The Colts have several areas in which they need to see improvement in 2020 if they want to compete both in the division as well as in the playoffs. They’ll enter the offseason with 9 draft picks, 3 of which are in the top 50, as well as just over $90M in cap space with which to sign free agent additions as well as re-signing their own players to the roster.
In terms of positions of need outside of quarterback, there are several. They’ll need to add receivers to a group that lacks outstanding talent outside T.Y. Hilton. On the defensive line they need a defensive tackle who can be disruptive and push the pocket, as well as a solid edge rusher to complement the players they have in place currently.
Additionally, they need to add a quality cornerback, tight end, and competition on the interior of the offensive line. If Anthony Castonzo decides to retire, they’ll have an urgent need at left tackle, but they probably need to address the position regardless of his decision.
In other words, this offseason could be an active one for the Colts. The question is, how should the Colts address each of these positions? There are many different routes they could go, but it is fair to say that there will be a blend that is heavy on the draft, with mid-range free agents mixed in. Here are some potential options for how they might address some of these positions.
Given the depth of talent in this draft class, it is almost a given that the Colts will primarily target a receiver in that way. Both The Draft Network and NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah have 9 receivers on their top 50 big boards, respectively. It is entirely possible that they grab a top receiver at pick 13 like CeeDee Lamb, Jerry Jeudy, or Henry Ruggs. All would offer marked improvement at the position and could flourish opposite T.Y. Hilton in the offense, as well as allowing him to gradually hand the reins off as the top target as he ages.
Just as likely, they could forego taking a receiver with their first pick, and opt to target someone like Brandon Aiyuk, Denzel Mims, or Michael Pittman Jr. in the middle rounds. They might even double dip at the position and take a couple of guys, which they’ve done in the past when trying to make a concerted effort to solidify a position group.
Knowing how much Chris Ballard prefers to build through the draft, it is really hard to imagine them spending big money on any free agent wide receivers. The big fish of the free agent class is Amari Cooper, who will no doubt get a handsome payday. With Chester Rogers, Dontrelle Inman, and Devin Funchess hitting free agency for the Colts, it would not be a total surprise if they ended up signing someone in free agency, but it is unlikely that they would pursue a high dollar player. At just 26 years old, Nelson Agholor might be a name to watch, given his ties to Frank Reich.
There are several intriguing draft prospects on the defensive line that could make sense to the Colts. If a run on quarterbacks takes hold, it could push other talented players down the board, potentially giving the Colts a shot at a player like Derrick Brown who would be such a steal at 13 that Ballard might end up with prison time.
Additionally, Javon Kinlaw is a name that has been moving up boards in the early stages of the offseason, and a strong performance at the Senior Bowl helped his stock further. We know that Ballard loves grabbing guys from the Senior Bowl, and so it would be no surprise to see him as a first round target.
If they don’t grab a defensive lineman or two in the draft, there will certainly be options available through free agency. Jabaal Sheard is a free agent and they’ll have to weigh whether or not to re-sign him carefully. Chris Jones of the Chiefs is a player who could potentially hit free agency, and would make sense for the Colts given Ballard’s familiarity with him, but he is likely to fetch a high price. Jadeveon Clowney will be a free agent again and will likely command a big contract as well.
Once the dust settles on the free agent frenzy for defensive linemen, there could be some quality players left to sign for a reasonable deal. Given that many are near the end of their primes, they would warrant a similarly short contract to Justin Houston’s. The Colts saw first-hand with Houston that going that route could be perfectly effective, and maybe they’ll opt to do so again.
It is certainly possible that they might spend a bit more here than they have in the past, given some of the talent that should be available as well as their need to solidify this position while devoting draft capital elsewhere.
A lot depends on Anthony Castonzo’s decision about this season. If he decides to retire, the left tackle position would instantly leapfrog several spots to be in competition as the Colts most urgent need. Without that information available to us, it remains something to consider, but hardly the team’s most pressing need.
On the interior, they’ll want to add competition for Mark Glowinski. While he improved as the year went on, he struggled at times and grabbing a guard who can push him for the starting spot would be well worth doing. There are certainly other more important positions to address, but it would not be surprising at all to see this one pop up in the draft earlier than we might expect.
The Colts cornerbacks are an interesting bunch. Kenny Moore might be the best nickel corner in football, and when healthy, Pierre Desir is also a solid player as the top corner on the roster who saw his 2019 season hampered by injuries. Rock Ya-Sin took his licks as a rookie, but improved drastically down the stretch and really only had one game that was a significant struggle. If he takes big steps in his sophomore season, this could be a pretty good starting group.
Beyond those three there are a lot of questions. Rookie Marvell Tell began to be an impact player as the season went on in 2019, and could see his role increase with a year under his belt after changing positions from safety to corner. Quincy Wilson is on his last shot to make the roster and has something to prove. It is possible that the Colts would address this position in free agency, but that seems unlikely. They are essentially set at their starting positions, so the draft seems the most likely route to take a player they feel they can develop.
The Colts have two tight ends they feel pretty good about in Jack Doyle and Mo-Alie Cox. Both offer relatively balanced games and Doyle is about as reliable as the sunrise. However, neither offers the explosive playmaking ability Eric Ebron did. A move tight end is something this roster would benefit from, and the draft may be the place to get one.
They could potentially grab a free agent tight end if the price is right, but that seems less likely. Perhaps they could opt to take a short-term chance on someone like Tyler Eifert, whose inability to stay healthy ought to drive his price way down, but who could offer a major upside if he was able to stay on the field for a season.
There remain many important decisions to be made this offseason, and while many will focus on the search for a quarterback, there will be plenty to keep track of at other positions.
Which moves are you most interested to see the Colts make this offseason?