The Indianapolis Colts surprised everyone by re-signing head coach Chuck Pagano to a four-year contract and extending general manager Ryan Grigson's contract three more years, but that doesn't mean the franchise will remain the same this offseason. Some coaching changes have already begun to happen, while the team will have plenty of decisions to make when it comes to personnel.
One of the most notable aspects of that decision-making comes through free agency, where the Colts have been very active in recent years. I wouldn't expect the Colts to be nearly as active this year as they have been in the past, but they'll still make several moves - perhaps most notably with their own players. The Colts have several pending free agents this offseason, meaning that they will have to make some decisions. Let's take a look at those players whose contracts will expire this offseason and whether or not the Colts will/should re-sign them (free agent list per Over the Cap).
Unrestricted Free Agents:
Greg Toler, cornerback - Toler has been a three-year starter for the Colts since being signed in free agency in 2013. He has played in 34 games (starting 32) and has recorded 128 tackles, a sack, three interceptions (one returned for a touchdown), 31 passes defensed, and two forced fumbles. Toler is one of the most unpopular Colts because he has a tendency to get burned downfield often, but he has done an overall solid job providing the Colts a number two cornerback alongside Vontae Davis. I'd expect the team to look to upgrade the position this year, but as we saw last year, the Colts don't really have a ton of great options to do so at the moment.
Matt Hasselbeck, quarterback - One of the most important players for the Colts in 2015, Hasselbeck's future is in question. It is unclear whether the 40-year old quarterback, who was incredibly beat up this year, will opt to come back for another NFL season, so we await his decision. If he does opt to return for another year, however, I'd think the Colts would have serious thoughts about brining him back as their backup for another year. They may now have options with Josh Freeman, Ryan Lindley, and/or Stephen Morris, however, which would make bringing Hasselbeck back less of a necessity.
Adam Vinatieri, kicker - This one should be easy - the 43-year old kicker has already said he wants to continue playing and he is still among the best and most reliable kickers in the NFL. He converted his last 25 field goal attempts of the season and is on the best statistical stretch of his career. There's really not even a decision here - if Vinatieri wants to keep playing, the Colts should bring him back.
Jerrell Freeman, inside linebacker - Freeman has been a starting linebacker for the past four seasons for the Colts, starting 57 games and recording 478 tackles, 12 sacks, 16 passes defensed, four interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), and eight forced fumbles. Freeman has said that he'd like to return to the Colts, but his price may be the deciding factor. Last offseason, Freeman wanted a bigger deal but the Colts placed an RFA tender on him, so it will very much depend on how much the Colts are willing to spend. Freeman should be near the top of the team's priority list when it comes to free agents, however, as he is a good linebacker - one who played very well in 2015.
Coby Fleener, tight end - Fleener has also expressed a desire to return to Indianapolis, and of the two tight ends he seems to be the most likely to actually do so. Fleener has had his ups and downs with the Colts but is a good receiving tight end. He was very much under-utilized in 2015, but if the Colts plan on going forward in using tight ends, it would make sense to bring Fleener back to provide an additional receiving threat.
Lance Louis, offensive lineman - Louis has started ten games for the Colts over the past two seasons (playing in 20), filling in at various spots. He has provided a solid depth option along the offensive line, but he's a guy the Colts may let walk depending on the other moves they plan to make at the position. The only way I see them bringing Louis back is if the team needs a depth body at the position and Louis comes rather cheap.
Dwight Lowery, safety - Lowery started all 16 games at safety for the Colts last year, giving them solid play while doing so. He recorded 76 tackles, a sack, eight passes defensed, and four interceptions (one returned for a touchdown). He hasn't missed a game in his past two seasons (one with the Colts and one with the Falcons) and has been playing the best football of his career, and so while ideally the Colts would find a guy who could be their long-term safety, it makes sense to bring Lowery back to play alongside Mike Adams for another year. With so many other holes to fill, the Colts could get by with Lowery at safety once again.
Colt Anderson, safety - Anderson would up starting a game for the Colts last year, but he is around for one reason: special teams. He has been a very good special teams player for the team over the past two years, enough so that the Colts re-signed him for that very reason last offseason. We saw that he can also fill in as a depth safety, but I think the Colts may re-sign him once again to help their special teams units.
Andy Studebaker, linebacker - Stude is in a similar situation as Anderson - he is a very good special teams player. The Colts actually didn't re-sign him last offseason but instead brought him back mid-season this year in an effort to shore up the special teams, and I could see him being brought back in that role once again. Like with Anderson, it simply depends how much the Colts are willing to invest in guys whose primary purpose is special teams.
Ahmad Bradshaw, running back - It has been the same story for three years now: Ahmad Bradshaw provides the Colts' offense a spark but ends the season on injured reserve. So, as has been the case for the past several years, the decision to bring him back would simply be a decision of whether having him around at all is worth the risk of injury. This could be a move the Colts wait on, see what happens with their running back position, and then re-evaluate a little later in the offseason.
Dwayne Allen, tight end - At this point, it seems pretty clear that Dwayne Allen will walk in free agency. He was very much under-utilized in 2015 and was often kept in as a blocker, essentially becoming an extra offensive lineman for the Colts. I'd expect him to want to go somewhere that would actually use him as a receiver, and odds are that won't be Indianapolis. Furthermore, his injury history vs. Fleener's durability make Allen a more questionable re-signing. He could come pretty cheap, but unless the Colts make a major focus on the tight ends this offseason and moving forward, I don't expect Allen back.
Billy Winn, defensive lineman - Winn played solid football for the Colts this year after being acquired from the Cleveland Browns in a trade right before the regular season began. He played in 12 games and started three for the Colts before ending the season on injured reserve, and he recorded 14 tackles. He did a good job in the playing time that he received, and if the Colts are looking for depth along their defensive line, it would make sense to bring back Winn.
Restricted Free Agents:
Daniel "Boom" Herron, running back - Herron really stepped up late in the 2014 season and was projected to be the team's number two back in 2015, but he was injured in preseason. He wound up with the Buffalo Bills, was waived, and then the Colts claimed him, allowing Herron to finish the year with Indianapolis. As a restricted free agent, I'd expect the Colts to tender Herron and look to bring him back.
Jack Doyle, tight end - Doyle's fate may well be determined by what the Colts do with Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, but either way it makes sense to bring back the restricted free agent. Doyle has provided a nice number three tight end for the Colts in the past few years and has done a fine job as a blocker and as a receiver. Especially if the Colts decide to let either Fleener or Allen walk, Doyle is a guy who they should bring back.
Exclusive Rights Free Agents:
Akeem Davis, safety - Basically, if you're an ERFA, either the team wants you back or they don't. If the team wants you back, they'll just tender you and you have no choice but to sign it (or else not play). So the question here is whether the Colts want Davis back, and as a training camp body they might indeed want him around. He was a depth safety and special teams player for the Colts late in the season, so I could see them bringing him back for competition.