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Colts Offseason Needs: Pre-Free Agency

What do the Colts need most on the roster before we hit free agency?

Indianapolis Colts v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images

After finishing the 2017 season with a 4-12 record, the Indianapolis Colts obviously have several needs to try and address this offseason. The current time is all about scouting, both potential free agents and 2018 NFL Draft prospects.

As far as free agency goes, teams have a window to designate players with the franchise or transition tag from February 20-March 6. After that comes the “legal tampering” period from March 12-14. Starting at 4:00pm ET, teams may begin officially signing free agents.

The draft starts on Thursday, April 26 and ends on Saturday, April 28.

After this, I will have a look at the teams needs following the big free agency waves, the week of the draft and right after the draft.

1. Offensive Line (OG/RT)

Under Contract in 2018:

  • LT — Anthony Castonzo, Tyreek Burwell
  • LG — Joe Haeg, Mark Glowinski
  • C — Ryan Kelly, Deyshawn Bond, Anthony Fabiano
  • RG — Le’Raven Clark, Isaiah Williams
  • RT — Denzelle Good

2018 free agents: OG Jack Mewhort, OG Jeremy Vujnovich, C Mike Person

If the Colts do anything this offseason, it needs to be that they make sure their offensive line can protect whoever is playing quarterback. If it’s Andrew Luck, then they’re lucky to get back a player of his caliber, and they know they can’t jeopardize his health again by not giving adequate protection. If it’s not Luck, then it’s a lesson learned that they can lose a franchise quarterback by not properly protecting him.

The Colts are also going to need to make sure that they can open lanes for the running backs. Going by the scenario where Frank Gore is not re-signed, there’s not going to be a starting running back as smart and with as much vision as Gore for the line to block for. They’re going to have to work harder and be better.

Some players that could fit the Colts in free agency:

Some players that could fit the Colts early in the draft:

  • OG Quenton Nelson, OT Orlando Brown Jr., OT Mike McGlinchey, OL Connor Williams, OG Billy Price, OG Isaiah Wynn, OT Chukwuma Okorafor, OG Will Hernandez, OT Jamarco Jones, OG Mason Cole, OT Tyrell Cosby, OT Kolton Miller, OG Braden Smith

2. Edge Pass Rushers

Under Contract in 2018:

DE Jabaal Sheard, DE Tarell Basham, OLB John Simon, DE/DT Henry Anderson, DE/DT Margus Hunt, DE Anthony Johnson, DE Johnathan Calvin, DE Arthur Miley

Colts 2018 free agents: 3-4 OLB Barkevious Mingo

The Colts have a few guys who can pressure the quarterback, but they don’t have very many who actually finish the play and bring the quarterback down. That’s the difference between mediocre teams and championship-caliber teams — finishing.

Jabaal Sheard was good for 4.2 pressures per game in 2017, but only had 5.5 sacks. Rookie Tarell Basham may turn out to be a decent edge defender, but he’s not a pass rush specialist (yet). John Simon may move up to outside linebacker in the new 4-3 scheme, likely giving him fewer pass-rushing opportunities.

Teams don’t let premium pass rushers leave in free agency, so temper your expectations of getting DeMarcus Lawrence from Dallas. Trades also rarely happen including those types of players. The best thing teams can do to build a pass rush is to sign some mid-level guys (like they did with Sheard and Simon last year) and try to take potentially elite rushers early in the draft (like they can this year).

Some players that could fit the Colts in free agency:

Some players that could fit the Colts early in the draft:

  • DE Bradley Chubb, DE Arden Key, DE Harold Landry, DE Marcus Davenport, DE Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, DE Uchenna Nwosu

3. Off-ball Linebackers

Under Contract in 2018:

John Simon, Anthony Walker, Antonio Morrison, Jeremiah George, Darnell Sankey, Jermaine Grace, Joshua Perry

Colts 2018 free agents: MIKE Jon Bostic

This might be the weakest position group on the defense, but it’s not as critical as the offensive line and edge rushers. Especially since the Colts are moving to a base three-’backer set, it puts them in space more, meaning they need to be able to cover ground faster. Anthony Walker may be able to snag a spot, but Antonio Morrison almost certainly will not. The Colts reportedly want to come out of this offseason with up to three new linebackers, so change is coming.

Luckily for the Colts, this is a great offseason to have this need. There are several free agents worth looking for (Anthony Hitchens seems likely), and there are a lot of impressive off-ball linebackers in this draft projected throughout the first four or five rounds.

Some players that could fit the Colts in free agency:

  • ILB Avery Williamson (Titans), ILB Preston Brown (Bills), ILB Todd Davis (Broncos), OLB Tahir Whitehead (Lions), ILB Anthony Hitchens (Cowboys), ILB Corey Nelson (Broncos)

Some players that could fit the Colts early in the draft:

  • ILB Roquan Smith, ILB Rashaan Evans, OLB Tremaine Edmunds, OLB Malik Jefferson

Others needs to keep an eye on: cornerback, wide receiver, running back