It’s sad to say, but I think the Colts have problems all around within the organization right now…
1. Carson Wentz is NOT the QB of the future for the Colts. Too fragile, timid, not mobile enough, football IQ is too low. Not worth a 1st rounder, not worth a second rounder…hell, prob not even worth a 3rd rounder.
2. Front office failed to maintain an offensive line that was among the best in the NFL. Castonzo gave plenty of notice that he was retiring, and the Colts did very little to replace him via the draft, free agency or even trades. Sifting though the rest of the league’s unwanted and aging free agents for bargains for every position is a bad idea. I trust CB’s football knowledge and talent evaluation…but at some point "you get what you pay for." Keep buying older high mileage used cars on the cheap and eventually you’ll get stranded when it breaks down on a long and important trip.
3. Reich is probably not the right coach to lead this team to a Super Bowl. His play calling is basic, fear based, and not ineffective. He had one good year with Wentz before injury lead to pure luck with Foles carrying the Eagles to a championship. Far less successful than advertised.
4. Chris Ballard is a smart GM with a talented eye for catching lightning in a bottle…but he needs to realize that he’s not going to catch that lightning at every position. He should have pushed harder for a Matthew Stanford trade, but in hindsight I can see why Stanford wanted to go elsewhere…he probably saw the flaws in the O-line and WR’s that we are seeing now. The Colts don’t land top tier FA’s because they are cheap, and the entire league now knows it. We now have trouble landing mess than top tier FA’s as well, and are stuck picking through the leftovers after the rest of the league has had their fill. I get it, not wanting to blow your wad on a high paid FA that doesn’t live up to the money…but I’d rather have that then giving up a first or second round pick on a QB that nobody wanted that will bet you the same result…especially if you don’t provide him with protection from an offensive line (even one that was elite last year).
So…am I saying to give up on our future…no. Am I saying to count our losses this year…maybe. I say sit Wentz right now and let him heal completely. That gives you a healthy QB rather than a hobbled one, and it also helps toward salvaging that 1st round pick next year. That should be goal #1 at this point…heal Wentz and work toward saving that pick. You can also find out for sure if the current back-up QB’s have any business playing pro football. Given an opportunity to show what they can do…it they can’t play "competitive" football on this team (even without an expectation of winning with this team, but rather learning and gaining experience), then the Colts shouldn’t waste time/salary/roster spots on them. Take this year and find out where you truly stand at QB.
Next, open the play book and find out what your offensive weapons are really capable of doing. I think the WR’s are talented, but with timid play calling, you’ll never find out if you have weapons..:or just receivers. Pittman is good, Pascal is good, Strachan has huge upside (but hasn’t been targeted much), Dulin is decent, TY and Campbell are injury prone non-factors at this point. Find out what these you g guys can do with an opened playbook and evaluate your need for the position.
Running back is one area I wouldn’t worry about. Taylor and Hines are a great 1-2 punch, Mack is still a talented starter, backup, or RB committee member. The Colts are solid at minimum at the RB position.
Offensive line is a disaster. Sure we have Big Q anchoring the trenches…but he’s hurt now, and actually hasn’t been healthy since the preseason. Kelly is an upper tier Center, Braden Smith is a rock, Glowinski is very serviceable at the other guard spot…so, what’s the problem…why do the Colts struggle on the line so much??? Well, they don’t have a left tackle, and they don’t have depth. Everyone on that O-line is trying to pick up slack that wasn’t there last year when Castonzo was with them. Fisher is old, and the rest of the backups frankly aren’t talented enough to compete against the defenses at the NFL level. I’m trying too hard, our 4 solid linemen overwork themselves, put themselves in bad positions, and injure themselves. Bottom line, the O-line needs rest and recuperation to get healthy, and they need to replace the left side of the line with more talent in order to solidify potentially one of the best lines in the league.
The defense was supposed to be a huge asset…but their not. We have solid cornerstones at all three levels of the defense, but we need to find the pieces to compliment those pillars. Corners for the secondary to help Blackmon, athletic linebackers to help share the burden with Leonard, and depth, speed and power on the d-line to compliment Buckner and Paye.
So how should the Colts proceed from today on??? Here’s my opinion…
-Rest Wentz to heal him and ensure he doesn’t play over 75% of the snaps this season. Preserve that 1st round pick, which, as of now is the 3rd overall pick in next years draft (way too high of a price to pay for Carson Wentz no matter how he pans out).
-Find out what these young guys really have to offer by playing balls out nothing to lose football. The conservative approach has done nothing for this team, so screw it, take some risks and see what happens. It’s not tanking, it’s taking a shot. If they perform bad, then you draft position improves enabling the addition of higher rated prospects…but if they excel…maybe the season turns around and you really learn what you have going forward.
-Sell off some pieces and get some draft capital in return. It doesn’t have to be 1st or 2nd round pick, just get the most you can for the players that aren’t in the long term plans and stock up on mid and late draft picks to have ammo in the off-season. My suggestions…Marlon Mack to an RB needy team for a 3rd or 4th; TY to a contender for a 4th; Paris Campbell to whoever wants him for whatever you can get for him…maybe a 6th; Jack Doyle for a 5th; ANY player with a contract expiring in 2022 should be shopped and see what the return could be…Glowinski, Fisher, Turay, Rhodes, Lewis, Muhammad…all should be shopped for top value. Get a 4th thru a 6th for several of these guys and you’re building draft pick equity for trading up and maybe making nabbing a difference maker at a position of need, i.e. left tackle, left guard, d-line, edge, WR, secondary, linebacker…hell, maybe even QB.
-Have a deadline for Reich and Wentz to each prove that they are vital for this team’s future. I’d give Reich until the end of next season, that’s it. Wentz is under contract until 2025…is only give him until a better option/opportunity to replace him comes along. Next year at least, maybe one more year after that with good progress.
-Spend some damn money in the off-season. Maybe not the top FA target, but spend money on positions of need. The Colts are projected to have the 7th most available cap space at around $57 million in 2022. Restructure some of the larger contracts to signing bonuses, make cuts to underproducing players, save money in some trades that can be made, and try to increase that cap number to closer to $80 million and you have sufficient cap space to do some damage on the FA market. Linemen like Terron Armsted (OT-Saints) and Brandon Scherff (OG-WFT) could push our O-line to the top of the NFL; while defensive options like TJ Watt, Anthony Barr, and JC Jackson/Kyle Fuller/Carlton Davis (all CB’s) would be great pickups. As for offensive weapons, we only really need to look to add a talented receiver and maybe a tight end to round out the arsenal. I’d look at Mike Williams (WR-LAC), Michael Gallup (WR-Dallas), Evan Engram (TE-NYG) and Dallas Goedert (TE/Philly). Adding any of these would be adding a great offensive weapon that would open up more opportunities for our young receivers to excel.
-As far as the draft goes…I trust Ballard’s talent evaluation to get good players. The only point I would make here is to make some moves to get a 2nd rounder back to replace the one we should be losing to Philly. Be it a trade back in the first, or using acquired draft capital from let to net a 2nd rounder, CB always seems to score well in rounds 2 and 3.
All in all, I believe 2021 should be used as an evaluation/re-tooling season. Find out what we got, and find out what we need. From the head coach to the QB to the young players at every position…we should make some firm decision on future members of the Colts team for after this year.