Unlike in years past, the Indianapolis Colts did not make a big splash in free agency this offseason. The team sat by as other franchises threw big money around, with the Colts only making a few calculated moves.
They re-signed tight end Dwayne Allen and kicker Adam Vinatieri, signed quarterback Scott Tolzien, running backs Robert Turbin and Jordan Todman, and cornerback Patrick Robinson, and lost tight end Coby Fleener, inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman, and safety Dwight Lowery.
The Colts were mostly quiet, but that doesn't mean that it was all bad. ESPN recently put together grades for every NFL franchise in free agency, and Indianapolis ranked slightly below the average. ESPN's Mike Sando talked with Bill Polian, Louis Riddick, Field Yates, and Mark Dominik to create the report card for each team. For the Colts, they received a C-plus grade, placing them 20th among NFL teams in free agency.
They had a lengthy write-up of the Colts' offseason (it's an insider piece), but it can basically be summed up with this one line: "They did not really get better." The analysts seemed skeptical of the Colts' move to re-sign Allen, in large part because of the large contract he received and his injury history (plus, Polian wonders whether the Colts will be able to replace Fleener's role in the passing game). Another move that raised some eyebrows was not bringing Matt Hasselbeck back as the backup, though overall the group seemed to think the Colts were doing a nice job preparing for Andrew Luck's coming mega-contract. So, in summary, it wasn't a great free agency period for the Colts, but it wasn't all bad either.
"It's a breath of fresh air strategy-wise," Yates said. "It's nice to see the Colts not spin the wheel on some big-name free agent who was a bigger name three years ago. In the past, they spent for Ricky Jean-Francois and all these guys whose names were familiar, but the price points were exorbitant. I have no issue with any of the players retained or re-signed by the Colts this year. The only move that bothers me is if Matt Hasselbeck wanted to play another year, I'm not sure how you could possibly not want him back for one more season."
I think the grade of a C-plus for the Colts' free agent moves is absolutely fair, as the Colts didn't exactly become a better team through the process. They did, however, put into effect their shift in philosophy which I think will serve them well in the long run. The Colts will need to continue to pour resources into their own players, most notably with Luck's coming deal. They did that this offseason in keeping Allen and Vinatieri, but they also left room for Luck's deal.
Though I don't put much weight into the Matt Hasselbeck situation when grading this offseason (I think the Colts could easily have justified their decision either way), the questions about Allen's money and losing Fleener are fair. I know several Colts fans will say that losing Fleener is "addition by subtraction," but that's not necessarily the case. On paper, it looks like T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Phillip Dorsett, and Dwayne Allen should be able to fill whatever void is left in the passing game, but it doesn't always work out that way. Fleener had been a reliable receiver for the past several years, while Allen has been injured at times. If that happens again in 2016, the Colts' receiving corps look even thinner. I'm not suggesting that the Colts made the wrong move (I don't think they did) or that they overpaid Allen (I don't think it was that bad), but I am suggesting that the concerns raised by the ESPN insiders are fair.
On the plus side, the Colts managed to keep a starting tight end, their future Hall of Fame kicker, add a starting cornerback, add depth at quarterback and running back, and leave room for Andrew Luck's extension. When considering that they still have the draft to work with, that's not a bad offseason, and it's refreshing to see the team be a bit more calculated in the moves they make in free agency. That does mean, however, that their free agency grade isn't great, but that doesn't mean they've had a bad offseason yet. It simply means that they didn't really get much better in free agency, which is fine - as long as they hit on the draft.