The Indianapolis Colts have already made ‘seismic splashes’ in free agency, trading for (and extending) defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and signing quarterback Philip Rivers.
After signing Rivers, the Colts still have around $21.5 million of cap space, and that number could get a little higher depending on what the team decides to do with backup quarterbacks Jacoby Brissett and Brian Hoyer (which could save them an additional $12 million of salary cap room for this season—maybe more).
So with their remaining cap space, here are five free agents whom the Colts could still be potentially interested in based on both team need and fit:
Dante Fowler Jr., Edge, Los Angeles Rams
Originally the 3rd overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft, the 6’3”, 255 pound Fowler has become one of the better young pass rushers in the league.
The Colts are familiar with Fowler, having played against him twice a year when he was a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars once incredibly stout, now dismantled defense.
Fowler is coming off a season for the Rams in which he recorded 58 tackles, 11.5 sacks, 67 pressures, and 2 forced fumbles in 16 games (14 starts).
Per Pro Football Focus (subscription), Fowler was their 35th best edge defender as a pass rusher with a +73.4 pass rushing grade.
Having already traded for DeForest Buckner, the Colts could look to ‘double-dip’ along the defensive line and improve in the trenches—an area that general manager Chris Ballard has consistently emphasized strengthening since his arrival in 2017.
Furthermore, while the Colts already have two talented pass rushers coming off the edge.
One, Justin Houston, is 31 years old, while the other, Kemoko Turay, is coming off of a season-ending ankle surgery.
It might not be a bad idea for the Colts to add another impact pass rusher such as the 25 year old Fowler into the fold—with last year’s 2nd round pick, Ben Banogu, also in the mix.
With Fowler’s addition, the Colts defensive line could be downright dominant.
Robby Anderson, WR, New York Jets
Having been signed by the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent in 2016, the 6’3”, 190 pound Anderson remains one of the NFL’s more hidden secrets—as he’s suffered from lackluster starting quarterback play and poor offensive units throughout the years.
Simply put, Anderson could use a change of scenery.
Nevertheless, Anderson has still found ways to be productive and is fresh off a season for ‘Gang Green’ in which he caught 52 receptions for 779 receiving yards (15.0 ypr. avg.) and 5 touchdown receptions in 16 games (15 starts).
He remains one of the league’s best deep and ‘big play’ threats at wide receiver.
Anderson could land a new contract that pays him $12-15 annually, but that number could now be a little lower—as we approach the ‘second tier’ of NFL free agency.
Some are probably saying here, “I’d rather have the Colts draft a wide receiver in a deep class,” and so would I—truth be told.
However, signing Anderson might allow the Colts to use at least one of their two second round picks (#34 and #44) to try to trade up and get a top quarterback prospect—while still adding a necessary upgrade at wide receiver this offseason.
The Colts assuredly want to provide Rivers another weapon at wide receiver, and Anderson—paired with Pro Bowler T.Y. Hilton, could truly ‘take the top off’ of any opposing secondary.
Desmond Trufant, CB, *Atlanta Falcons
Recently released by the Atlanta Falcons, the former 2013 first round pick could help upgrade the Colts at cornerback.
The 6’0”, 190 pound veteran corner had 18 tackles, 7 passes defensed, and 4 interceptions for the Falcons last season in 9 starts—as he missed games due to a toe injury and broken forearm.
Per Pro Football Focus, Trufant had their 43rd best coverage grade (+70.3 ) and has played in a similar ‘Cover 2’, zone scheme with the Atlanta Falcons previously.
The Colts have some talented cornerbacks including slot corner Kenny Moore and last year’s first round pick Rock Ya-Sin, but veteran Pierre Desir had a down season—at least partially because of injuries, and former 2nd round pick Quincy Wilson continues to be M.I.A. Last year’s 5th round pick, Marvell Tell, also showed some debut flashes.
Trufant could provide veteran insurance and another starting caliber defender to the Colts cornerback unit—in case injuries arise or Desir’s play continues to slide as a starter.
Emmanuel Sanders, WR, San Francisco 49ers
As a 3rd round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the 5’11”, 180 pound wide receiver saw early career success before taking his talents to Denver—and joining Peyton Manning and Demaryius Thomas as part of a high scoring offensive attack with the Broncos that won a Super Bowl in 2015.
Sanders came awfully close again this season as a member of the NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers—who came up just short against the Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs.
The 33 year old wide receiver had 66 receptions for 869 receiving yards and 5 touchdown receptions in 10 games (9 starts) with the 49ers—having been acquired from the Broncos in-season via trade.
As of a week ago, the 49ers hadn’t engaged Sanders in contract talks, and their trade for the Colts’ 13th overall pick may very well been for them to snag one of the top wide receiver prospects at that spot.
Facing a ‘cooler market’, Sanders could come on an affordable, short-term veteran contract—and should be much cheaper than the aforementioned Robby Anderson on this list.
Having just signed veteran Philip Rivers, the Colts could be looking to provide him more weapons, and signing a fellow veteran like Sanders makes a lot more sense that it once did.
The 11-year veteran understands how to run routes and is a reliable wide receiver—even if he’s not the 2x Pro Bowl talent he once was.
The Colts can’t come away from the offseason with Sanders as their only upgrade at wide receiver though, but he could be a nice veteran piece in combination with a rookie wideout.
Leonard Floyd, Edge, Chicago Bears
Another recent addition to any free agent list, as he was recently cut by the Chicago Bears, the former 9th overall pick of the 2016 NFL Draft could be a reclamation project for a team.
Maybe the Colts.
The draft pedigree is there, and the 6’5”, 240 pound pass rusher has shown some flashes, as he had 7.0 sacks as a rookie in 2017.
Now 27 years old, Floyd is coming off a season for the Bears in which he had 40 tackles, 3.0 sacks, and a pass defensed in all 16 starts.
Floyd is the type of long athlete that Colts general manager Chris Ballard covets from his defenders, and maybe he’s worth taking a flyer on with a modest low-risk, high-reward deal.
As mentioned, the Colts could still use some pass rushing help and have had some success on resurrecting the careers of former top first round picks such as tight end Eric Ebron and to a lesser extent, linebacker Barkevious Mingo previously.