This offseason has brought a lot of excitement for Indianapolis Colts fans. The free agency signings of veterans Andre Johnson, Frank Gore, Trent Cole, Todd Herremans, and Kendall Langford all giving reason for excitement, particularly the additions of Johnson and Gore, who have been stars in the NFL for the past decade.
In the draft, that excitement was severely diminished after the first night when the Colts opted to take a wide receiver in the first round, but Phillip Dorsett is a good player and the rest of the draft seemed to go very well for the Colts. And after key re-signings such as Darius Butler, Mike Adams, Jerrell Freeman, and Joe Reitz as well, the Colts are entering the 2015 season with very high expectations.
ESPN's NFL Insiders set out to grade each team's offseason, and they gave the Colts a C-plus, tied for the 24th best grade handed out (tied with the Texans, Giants, Browns, and Bengals. Only four teams received a worse offseason grade than the Colts (though two of those teams happened to be the Patriots and Broncos, some of the Colts' biggest competition in the AFC). Here's what the ESPN Insiders (Bill Polian, Louis Riddick, Matt Williamson, and Field Yates) had to say about the Colts' offseason:
Analysis: The Colts will be a fascinating case study this season as a team that broke the usual rules governing long-term roster development by loading up on highly accomplished veterans nearing the ends of their careers. It's not a great way to go ... unless it works. And it could in this case.
"This is a total boom-or-bust offseason," Riddick said. "Ryan Grigson's contract as GM is coming up soon. Chuck Pagano has to hang out there. They have a bunch of 30-plus players who they hope can give them one more good season to make a run at it. I do not understand the selection of Phillip Dorsett in the first round. They need to fortify their offensive line to protect Andrew Luck."
Williamson worked under Butch Davis and with Pagano in Cleveland years ago, so he was very attuned to the University of Miami theme tying together some of the Colts' offseason additions.
"Those Miami guys are different," Williamson said. "They are installing the mentality to be the most competitive group around. You have Luck in place and now you inject some 'U' into that team in a weak division and it can go a long way. You lose Reggie Wayne but add Gore and Johnson, then use a first-rounder on a receiver from the U. You can criticize that pick, and I would not have made it, but no defensive coordinator they play against is going to like it."
Yates wasn't buying the idea that Dorsett was drafted as insurance for T.Y. Hilton possibly leaving in the future. Hilton should be a player the team locks up long term, he thought.
"You do not make insurance policies for Hilton when he is your second-best or third-best player," Yates said. "That pick just baffles me. They already gave boatloads of cash to some veterans who aren't even on the team at this point. This feels a little bit like adding Karl Malone and Gary Payton to the Lakers."
That 2004 Lakers team did reach the NBA Finals, at least.
"The history of these types of moves in the NFL is that guys have one great year and then it's over," Polian said. "If they all do have one more great year, then the Colts will be right back in the thick of things. This is a win-now approach, which is fine because once they pay Luck, the equation will change. The question is just whether those veteran additions have enough left in the tank."
It appears that, from the comments of the analysts, there are two major factors that resulted in the Colts' grade being among the worst for the offseason: 1) the age of their free agent signings; and 2) their selection of Phillip Dorsett in the first round of the draft. Both are things that we've heard before, and both make sense.
The issue of age is something that we've looked at quite a bit this offseason, and it's impossible to deny that the Colts signed older players as free agents, and I think almost everybody would agree that it's not a smart strategy to have. But in the Colts' situation, they did things exactly the way that they needed to, and I outlined why that is earlier in the offseason. To summarize it, they needed players who wouldn't cripple the team salary cap-wise in the future while also helping them win now. That's exactly what the Colts added, as neither Andre Johnson nor Frank Gore nor Trent Cole nor Todd Herremans are going to be long-term fixtures for this team, but all of them are likely to play a key role if the Colts end up having a terrific season and making it to the Super Bowl, their ultimate goal. As Bill Polian so accurately pointed out, even if these players end up helping the Colts for one year, it will likely be worth it, as the team is in "win now" mode and with Andrew Luck's mega-deal likely coming next offseason.
Secondly, there is the issue of drafting a wide receiver in the first round, and I didn't love this move either. The Colts didn't need any more wide receiver help, and Field Yates is exactly right when he says that this shouldn't have any impact on T.Y. Hilton's eventual contract extension. Phillip Dorsett is a good player, should be able to help the team, and was the Colts' top choice available, but it's perfectly fair not to love the pick and to question it. There's no way that I would let that one pick determine the Colts' offseason, however, but if there are other concerns about it, the Dorsett pick likely doesn't help the grade much.
What are your thoughts on the Colts' offseason? I think the C-plus grade is too low for it, though I do understand the objections raised by the ESPN Insiders.