After Donte Moncrief signed a contract that could pay him over $10 million in 2018 with the Jaguars, there was a big hole left to fill and little early action from the Colts on the biggest names in free agency who could address it. Earlier today, the Colts signed former Redskins receiver Ryan Grant, who is coming off of the best season of his career and is still only 27 years old.
Still, it felt like more work could be done to address the position. After all, one thing Moncrief brought to the table was a red zone presence and size. Grant is a solid possession-type receiver with potential but he isn’t ideal to take over Moncrief’s role.
Typically restricted free agents fly under the radar because their original teams hold all of the leverage in negotiations. Once they extend a tender to the player, that player must accept that tender unless he receives an offer from another team. Even if the player does receive another offer, the original team has the right to match the terms.
One restricted free agent who has caught Chris Ballard’s eye is 25 year old Bears wide receiver Cameron Meredith. Meredith had the best season of his career in 2016 lined up across from Alshon Jeffery by hauling in 66 receptions for 888 yards and 4 touchdowns — the best on the team in all areas. Listed at 6’3” and 208 lbs., he is just the kind of receiver who could take another step forward in his development and become a weapon in the red zone.
There are two issues with Meredith at this time. The first is the fact that the Bears will have a chance to match any offer the Colts make — which could result either in a bidding war or force Indianapolis to pay more than they want to bring him to Indianapolis. The second is that Meredith missed all of 2017 after he suffered a torn ACL during a preseason game in August and will need to make a full recovery before he will be able to take the field.
The biggest positive about the restricted free agency portion of the equation is that the Bears placed an original round tender on an undrafted free agent. The Colts could conceivably steal him from Chicago and give up nothing but the money for his contract to do so. Also, his tender is currently set to pay him only $1.9M — which is vastly underpaid for a player who led the team in receiving just a season ago.
The uncertainty around his knee will certainly make medical discussions a key focus during his visit to the Colts facility. However, there is a chance the Colts feel they’re in a position to allow him the time to recover. After all, Ballard is approaching the roster from a rebuilding perspective and looking to plan for the long-term. Even if Meredith needs part of this season to recover, he would enter 2019 at only 27 years old.
No matter what comes from Meredith’s visit to Indianapolis, it is clear the Colts are doing more work to address the wide receiver position. Only time will tell if more is done in free agency or if Ballard will need to spend more of his draft capital to find his players.