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Could Rashaan Melvin play an even larger role for the Colts next season?

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Indianapolis Colts Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

With the Indianapolis Colts sitting at 6-7 with three weeks remaining in the season some fans have already started to turn their attention to next year, and there’s a question I started considering yesterday regarding next season.

Patrick Robinson was placed on IR yesterday, ending his disappointing season, and the Indianapolis Star’s Stephen Holder pointed out that Rashaan Melvin is actually under contract for 2017 as well. So here’s the question: could the Colts opt to start Melvin over Robinson next year? I think it’s possible.

The reality is that this year, Melvin has not only outplayed Robinson but has played more than him as well. Melvin has played in all 13 games and has started seven of them, whereas Robinson played in seven games and started six. So Melvin has already started more games than Robinson, and barring an injury it’s likely Melvin will reach ten starts this season. He’s played well during that time also, proving to be a capable cornerback on the outside. So when we’re talking about a “bigger role,” we’re talking about a bigger role by design, not as a result of injury.

Robinson, meanwhile, is better in the slot. But he played outside for the most part this season, and with his inconsistent play there it wouldn’t be a terrible idea to play him in the slot more next year to see if he improves. The biggest thing stopping them from doing that this year, though, was the play of Darius Butler, who’s been a tremendous slot cornerback this year. But here’s something to consider: Butler, 30, is a free agent after the season. So too is starting safety Mike Adams, 35.

So that means some changes might be coming to the secondary next season, depending on what the Colts decide to do. I think they should at least bring Butler back, as he’s proven to be a good slot corner who can also double as a safety. So if they don’t bring back Adams, it would be nice to be able to keep Butler so he could provide depth at both cornerback and safety. If that scenario happens, however, it would be likely that a lot of Butler’s time would be at safety, since we don’t know how much T.J. Green will develop in time for next year (because based on what we’ve seen this year the Colts shouldn’t enter next year with the expectation of Green as the full-time starter).

Here’s basically what I’m getting at: with Darius Butler and Mike Adams both set to become free agents, with Patrick Robinson’s inconsistency, and with Rashaan Melvin’s contract status for next year, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Melvin take on a larger role as the primary outside cornerback opposite of Vontae Davis, with Patrick Robinson’s primary role coming as a slot corner. They could bring back Darius Butler and have him and T.J. Green split time at the safety spot opposite of Clayton Geathers, while Butler could also provide key cornerback depth. That’s not a bad starting point if the Colts could manage to improve their front seven, and if they could ensure they have enough insurance at safety in case Green doesn’t work out. The main point, though, is that with some of the questions at other spots, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Rashaan Melvin has a bigger role in the defense next year by design.

I realize it’s really early to begin talking about next season already (because this season’s not even over with yet!), but it’s a thought I had yesterday that I wouldn’t be surprised to see us talking about later this offseason again. What would be your thoughts about this potential defensive back scenario for Indianapolis?