Although many people nationally may consider the Indianapolis Colts losers for their careful approach to free agency, that’s not the case when you consider the plan and thought process. However, in the spirit of objectivity, both good and bad things have happened, which leads to people becoming winners and losers as a result.
Let’s take a look at some people in the Colts organization who have been affected by the Colts’ free agent period.
Wide receiver Chester Rogers — There were a few high-profile wide receivers that the Colts could have signed, but didn’t. A player like Allen Robinson or Sammy Watkins would have been immediately slated above Rogers on the depth chart. However, Ryan Grant is the only notable wide receiver the Colts have signed. While he could have a bigger role in the offense than Rogers in 2018, he’s not a layup to go over Rogers in the pecking order. Rogers is more explosive and has skills after the catch. This will be a nice camp battle to watch (as it stands now).
Defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway — The Colts releasing Johnathan Hankins was a surprise. He was an excellent run defender, but they didn’t feel he had the speed and athleticism to fit the Colts’ new 4-3 defense. One of the players I thought about benefiting from Hankins’ release was Ridgeway. If he can stay healthy then he may be a great fit as the three-technique. He’s not likely to start, but he could have a big impact in a rotational role.
Linebacker Anthony Walker — Linebacker was one of the positions that we were told to watch out for in free agency. I had about 8-10 guys who were possible fits that I was watching, and the Colts didn’t sign any of them. The only linebacker they’ve brought in this offseason is Tyrell Adams who, while being a scheme fit, has bounced around the league in his career. Walker started a couple of games in 2017, so he’ll get a shot to do it again. Without the Colts signing any expected starters at linebacker, he is in the driver’s seat.
Cornerback Kenny Moore — Like Walker, 2017 rookie corner Moore started games, and his position wasn’t heavily added to in free agency. In fact, the only corner moves the Colts made was re-signing two players they already had last year in Pierre Desir and Chris Milton. Desir definitely threatens Moore’s status as a starter, but Moore will at least have experience over any incoming draft picks.
Special teams coordinator Bubba Ventrone — This is the first opportunity for Ventrone to be the sole coordinator over a special teams unit, and he inherits a pretty good one. The Colts re-signed placekicker Adam Vinatieri and long snapper Luke Rhodes, who re-join punter/holder/kickoff specialist Rigoberto Sanchez. All three performed very well last year and look to continue their chemistry in 2018. The Colts also still have special teams coverage standouts Milton, Moore, Jeremiah George, Darnell Sankey and Jermaine Grace.
Wide receivers K.J. Brent/Krishawn Hogan — This one had to be expected, but when the league year “started”, Brent and Hogan could be tentatively slotted in as WR3 and WR4. Now, the Colts have begun the process of adding more capable receivers to compete for spots as the WR2/WR3, shuffling Brent and Hogan down the line. The Colts signed Grant in free agency and are looking at others such as Cameron Meredith. This isn’t to say that Brent and Hogan can’t win roster spots come training camp, but the odds are now more so stacked against them.
Tight end Ross Travis — Lots of people were all in on seeing more of Travis moving forward — Chris Ballard and Frank Reich probably are too — but you can’t keep a ton of tight ends on the roster. We can all assume that Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron are safe, then you’ve got Erik Swoope, Travis and Darrell Daniels. Everyone in the organization seems to love Swoope and he was proving to be a nice downfield presence last we saw him. Daniels provides versatility as an H-back. This could be all on Chuck Pagano and Rob Chudzinski last year, but Travis basically disappeared as soon as he said “hello.”
Offensive lineman Jeremy Vujnovich — He may be a loser in this scenario, but we’re actually all winners on this one. Rudeness aside, with the Colts re-signing Jack Mewhort and bringing in Matt Slauson, Vujnovich isn’t going to be starting again (unless injury strikes). And that’s not mentioning that the Colts may continue to add to the offensive line through the draft and the rest of free agency.
Defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus — The Colts are undergoing a big defensive shift, and although they’ve spent the last year bringing in players that fit this scheme, they haven’t done much in free agency to this point on defense. The only defensive moves they’ve made are to sign Adams, re-sign Desir and Milton, and they signed defensive lineman Denico Autry. There is more to be done in the draft, but free agents allow you to do things and hit the ground running. There will be a lot of teaching to do on Eberflus’ part this summer.