second round and perhaps the third. Take the best (defensive) player available in the first round and then target a safety from among that second-tier group in the draft. From there, add the rookie and the veteran free agent signing to the mix of Colt Anderson, Dewey McDonald, and Winston Guy and let them all compete in training camp for the starting spot.
The bottom line is this: it's very unlikely at this point that the Colts will end up with a great starter at the safety position. Hopefully a situation similar to last year with Mike Adams happens again, but it's unlikely. But understand that not every team is filled with 53 great players, much less 22 great starters. Every team has spots that are weaker than others, but the way that the Colts have approached the offseason so far is to focus on some of the other areas of need. The hope is that, with the moves they've already made, the moves they've yet to make, and a full draft class, that the Colts can focus on as many needs as possible. And while it appears as if the safety position might be a weaker one for the team next year, if they do their job well and fill as many needs as they possibly can, then hopefully it won't be as noticeable as it has been in the past.