Yesterday, we took a look at the Colts priority in-house free agents as the 2017 season comes to a close. Today we’ll discuss a group of players who may not necessarily reach the level of highest priority but who may offer the team value at the right price and in the right role.
Tier 3 — Donte Moncrief
Let’s face it, life in the 2017 Indianapolis Colts offense is much different than it was with Andrew Luck under center. Jacoby Brissett has done a respectable job filling in but he is not comfortable enough in his first season to utilize all of his weapons. It is for this reason that a down year from Donte Moncrief could be more of a mirage than it is a reflection of his playing ability.
Even acknowleding this limitation, this has been a severely disappointing season for the fourth year receiver. He has hauled in only 20 catches for 338 yards and 2 touchdowns despite playing 333 snaps, which is second only to T.Y. Hilton’s 373 snaps at the receiver position. There were hopes that he would at least continue to be the red zone threat he has been earlier in his career. There were also hopes that this could be his breakout season, so long as he could stay healthy.
If there is a silver lining for Moncrief this year it is that he hasn’t really been hurt. Once he got through some rough patches with his shoulder in training camp, it has been smooth sailing from an injury perspective. Chris Ballard will have to determine how much of his lack of production is on Rob Chudzinski and Jacoby Brissett. If he determines they bear a heavy portion of the blame, this down season could make it cost-effective to bring him back. It is important to note that even after 4 seasons of experience, Moncrief is only 24 years old.
Tier 3 — Frank Gore
Usually, when you say “ageless one” in Indianapolis, everyone will assume you are referring to kicker Adam Vinatieri — the oldest active player in the NFL. Don’t be surprised if they are talking about Frank Gore instead. It would be best for fans to simply disregard a perceived drop in production for Gore in 2017. There is a lot working against him this season and Rob Chudzinski has done the running game no favors.
Gore has looked fresher in 2017 than maybe at any other point during his stay with the Colts. He hits the hole with a vengeance and picks up extra yards behind a suspect offensive line in suspect situations. Consider that against the Pittsburgh Steelers, Gore rushed 17 times for 54 yards. While there is nothing impressive about a 3.2 yards per carry average, 49 of those yards came after contact. Marlon Mack carried the ball 7 times for 7 yards.
Father time will win his battle with Gore at some point in the relatively near future and it’s likely that Gore will want a change of scenery for a better perceived opportunity to make a deep playoff run and have a shot at a Super Bowl. There is also a chance that the aging back will not get the kind of interest he is looking for elsewhere and that he could be retained for a reasonable price.
While it’s more likely that we will see Gore playing for another team next season, the Colts backfield would likely be stronger with him in 2018 than it would be without him.
Tier 3 — Jon Bostic
Jon Bostic has played a ton of snaps for the Colts in 2017, in fact he’s played more defensive snaps than any other player on the team. One of the most encouraging thing about this is that he joined the team with a laundry list of previous injuries. He missed the entire 2016 season with a fracture in his foot and was limited in 2015 to only 11 games and made 1 start in New England. It is encouraging that he has been able to play 676 snaps without any meaningful injuries in his fifth NFL season.
The downside is that Bostic is a limited player. If he is utilized as a downhill thumper against the run, he will do a fine job. Teams need players like Bostic to soak up tackles, control things on the ground, and allow other players to blitz or focus their attention on coverage. The problem for Bostic is less his skillset in general and more that he has that skillset in Indianapolis. Nearly every inside linebacker on the roster is strong against the run but a liability in coverage. At some point, Ballard will need to decide which of those one or two players should be retained to fill that role and which will need to go.
With that said, Bostic has shown flashes of better play in recent weeks. He leads the team with 72 tackles, has 1 sack, 5 tackles for a loss, 2 quarterback hits, 3 passes defended, and 1 fumble recovery. At 27 years old and in his first full season without suffering an injury in three years, its possible that he could continue improving as the season plays out.
Having Bostic back on a reasonable contract wouldn’t hurt the Colts but it’s clear the position needs to evolve in 2018 and that spots for players like Bostic will be harder to come by.