With a projected $106.6M of available cap space, the Indianapolis Colts could potentially become major players in the NFL’s upcoming free agency period. Of course, general manager Chris Ballard has emphasized efficient spending during his short tenure in Indianapolis, as opposed to entering “win at all cost” bidding wars with other NFL suitors.
Still, the Colts have dabbled with big name free agents in the past, as Ballard reportedly entered talks with the likes of Alshon Jeffery, Andrew Norwell, and AJ Bouye among others during prior free agency periods. It’s just when a free agent’s perceived value is exceeded by his agent’s asking price, Ballard has no qualms with generally packing up his chips and walking away from the table.
Here are 6 free agents who could pique the interest of the Colts:
6. Adrian Amos, S, Chicago Bears
Originally a 2015 5th round pick of the Chicago Bears, the 6’0”, 214 pound Amos has emerged as one of the better young safeties in football. The 25 year old is fresh off a season for the Monsters of the Midway, in which he recorded 73 tackles, 2 interceptions, 9 passes defensed, and a sack in all 16 starts for the league’s most dominant defense.
Per Pro Football Focus (subscription), Amos was their 8th best safety overall last season with a +82.7 grade overall.
Of course, the Colts have free agency questions of their own at safety, namely whether the team should re-sign defensive captain Clayton Geathers, who’s poised to test the free agency market for the first time in his career. Geathers has had his fair share of durability concerns, as does fellow starter Malik Hooker, meaning the Colts could withstand to add another insurance policy in the backend of their secondary regardless. Amos is not only that, but much, much more.
5. Tyrell Williams, WR, Los Angeles Chargers
Having been signed by the Chargers as an undrafted free agent in 2015, the 27 year old Williams has been a bit overlooked by playing in a talented receiving corps—often overshadowed by 2x Pro Bowler Keenan Allen among others. Still, he’s coming off yet another productive season for the Bolts, in which he recorded 41 receptions for 653 receiving yards (15.9 avg. ypr) and 5 touchdown receptions in 16 games (10 starts).
For perspective, that 15.9 yards per reception average was the 11th best in football, just three spots below the Colts very own T.Y. Hilton (16.7 avg. ypr)—indicating that Williams is quite the prolific deep threat in his own right. At 6’4”, 205 pounds, Williams also looks the part of the ‘big bodied’ wide receiver that Colts fans have been clamoring for on the opposite side of Hilton.
There’s a definite need for Indy too, as the Colts have struggled finding a consistent go-to #2 wide receiver to complement Hilton since franchise great Reggie Wayne last played. Dontrelle Inman was a pleasant surprise last season, and Chester Rogers has had his moments, but both are best suited as #3 wide receivers on a truly elite offense—and the Colts could simply withstand to upgrade.
With Williams, it’s just a matter of cost.
There’s been speculation that Williams could command $11M+ annually, which seems too steep of a price to pay for a wideout who’s been very good—but never great. However, if his market becomes more realistic, it could be a welcome opportunity for the Colts to capitalize and improve their receiving corps for Andrew Luck.
4. Za’Darius Smith, DE, Baltimore Ravens
Entering the league as a 2015 4th round pick of the Baltimore Ravens, the 6’4”, 272 pound Smith has become one of the key young players for what has been a notoriously stingy defense. The 26 year old recorded 45 tackles, 8.5 sacks, and a forced fumble in 16 games (8 starts) for Baltimore’s defense last season. For comparison purposes, the Colts leading pass rusher, Denico Autry, had 9 sacks last season.
Per Pro Football Focus, Smith was their 16th best graded pass rusher with a +78.7 pass rushing grade among edge defenders.
The Colts finished with 38 sacks last season, which was only the 19th most in the NFL. For defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus’ unit to take the next step, the Colts will have to increase their pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Smith won’t be mistaken for franchise greats Dwight Freeney or Robert Mathis anytime soon, but he’s another young pass rusher who could consistently generate 8-10 sacks per season for the Colts defense going forward. Something that’s not so easy to turn down, when the Colts simply don’t have enough of it.
3. Preston Smith, DE, Washington Redskins
Originally a 2015 2nd round pick of the Washington Redskins, the 6’5”, 265 pound Smith has become one of the more unheralded young pass rushers in football. He’s set to test the free agency market, having recorded 53 tackles, 4.0 sacks, and an interception in all 16 starts for the Redskins defense last season.
While Smith didn’t get the sack output he was likely hoping for in 2018, he’s just one season removed from an 8.0 sack year with Washington in 2017. Smith has freakishly long arms and would add athleticism and pass rush to a defensive front that could still use it.
Only 26 years old, he’s the type of young pass rusher that Chris Ballard could bet on, hoping that his best seasons are still well ahead of him.
2. Trey Flowers, DE, New England Patriots
Having been drafted by the reigning Super Bowl Champions in the 4th round of the 2015 NFL Draft, the 6’2”, 265 pound Flowers is yet another defensive end who could interest the Colts in free agency. Flowers is coming off a season for Bill Belichick’s defense in which he recorded 57 tackles, 7.5 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and 2 passes defensed in 15 starts.
Per Pro Football Focus, he earned their 13th best pass rushing grade among edge defenders, boasting a pass rush grade of +79.9.
The 25 year old could command $17M annually on the open market—which seems awfully rich, but his success doesn’t appear to be a byproduct of Belichick’s defensive genius, as he looks like the real deal defensively. As mentioned, the Colts could use pass rushing help, and Flowers is the biggest name of the three mentioned here.
1. Landon Collins, S, New York Giants
Many Colts fans are already very familiar with Landon Collins, as the prior regime controversially passed over him in order to draft former wide receiver Phillip Dorsett in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft. Since then, Collins has become a 1st-Team All-Pro and 3x Pro Bowler, leaving Colts fans to wonder what simply could’ve been in horseshoe blue.
There’s rarely second chances in sports, but the Colts could have a shot to finally “bring Collins home,” as the 25 year old safety is not expected to re-sign with the New York Giants.
The 6’0”, 222 pound Collins had 96 tackles, 4 passes defensed, and a forced fumble in 12 starts for the Giants defense last season. He’s a throwback, downhill, hard-hitting safety, who’s going to punish opposing ball carriers, but he’s no slouch in coverage either. He already has 8 interceptions in his 4-year career—including 5 picks in 2016.
He’s a perfect complement to fellow starter Malik Hooker’s more coverage oriented, ball hawking style at free safety, as Collins will no doubt “mix it up” at strong safety. He’d bring much needed physicality to the backend of the Colts secondary and help further their defensive identity of not only being fast and swarming—but nasty. Something that Colts fans fondly remember from Bob “The Hitman” Sanders all too well, when he infamously roamed between sidelines.
Playing in the prime of his career, Collins could be that type of special “enforcer” talent at safety for the Colts yet again.