The Indianapolis Colts have a lot of work to do this offseason, that much is for sure. New general manager Chris Ballard is tasked with building a competent defense and providing franchise quarterback Andrew Luck with some help, something that’s been hard to come by in Indianapolis during Luck’s career so far.
Today, ESPN’s Bill Barnwell offered his thoughts on five moves that each AFC South team should make this offseason, and here are his suggestions for the Colts:
1. Get Arthur Jones to take a pay cut.
2. Fix the right side of the offensive line.
3. Find a top pass-rusher.
4. Find a long-term solution at running back.
5. Add a second tight end.
He offered his thoughts on each one of those more in-depth in the article, which you can find here, but I’m guessing that Colts fans will agree to most of them. Let’s start with the most obvious one: the Colts desperately need pass rush help. There is absolutely no one who can deny that, and there’s no one who can suggest it isn’t right near the top of the Colts’ list of needs (most would argue it’s number one). Furthermore, most people would agree with getting Art Jones to take a pay cut or cutting him outright, as there’s no way the Colts should pay him the $7.35 million he’s due this season. Colts fans would also agree with the need to find a long-term running back, though I think you’d find many cautioning against doing so in the first round (and though Barnwell doesn’t completely rule it out, he seems to agree that it shouldn’t come in the first round).
I think the other two suggestions, though, will be met with more disagreement and debate. Let’s talk about the tight end position first. Barnwell suggests that the Colts need a number two tight end, but he just seems to dismiss the idea of re-signing Jack Doyle to a significant deal, saying that they “can't really afford to pay their second tight end $6 million per year to line up behind Dwayne Allen.” Who says they can’t afford it? This team with a ton of cap room can’t afford to keep their top free agent? Barnwell suggests that the Colts could re-sign Doyle for around $4M average per year, but that difference of just $2 million would easily be gained by simply re-negotiating with Art Jones (or cutting him), something else Barnwell suggested. And keep in mind that only two other suggestions that Barnwell made were about signing free agents: a pass rusher and an offensive lineman. Put simply: the Colts absolutely can afford to keep Jack Doyle. The reasoning behind Barnwell’s suggestion seems to instead be about paying that money for a backup (someone “to line up behind Dwayne Allen”), but even that suggestion isn’t really accurate: Doyle started 14 games last year, the same number as Allen. In Rob Chudzinski’s system, multiple tight ends are key. Doyle’s role is basically as a starter, not a backup. I agree that the Colts do need to make a move at tight end, but that move should be re-signing Doyle.
Lastly, let’s look at Barnwell’s suggestion that the Colts should address the right side of their offensive line. That’s actually something Chris Ballard has hinted at being a possibility. But Barnwell suggests that the Colts “can't go into Week 1 with Denzelle Good and Joe Haeg on the right side of the line,” saying instead that they could draft a tackle in round one and sign a free agent guard. First of all, they probably won’t go into week one with Good starting at guard and Haeg at tackle - if they kept things the same, it would likely be with Haeg at guard and Le’Raven Clark at tackle (the two players from the right side that Ballard has publicly mentioned as being pieces “we can build upon”). Furthermore, with all the needs on the defensive side of the football, using a first round pick on a tackle wouldn’t be wise - especially in this year’s draft class. The Colts could certainly stand to improve their offensive line, so Barnwell’s not wrong - I just wouldn’t put the same emphasis on it this offseason that he does.
To some degree, I agree with all five suggestions: the Colts need a pass rusher, they need to do something about Art Jones, they need to find a long-term running back, they need to make a move at tight end, and they ideally would need to do something along the right side of the line. But that move at tight end should be re-signing Jack Doyle, while the need along the offensive line has been vastly exaggerated. Could it use work? Absolutely! But should that come at the expense of the defense? I’d argue no - and I think many Colts would agree with that sentiment.