Let’s get it out of the way now that, yes, the Colts could have reeled in a big fish like Andrew Norwell, Allen Robinson, Carlos Hyde, Sammy Watkins, Dontari Poe or Trumaine Johnson.
But they didn’t.
We can dwell on it, or we can move on and see if it’s actually going to hurt the on-field product this season.
The 2018 free agency period is still very much in the infant stages. There are plenty of players that the Colts can sign at a reasonable price and can help them in 2018 and beyond. Remember that free agency isn’t about just getting good players; it’s about getting guys who complement your roster. If the draft is for selecting the best players, then free agency is where you fill needs.
Last year, the Colts started out slow in free agency (which Chris Ballard told us he would do) and actually signed 10 new free agents, plus re-signed four of their own.
None of the new players they signed were real big names, yet most of them were big contributors and clear upgrades to the roster, especially front seven additions Jabaal Sheard, Johnathan Hankins, John Simon, Al Woods, Margus Hunt and Barkevious Mingo.
Here is a look at some reasonable moves the Colts can still make to have a very solid free agency “period” (free agency never ends, by the way).
The only receivers the Colts have with any sort of reasonable experience are T.Y. Hilton and Chester Rogers. That will obviously need to change before the season starts because K.J. Brent, Krishawn Hogan and DeAndre Smelter aren’t scaring any secondaries.
The Chicago Bears placed an original-round tender on Cameron Meredith, who was undrafted. The Colts could make a very solid offer to this young, talented receiver (who has low-end WR1/high-end WR2 potential). The Bears have the opportunity to match any offers to Meredith, but the Colts have the money. The Colts will also have former Washington Redskins receiver Ryan Grant in for a visit. If things don’t work out with Grant, they could also look toward someone like Cody Latimer. The Colts will still need to draft a wide receiver regardless of what they do in free agency.
On the offensive line, the Colts need to add two or three pieces who would be capable starters. They have guard/center Ryan Jensen visiting on Thursday/Friday, and they are currently trying to get guard/tackle Justin Pugh in for a visit. We could still see the Colts pursue other players who can play guard and tackle like Cameron Fleming and D.J. Fluker. The Colts could also bring back a couple of their own in Jack Mewhort and Mike Person.
Next, on defense. The Colts have no pass-rushing specialists; only guys who can occasionally get to the quarterback. That was a no-brainer that they would have to address this offseason. Unfortunately, teams don’t let top-end edge rushers leave, so the Colts may just have to add some guys in free agency who are similar to what they already have. Kony Ealy and Benson Mayowa are a couple of names to watch. Ultimately, we’ll probably see the Colts add one or two pass rushers in the draft. (Since this was published, the Philadelphia Eagles have released edge defender Vinny Curry.)
At corner, it’s a slim group here as well. The Colts seem likely to lose Rashaan Melvin to a higher bidder (perhaps the Oakland Raiders). However, the Colts may be able to bring Pierre Desir back to compete with Quincy Wilson, Kenny Moore and Nate Hairston for playing time.
Some positions that the Colts need to address just don’t have much to offer in the free agent market at this point. They could use draft picks on a running back, wide receiver, defensive end, off-ball linebacker, cornerback and probably offensive line.
While adding highly talented free agents is nice, we’re just going to have to be along for the ride. It’s not as exciting, but it’s the Colts’ plan.