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The Colts Need Andrew Luck Now More Than Ever

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Does the lack of top tier talent being added in free agency mean Andrew Luck will have to shoulder the load when he returns to the field in 2018?

NFL: Indianapolis Colts-Training Camp Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t need to tell you how important Andrew Luck is to the success of the Indianapolis Colts. The, now, 28-year old quarterback hasn’t played since the end of the 2016 season and aside from positive vibes and some encouraging statements from Luck and Chris Ballard, Colts fans don’t truly know what they’re going to be getting from him in 2017.

In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Colts haven’t exactly been lighting up the first two days of free agency and though fans are trying to remain hopeful, their patience is being tried right now. Several of the top free agents, in a reasonable age range, are off the board, and despite being a bit more active and bringing in a handful of players for meetings, their lone signing is still Denico Autry.

We’ve seen Luck carry the team on his back in year’s past with awful rosters, but that wasn’t apart of the plan in 2012 when the team drafted him first-overall. It certainly isn’t the plan right now under Chris Ballard, though, many are worried that the 2018 season may still require his greatness for the team to be competitive.

Some of the talk around the water cooler — if people actually still do that — has been that Ballard isn’t closing, players don’t want to come to Indianapolis and that most of these signings around the league are far too rich for Ballard’s blood.

To be perfectly honest, I think it’s a little bit of all of the above. With that, It’s reasonable to say that each of those components may be affecting the others and in no particular order. For instance; former Colts cornerback Rashaan Melvin signed a 1-year deal for $6.5 million with the Oakland Raiders, a contract the Colts more than likely would have been good with in retaining his services. However, it appears as though Melvin wanted more from the Colts in order to stay in town.

We can surmise from this that Melvin wasn’t too awful interested in coming back to Indianapolis, and he apparently needed quite a bit more money per year in order to hang around through the team’s current process of a rebuild. He wanted too much for Ballard, he didn’t really want to be here, thus, there probably wasn’t much ammo to talk him down.

Another example would be center Ryan Jensen who recently visited the Colts and would have likely taken on one of the guard positions that the team desperately needs heading into the 2018 season. He came after a meeting with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and you can guess that he likely didn’t stay very long considering that the Bucs ended up signing him to a 4-year deal for $42 million and $22 million guaranteed.

You could say that that wasn’t in Ballard’s mind when they met — making him the highest paid center in the league, that is. No real explanation there is needed, and I don’t blame Ballard at all for balking on that sort of request.

Ballard likely scoffed at the thought of Donte Moncrief getting $10 million, Justin Pugh, Dontari Poe, Star Lotulelei and Sheldon Richardsonwho the Colts reportedly were looking at — all have signed elsewhere, and so has Austin Seferian-Jenkins. While the Colts continue to look to become suitors for Benson Mayowa, Ryan Grant, and Eric Ebron along with a couple others, the rejections continue to come for one reason or another.

On the bright side, the Colts will eventually fill out the roster and some quality talent will indeed be added at some point in free agency. But, it is beginning to look more and more like the Colts won’t have any splash signings to rile up the fan base, and the bulk of the added talent will come from the draft in April.

Does any of this have anything to do with the perceived uncertainty surrounding Andrew Luck’s status? Honestly, I don’t believe it does, but it’s possible. On the other hand, had Luck been healthy last year it’s more than reasonable to assume that his status without any questions of a lingering shoulder issue would have been a magnet for some of these players.

Luck is expected back this season. He’ll be with the team in early April when their offseason program gets underway, and their presumed target for his full return is no later than training camp.

This season may just end up being a slow process, with little-to-no flash between now and the draft. And if that’s the case we’ll all just have to deal with it and take it as an ugly, but necessary part of the rebuild that’s getting itself out of the way now. Next year, though, with Luck back for a full season, it’ll naturally be an expected selling point to have had him back and possibly being a few free agent signings, and ‘another’ good draft away from being back in true contention.

Players who are set to be free agents in 2019 will be watching, and if all goes well Luck will return to his 2016 form where he looked to be putting it all together. Not to mention, a successful draft this year, good production from last year’s class and those who draw interest from Ballard next year at this time, will have to respect his vision of roster construction.

The Colts need Luck in 2018. Of course they do, it’s no secret. They need him not just for the team to be competitive, not just to be okay ‘with the arrow pointing upward’, but they need him in order to help Ballard, help him.

Free agents will need that extra incentive that Andrew Luck didn’t just remain healthy in 2018, but had another very good season, looked like his old self, and it could pay off exponentially at the next stage of building a legit contender. Indianapolis isn’t a destination city, but Luck can certainly help make it far more attractive a year from now.