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Grading the Colts off-season in 5 major aspects

After a surprising 2018/19 season, how did the Colts do in the off-season?

NFL: Indianapolis Colts-Head Coach Frank Reich Press Conference Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

My grading scheme is based on 5 components that either make or break an off-season, which are:

  • Covering holes
  • Retaining players
  • Avoiding scandals
  • Salary cap management
  • Coaching/Management changes

Covering Holes: B+

NFL: Indianapolis Colts-OTA Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Despite finishing the season on a 9-1 run, and defeating the Texans in the Wild Card game, the Colts roster still had its fair share of holes. The primary need for the Colts entering the off-season was pass-rush, followed by adding receiving depth and some help in the secondary.

Indy added Justin Houston to help solve the lack of pressure from the defensive line. Houston played OLB in a 3-4 scheme in Kansas City, but will play as a 4-3 defensive end with the Colts, a position he said feels much more comfortable playing. Houston is the first premier pass-rusher the Colts have since Robert Mathis retired. He has 9 or more sacks in each of his last two seasons, and was a force to be reckoned with against the Colts at Arrowhead Stadium last season, where he racked up 2 sacks, 2 quarterback hits and a fumble recovery.

As for the receiving depth, the Colts did a fine job signing Devin Funchess to a one-year deal and drafting Parris Campbell in the second round of the Draft. Funchess is the big-bodied (6’4’’, 225 lb.) receiver the Colts desperately needed last season to complement T.Y Hilton. He could improve his numbers drastically with an elite quarterback throwing the ball to him, and might be the bargain of the off-season. Parris Campbell is a blazing fast receiver, with good size and proper hands (unlike Dorsett). Campbell was one of the most productive receivers in college at Ohio State last season, and he is one of the players I'm most excited for in the upcoming season. If he can take the slot receiver position away from Chester Rogers, then he has the chance of putting up Pro-Bowl caliber numbers as a rookie.

Where the Colts used most of their assets this off-season was in helping the secondary. The Colts drafted cornerback Rock Ya-Sin, safety Khari Willis, and Marvell Tell. Rock Ya-Sin, besides having the coolest name I’ve ever written about, is an incredibly tough player (Was given a single digit number at Temple in his only season) and performed very well at the Senior Bowl. Khari Willis will most likely backup Clayton Geathers, as he excelled as a box safety in college. Marvell Tell is a former safety, but the Colts will use him at cornerback, where he can use his long, rangy frame to his advantage.

Overall, the Colts added talent and depth at all the clear positions of need. They don’t get an A because, in my opinion, more pass-rushing help was needed, and Houston cannot be relied to turn the pass-rush around at this stage of his career. If young players like Turay or Lewis can step up, then the issue is solved, but the Colts could have added a player like Gerald McCoy or Za’Darius Smith.

Retaining players: A

NFL: AFC Divisional Playoff-Indianapolis Colts at Kansas City Chiefs Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Colts did an outstanding job of re-signing their own free-agents. Right guard Mark Glowinski was re-signed on a 3 year, $18 million deal after stepping up following Matt Slauson’s season ending injury. Pierre Desir, perhaps the only cornerback in the NFL that covered DeAndre Hopkins last season was re-signed on a 3 year, $22.5 million deal. Safety Clayton Geathers was also re-signed on a one-year deal.

The players the Colts did let walk were not very relevant to the team’s plans for the future. They were either too old (like Al Woods), or not productive (like Erik Swoope or Ryan Grant). The only reason the Colts do not get an A+ here is because they did not re-sign Dontrelle Inman, who became a key part of the offense down the stretch and seemed to develop a nice connection with Andrew Luck.

Avoiding scandals: A+

NFL: Indianapolis Colts-OTA Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Long gone are the days where the Colts were on the news for all the wrong reasons. The Colts have enjoyed a quiet off-season, without any issues off the field. This is all because of Ballard’s way of building a team. He made an emphasis on drafting/signing high-character guys that can lead both on and off the field. Just look at Quenton Nelson sending all the new rookies a text message telling them what it means to wear the Horseshoe, or the selection of guys like Ya-Sin or Khari Willis, who were praised because of their outstanding work ethic.

The only “negative” story I heard about the Colts was that Jacoby Brissett and Devin Funchess had a strong argument on OTAs and had to be separated, but honestly, I love that fire on the team.

Salary cap management: A-

The Colts had the most cap space in the NFL entering the off-season, but that did not move Ballard away from his method of team building. The Colts stayed away from expensive free-agents like Trey Flowers or Le’Veon Bell and instead made smart, cheap signings, without much long-term commitment. Funchess was signed on a one year deal and Justin Houston’s contract is only for two years.

Ballard probably had in mind that some key players will need to be extended in the next off-season, so he cannot jeopardize the team’s cap situation and lose guys like Ryan Kelly or Anthony Castonzo. However, the Colts still have more than enough money to re-sign their free-agents in the future, so perhaps Ballard could have spent a little bit more.

Coaching/Management changes: A+

Continuity is key in the NFL. Not only do the Colts have Frank Reich and his assistants Nick Sirianni and Matt Eberflus back, but the team’s management did not suffer any losses. Assistant general manager Ed Dodds was a top GM candidate, but he will remain with the Colts. The other coaching change the Colts made was well documented, letting former offensive line coordinator Dave DeGuglielmo go and hiring Chris Strausser, along with the legendary Howard Mudd as his assistant. At the beginning, many Colts fans were wondering why DeGuglielmo was let go, specially after helping turn the offensive line around, but the answer is that the Colts want a coach that can take the offensive line to the next level, and DeGuglielmo was also McDaniels’ guy. It also does not help Dave’s case that he reportedly did not handle Denzelle Good’s situation well.

Overall grade: A-

The Colts did an outstanding job in this off-season, covering plenty of holes on the team with talented new players, while retaining their own key free-agents without spending big money and handcuffing the team’s future. Ballard deserves plenty of credit for the changes in the Colts, and for finally building a decent team around #12. For the first time in what seems like forever, the Colts only off-season chatter is about football, and how far can this team go.


How would you grade the Colts off-season?

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