The beginning of the NFL free agency period is only a few weeks away, and with the Scouting Combine next week teams will really begin to negotiate with their own free agents they want to re-sign. After that, the focus shifts to veteran free agency, where teams focus on players from other teams that they might want to sign.
The Indianapolis Colts have been big factors in free agency in the last several years, but this year they are likely to spend more effort on keeping their own. With that said, however, we may still see the team target a free agent or two in an effort to improve some of their weaknesses.
Pro Football Focus recently put together a free agent preview for the Colts, and the majority of it focused on the Colts' own free agents - suggesting the Colts re-sign Jerrell Freeman, Adam Vinatieri, Dwight Lowery, and Dwayne Allen. Their focus then went to suggseting two other free agents that the Colts should sign: guard Brandon Brooks and cornerback Trumaine Johnson. Let's look at what PFF said for both moves and some thoughts on each of them.
The Colts have a lot of holes to fill on defense, but upgrading their offensive line to support the likes of Jack Mewhort, who performed admirably this season after an early experiment at right tackle, is a key starting point for Indianapolis this offseason. Weakening a division opponent is an oft-used tactic in free agency, and the Colts could look south to bolster their guard position while weakening the current division champions. Right guard Brandon Brooks didn't have the contract year he might've hoped for in Houston, but his strong all-around displays in 2013 and 2014 show the caliber of player he is. Even after a down year as a run-blocker, Brooks was strong in pass protection, an area that incumbent right guard Hugh Thornton has struggled with throughout his three-year career.
One of the two veteran free agent moves that PFF suggests the Colts make is to sign Houston Texans guard Brandon Brooks. The 6-5, 335 pound guard is 27 years old and has been a reliable player for Houston over the past four seasons, playing in 50 games and starting 44. PFF previously ranked him as the fourth-best interior offensive lineman available in this year's free agency group while noting that he has been an above-average pass protector in all four seasons and a top five run blocker in 2013 and 2014. The Colts, without a doubt, need to address their offensive line, and the biggest areas of need are on the interior. Jack Mewhort is established at left guard, but the team could use an upgrade at right guard and Brooks would add that. It would also help the center position, as surrounding the center with two quality guards would help the entire interior of the line. According to Spotrac, Brooks will likely get a deal worth around $40 million over five years, an average of $8 million per season.
On the defensive side, the Colts have a pressing need to keep up with physical wide receivers in their division, with Allen Robinson and DeAndre Hopkins exploding onto the scene in 2015. Vontae Davis can hold up one side very well, but a glaring weakness opposite him undermines that. An emerging corner who may just shake free from Los Angeles is Trumaine Johnson, who produced some exceptional performances in the final year of his rookie deal with the Rams. If the Rams put more resources into retaining the services of Janoris Jenkins, then Johnson could easily shake free and offer a significant upgrade for the Colts without having to shell out big money on Sean Smith or Josh Norman, should either somehow, unexpectedly, hit the open market.
Cornerback is a position of need that has kind of gone under the radar this offseason as the focus has been on the offensive line and pass rush, but the Colts need to find a number two corner to play alongside Vontae Davis. Greg Toler has not been great the past few years and is likely to walk in free agency, leaving the Colts looking for an upgrade. Trumaine Johnson would provide that, as the 26 year old corner could leave the Los Angeles Rams if the team opts instead to focus on keeping corner Janoris Jenkins. Johnson has spent the past four years in St. Louis, playing in 55 games and starting 33 of them and recording 206 tackles, 42 passes defensed, 15 interceptions (two returned for touchdowns), and a forced fumble. In 2015, Johnson had a career year as he recorded seven interceptions and, according to PFF, had the second-lowest passer rating against behind only Josh Norman. PFF also ranked Johnson as their fourth-best cornerback hitting free agency this year.
The Colts absolutely need to address both their offensive line and cornerback position this offseason, and PFF has suggested two moves to do just that. What are your thoughts on the Colts possibly adding Brandon Brooks and/or Trumaine Johnson?