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Stampede Blue Writers Roundtable: Free Agency

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The 2019 NFL Free Agency period will officially begin this Wednesday 13th March at 4pm ET. The Indianapolis Colts are scheduled to have approximately $102 million dollars in cap space (the most in the league). The Colts, armed with their massive cap space, could be big spenders and go after several big name targets or could play it calm and collected and go for middle to low-level named targets as Chris Ballard has done in previous years.

The Stampede Blue staff sat down around the round table and each pitched their four targets they think Chris Ballard should go out and sign.

Brett Mock:

Justin Houston, Defensive End

Veteran free agents like Justin Houston often end up in one of two different situations for their next team. One, playing on a team with the potential to win big in the playoffs (think Patriots). Two, playing on a team with a familiar coaching staff or front office (think Browns). In Indianapolis, Houston would get both. He would also earn meaningful snaps immediately and could turn his focus almost exclusively to pass rushing and less on coverage. No, he won’t get paid like he did in his last contracts for the Chiefs. However, he is still owed some money from Kansas City and can get a reasonably priced two-year contract with front loaded guarantees that should make him feel pretty good about his bank account. Add Houston and a draft pick to the current Colts youngsters and you might have something going.

Landon Collins, Safety

This is the ultimate make-up signing. The Colts should have drafted Landon Collins instead of Phillip Dorsett in the 2015 draft. Bringing him in now allows the Colts to have versatility on the back end. Collins has the chops to be a devastating downhill player in the box in nickel and dime packages. He also has the ability to drop into coverage in a Cover-2 zone. While he doesn’t have the blazing on-field speed of a Bob Sanders, he can cover quite a bit of ground and would be far from a liability in the passing game.

Tyrell Williams, Wide Receiver

As with Justin Houston, Williams has familiarity to Frank Reich’s offensive concepts and a close relationship with current offensive coordinator Nick Siranni. If you’re looking for the 2019 version of Eric Ebron, Williams could be it in the right situation. What do the Colts need? A field-stretching, athletic downfield receiver to pull some of the attention away from T.Y. Hilton so he doesn’t have to beat double-teams on every snap. They need someone who can be active in the red zone and who is willing to block for the running game. What free agent on the market could possibly generate more confidence for the Colts coaching staff and front office than Williams given their history together?

Darius Philon, Defensive Lineman

To this point, Chris Ballard has shown a proclivity for finding players who were either underutilized or underappreciated on their previous teams and putting them into roles to step forward in their careers. Margus Hunt was on the verge of possibly flaming out in Cincinnati. Al Woods slipped away from Tennessee only to become a key contributor, particularly in run defense. Denico Autry was a bit of a fan favorite but was not garnering attention as a likely full-time starter in Oakland when Ballard brought him in to start in a scheme that is tailor-made for his best attributes. Other players who have gone from relative unknown to relevant on the defensive line are Jihad Ward and Al-Quadin Muhammed. Next on this list, and similar in ways to Ward, is Darius Philon. This is a player who has shown the ability to play more snaps than the Chargers have been willing to give him. Outside of injury, he might have never received his chance to start multiple games. He is nasty in the trenches as a penetrator and disruptor. He oozes “Matt Eberflus/Mike Phair” defensive lineman.

Stephen Reed:

Landon Collins - Safety

This makes too much sense. Collins is the perfect box safety the Colts need in this system. He’s already shown what he can do, is young and is a leader in the locker room. He checks every one of Chris Ballard’s boxes.

Preston Smith, Defensive End

Prior to the Dante Fowler deal, I thought the Colts could get Smith for around $10-12MM per year. Now, I’m not so sure. However, Smith does possess traits Ballard likes. He’s a productive player, an ascending talent who hasn’t peaked yet, and he’s still young. He’ll command a decent salary, but it shouldn’t be anywhere near Trey Flowers deal.

Steven Nelson, Cornerback

Nelson isn’t a big name but he was one of the players from Kansas City drafted while Ballard was there. Like the others mentioned, he’s young and hasn’t reached his peak yet. He’s physical and aggressive but has decent ball skills. He’d be a perfect fit for the Colts defensive scheme.

Adam Humphries, Wide Receiver

Humphries is not the ideal outside WR but he could be a cheaper option for the slot. He’s got reliable hands, is young and should not command an incredibly large contract. If he’s asking for more than $10MM per year, then I’d guess Ballard passes

Andrew Aziz:

Tyrell Williams, Wide Receiver

There have been rumors about the Colts going after Williams, who has played under Frank Reich. He has good size and very good speed, and could up being a very solid #3 or even #2 receiver on the Colts. His price point isn’t crazy either, which fits Ballard’s philosophy. For the record, I want the Colts to sign Adam Humphries, but for the sake of the article, Williams seems like a more likely target.

Tre Boston, Safety

Boston has been a very good under-the-radar safety over the past few seasons. He plays the free safety spot more often than not as he has good cover skills. If the Colts stick with the Cover-2 philosophy, getting another quality safety with coverage skills will be important. Boston fits that mold and could end up being a player who fits well in the Colts’ system.

Danny Shelton, Defensive Tackle

Shelton is a very good nose tackle who played very well in the Patriots’ 4-3 system, and the Colts could use a true nose tackle for their system. Right now, they’re trying to mask Margus Hunt as a nose tackle, when he should be playing as a 3-tech. Shelton is a big bodied player who can eat up 2 gaps and has been very good against the run in his career. His price shouldn’t be crazy.

Jason Verrett, Cornerback

Verrett is an ideal “one year prove it contract” candidate, and Ballard likes prove it deals. I think the Colts need some cornerback help, and I see Verrett, who is a talented player coming off a serious injury, as a good candidate.

Elliot Denton:

Well, in my opinion, the Colts have four big needs, therefore, I have gone for the four big needs as the positions I think Ballard will target to sign:

Devin Funchess, Wide Receiver

Funchess is a big, productive receiver who can stretch the field vertically. Funchess didn’t fully reach his potential in Carolina but I think that was more down to scheme than talent. The former Michigan tight end would be the perfect partner for TY Hilton.

Shane Ray, DE

Ray is a former first-round pick who seemed to have broken out in Denver, only to be derailed by injuries. Ray is the type of speed rusher that Chris Ballard likes. He’s similar in stature and play-style to one of the Colts pass rushers already in Kemoko Turay and I think Ray will provide a Eric Ebron-type regeneration in Indy.

Adrian Phillips, Safety

Phillips is an ex-charger who is a do-it-all safety. He plays deep, in the box, and even played linebacker when the Chargers went with their nickel-heavy defense against the Ravens in the playoffs. Phillips is exactly the type of low-level name target (think Denico Autry) that Ballard loves.

Steven Nelson, Cornerback

Lastly is cornerback Steven Nelson. Nelson was actually drafted by Ballard and Dorsey in Kansas City. He is a physical corner who plays the run extremely well. He can play inside and out and was tried and heavily tested last year as he was the cornerback most thrown at in the league last year.

Blake Pace:

Tyrell Williams, Wide Receiver

This, to me, is the most obvious signing for the Colts to make this offseason, as he’s a mix of familiarity and position of need. The Colts have some of the worst receiving depth in the NFL, and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni coached Williams during the best two seasons of his young career (1,059 yards in 2016, 728 in 2017). Williams would step in as the tallest wideout for the Colts — just as tall as Eric Ebron and Ryan Hewitt — and would instantly become the second-best receiver on the team. He’s young, most likely cheap, and fills one of the most glaring holes the 2018 Colts team had.

Adam Humphries, Wide Receiver

If one is good, two is better. If the Colts really want to create some depth at the wide receiver position, bringing in a slot guy like Humphries would be great for the quick-pass game Reich implemented in his offense in Year 1. He generates a fair share of first downs, can be used on special teams and, once again, aids a position of need for the Colts. A 1-2-3-4 combo of TY Hilton, Tyrell Williams, Adam Humphries and a returning Deon Cain each bring something different to the field and would be such a drastic upgraded from the receiving corps on display last year.

Landon Collins, Safety

Colts twitter was alive and well when the Giants announced they wouldn’t be placing the franchise tag on Landon Collins, and for good reason. The 25-year-old was an All-Pro at the age of 22, fits the open safety position opposite of Malik Hooker, and should be well within the price range Indianapolis should be willing to spend. With the Colts, Collins would provide Hooker the chance to roam the back of the defense and the two would instantly become one of the more formidable, young safety duos in all of football. While I personally have my concerns with doling out a large sum to bring him, there’s no reason the Colts shouldn’t risk it given the cap flexibility and the need to fill the starting position.

Chance Warmack, Guard

What’s wrong with a little offensive line depth? I know, the Colts o-line has been restored to greatness ... but what if there was to be an injury to a starter or a young lineman took a step back in Year 2? Depth up front is *cruicial* to the success of a team, and it can derail talented programs if there’s not enough of it. Warmack and Reich have worked together briefly like Sirianni and Williams have, and he’s young enough (27) and cheap enough to be a plug-and-play guy for when the random lineman needs a play or series off. It’s not a sexy signing, but it could be one of the more crucial ones down the road.

Chris Blystone:

Landon Collins, Safety

Colts fans have long bemoaned the selection of Phillip Dorsett with Landon Collins still available. Now they have the opportunity to rectify that situation. Collins would give the Colts a 3-time Pro Bowl, First-Team All-Pro safety to pair with Malik Hooker. At just 25 years old, he could be the kind of splashy addition Chris Ballard hasn’t made in free agency as yet. However, his skill set and age make him a prime target. The question will be whether his price tag puts him above what Ballard, who dislikes bidding wars, is willing to pay.

Brian Poole, Cornerback

Given the dearth of talent at the corner position in the draft, a value signing Chris Ballard could make is Brian Poole, the UDFA CB who has gotten considerable work with the Atlanta Falcons. Poole would make a solid addition to the cornerback room as a talented slot corner with low cost. Poole will enter the season just 26 years old and with a chance to be a bargain with solid up side.

Adam Humphries, Wide Receiver

The Colts brought in Ryan Grant with the hope of adding a reliable target to their receiver corps, but that experiment was a failure. Adam Humphries has the potential to be what Grant was unable to be. He has had a better than 70% catch rate both of the past two years and is the kind of tough slot receiver that you could envision Frank Reich turning into a Pro Bowler in the Colts’ scheme. Humphries is another 2015 product, coming in as an UDFA and is just 26 years old.

Tyrell Williams, Wide Receiver

Another interesting consideration at receiver again comes from the 2015 class. Frank Reich was the offensive coordinator for the Chargers when Williams was signed as an UDFA. Since his second season, Williams has been a productive contributor to the Chargers’ offense and has the speed and size to stretch the field and challenge defenses deep. For an offense that needed more receiving weapons, Williams would make a welcome addition and is just 27 years old.

There we have it. The Stampede Blue writing staff have given their four options for free agency, send in your comments and who you think the Indianapolis Colts should sign in free agency.