I started on the outline for this over Xmas break, just due to having time then and starting my prospect studies. I certainly hoped I’d have to wait longer to dig into some exacts and fill in some areas that I needed to see more for. It didn’t happen though. We saw an unfortunate ending to a roller coaster season. One that will now call everything into question, and frame each discussion in a less favorable light. One XP here, a completion there, or held up coverage in spots would have certainly changed alot from a feel good stand point.
I said before the outcome of the Jags game would not change my opinion on the direction of the team. I’m sticking with that. Truth of the matter is. While we like the feel good stuff. It really doesn’t matter or impact anything tangible. The SB champs will be the only truly happy team at seasons end. In a year where we are the clear front runner all along I could absolutely see it different. For what we are/were Im just not going to change my opinion over the difference of a likely playoffs loss Vs just missing.
The first task is honestly accessing what we have. Which is why I spoke about everything above. To do that without a complete blow up and rebuild, we have to let it go. Doesn’t mean it’s ok, or was enough. Why I’m not by any means saying just run it back and expect different results. Just explaining why I’m also not going to call for a new HC, QB, kick em while they are down, or mock major shake up. There will be some aspect of running a lot of things back on what was a pretty good team though, yes. Since I’m not mocking a change at QB and HC I will touch on them.
If I thought it was more relevant to this conversation I would dig into more detail. However, the conversation at hand isn’t whether I like Carson, if we should sign him, or how good is Carson Wentz? It’s what realistic scenario exists to upgrade him, and what is the smartest way to handle being contractually obligated and invested in to him already? For me this QB class doesn’t offer a surefire upgrade. Nor could we afford it without a 1st round pick. Doubtful FA does either, without outweighing the same year one with a new QB downside.
If one did, or became available via trade. Many teams like Philly, Miami, and Carolina have a lot more assets to play with. Making it nearly impossible we’d benefit from Arod or Wilson changing homes. It seems to me replacing Carson Wentz makes the most sense next offseason if it comes to that. In that case we’d likely have a decent pick, all picks, and all of the Wentz cap to play with. I think we can make smart additions now, that make us better for Wentz sake, but also for any other future QB. So I don’t really see a big downside in giving our investment a full 2 years and some help before jumping ship.
I like alot about his leadership, game philosophy, and do think we can be great with him. I think he’s been a success in alot of ways. I also think he’s the kind of coach that wants to call his game Vs change alot in the moment, let surroundings affect calls, or let the game come down to simplicity. Sometimes a positive. For example his philosophy on 4th down became alot less of a problem this season. Our team is better built for those spots now Vs prior years, along with his continued trust and direction setting the tone of expectation. It’s really becoming a positive weapon now.
The bad side of this looks alot like Doug Pederson. You give him a roster full of Zach Pascals and he doesn’t care. He’s still going to draw up plays that probably won’t work, challenge coverages, and waste downs on a screen for 0 YAC. Not because he’s foolish, but because it’s part of the offense, or the logical read, and if it is executed we should win. So we do have to be aware of this, and build the personnel to match. As if we continue not to, it will eventually go down in flames. Doesn’t mean he’s infallible either, I’d be ok if we hired a playcaller, to help. I just don’t see it happening, and am ok with accepting who he is, and leaning into it Vs firing him.
Estimated Cap Space- 56-57 mil
In House Resigns- 30.5 mil
Eric Fisher- 7 mil-
Feel like this needs explaining. My thought is replacing AC won’t be any easier this offseason. So rather than try other used merchandise out. We think back on why we chose Fisher in the first place, and give him every chance to get back to that. Which like Carson, it’s not impossible a full healthy camp and some continuity solves a lot of problems. We talk about it being important at those positions all the time, so it makes sense. While some will hate it. I think it’s the smartest play we could make.
Matt Pryor- 4 mil
Mo Cox- 4 mil
Chris Reed- 4 mil
Zach Pascal- 3 mil
Taylor Stallworth- 2.5 mil
Tyquan Lewis- 2 mil
Kemoko Turay- 2 mil
Michael Badgley- 1 mil
Zaire Franklin- 1 mil
Let them Walk-
Al Quadin Muhammed
Updated Cap Space- 56.5 - 30.5 = 26 mil
Feels dirty to mock, hope he just retires. A paycut is in order at the least, and while I can list reasons to keep him if he’d do that. I really may prefer he just retire or get cut. Saves us 5+ mil that can be applied right to the TE FA class and Mo. There’s set to be a handful of young intriguing guys projected for anywhere from 6-9 mil. I really get him and Mo are force blocking together, I just don’t think it’s that valuable if they can’t ever hurt teams downfield. We can always bring in an additional OL player if tipping our hat isn’t the concern. Which for most of our 2 TE sets it isn’t. Solid long term Colt, who’s time has just ran up for me unfortunately.
Updated Cap Space- 26 + 5.4 = 31.4 mil
Big Q Extension-
Was this a tough year for Q? Yes. Will it affect his contract? Maybe. Although, I think it could cost him years more than a ton of value. We don’t like to offer long contracts under Ballard anyways. I could see us sign Q to a 2-3 year extension Vs locking him up for half the decade. Not ruling out a longer deal, I just think in this instance shorter could be better for his team. With business back to normal as of now, typically raising the cap. They could be content with it, looking for the bigher deal in a couple of years.
He is already due to make over 13 mil. So his extension, even if in the 20 mil per range. Won’t be a clean 20 mil off the top of our available 2022 cap. I’d expect we’d eat a signing bonus, that combined with his 5th yr pay raises him hit that rate for 2022 as well, but again we are already in for roughly 13 mil. So more like a 7-10 mil dollar hit on the estimated space.
Updated Cap Space- 31.4 - 7 = 24.4 mil
Hassan Reddick- EDGE- Carolina- 1 year 11 mil.
I have loved this guy since first sight back at Temple, and nothing has changed. He’s undersized at a position where it really matters. He doesn’t care though, and is the exception to the rule. He’s the current iteration of Elvis Dumervil or Robert Mathis in this way. Once teams started realizing he’s just an undersized rusher Vs a convert, he’s been extremely productive. I get we aren’t exactly in a dire spot at DE, while having other needs too. I’m a big believer in the guys we just drafted as well. Here is why I’d make him a Colt though.
On defense we are incredibly close to completely dominant. While I want to add secondary help, and will. Pressure is king for stopping the NFL pass game. Adding an additional 10+ sack player could help more than any one addition. With Reddick being an imperfect commodity. I could see us getting that production on a deal we can still stomach. He signed for 8.3 for 1 yr just last year for example. With the group we have in place, there’d be no need to ask too much from him Vs the run. We can simply deploy him on the most important snaps of each game. In that role I’m near certain he would thrive. While not a Ballard body, he does fit the kind of player Ballard likes to sign in other ways. Hard worker, locker room dude, small schooler/underdog, uniquely athletic, and flat out produces.
David Njoku- TE- Cleveland- 3 years, 24 mil. 8 mil avg.
We need a mismatch at this position. Reich’s offense offers some massive opportunity that is simply not being benifited from right now. Unfortunately there is no easy way to get a Travis Kelce or Kyle Pitts. There are a handful of potential breakout players at TE in this FA class. Njoku being my favorite if Gesicki isn’t realistic. He can hit the pads enough to stay on the field, but is a downgrade from Doyle blocking. He reminds me of Eric Ebron, except he never got to play with Matt Stafford prior to FA.
With resigning Mo Cox, and returning Granson. I’d play it like this. Cox may end up with the higher snap share doing Doyle’s work. Njoku steps into Cox role from this season getting the lions share of targets. To that point maybe I’m wrong, but feels like Cox has had a ton of screens, and delays drawn up for him. I want those along with a handful of Njoku plays from the slot in our offense. With the idea being we get better on 3rd down, and in the redzone primarily. He’s pretty young too, so not just a Carson Wentz add. He’d fit beyond if that has to happen. Granson is fine for that TE3 role, just not sure I see much more for him.
Braxton Berrios- WR- NY Jets- 4 years, 26mil. 6.5 mil avg.
Some may remember him coming out of Miami. He was the next guy in line after Hunter Renfrow that matched the Edelman/Amendola/Welker look. Like Renfrow and those other guys it took him a few years to start to impact games. He has 89 career receptions and 46 have came this season. He only averages around 10 yards a catch. Also, won’t win any speed competitions. He will only play roughly 40% of snaps, and Is estimated to cost about 6 mil per year. Not chump change necessarily. All of that is ok for me.
Berrios would play exclusively from the slot, mostly seeing the field on 3rd down. He can beat man coverage, and is excellent at securing the targets he does see. Would take over return duties too, as he leads the NFL in return avg, and is close in avg Punt return yardage. He’s safe as that, but I also think he’s the kinda guy that will keep making plays, and get on the field in more ways with experience. Possibly capable of 1000 yard seasons. Why I gave him 4 years, as at 24 it’s plausible he still gets better. His ability to provide a near automatic outlet in key situations outweighs all of the things he can’t do or isn’t for me. We have some incredible counters to zone defense and light boxes on the team already. To keep teams honest we don’t need a makeover. Just a couple more true mismatches to exploit. Njoku and Berrios are exactly that in two completely different flavors.
Updated Cap Space- This is where it’s not as straight forward. Hard math would put us slightly negative. However, it would be easy to structure one or 2 of these deals in a way to get around the hard math. My idea would be to backload the 2 offensive FA guys to achieve this. I’d say we’d have between 2-4 mil left if we did that. Basically meaning we are done besides in season expenses.
2022 NFL Draft-
Round 2- Roger McCreary- CB- Auburn- 6’0" 190lbs-
Whoever the top man CB in the draft is (prob Booth or Mcduffie), RM is right there with him. Maybe a bit less impressive frame Vs some others. However, he has the necessary tools, and shows any shortcoming is no issue on tape. Him playing Bama and handling a large share of Jameson Williams 1 on 1 was some of the best CB tape I watched. Not the most physical or imposing guy coming downhill, but in choosing warts. We can deal with this, as working on that is far easier than teaching a guy to largely erase a 4.3 speed 6’2" WR. We can also work on his zone snaps, as he does seem best face up. By no means do I think he’s inept at it though.
Possible he goes in 1, but the position is deep this year. So if not him I do think one of a few capable CBs will be an option here. I’m not saying he’d come right in as our clear #1, but definitely see it in time, and think he’d play a large role as a rookie. Probably already looking the part by the latter part of next season. I think a decent comparison for him is Tredavious White. Not a real flashy guy, but one of the most effective cover corners in the game, who also hit the ground running out of college.
Round 3- Jamaree Salyer- OL- Georgia- 6’4" 325lbs-
Might have just jumped a round due to the natty, but I had this written already. While resigning Fisher and Pryor tells how I feel about us finding a franchise LT outside of the 1st round. I do think irons in the fire is never a bad thing. Part of his profile is mentioning that he’s currently playing LT for the CFB Champs. I want to draft him as a G though. In likely losing Glow or Reed to FA. We need IOL depth at the least. With whoever stays being one of the weaker points along our OL. I am ok with spending this pick here. Maybe we could get a G in round 5 or something. Won’t get one that may still be an OT, and projects as a long term upgrade at starting RG though.
He’s a big dude, looking like a DT. I question 325lbs being on the light side. Length looks to be one big reason he will project inside, but there’s some things on tape to back it up too. He can move within reason, and well for the size, but just isn’t capable of great play in space or at the 2nd level. His athleticism seems to show up more in tighter spaces, as he can be quick, and packs a punch. I think he could fit right in on run downs at any OL spot, but becomes a plus pass protector inside. I’d fully expect him to take the job away from Chris Reed at some point, and never look back. If the football gods really want to grace us, he’s the exception to the rule at OT and we solve our biggest OL issue cheap.
Colts receive- Pick 96, 3rd round.
Packers receive- Pick 113 and pick 144. 4th round, and 5th round.
Round 3- Jalen Tolbert- WR- South Alabama- 6’3" 190lbs-
Similar to CB, WR has some real depth (again) this year. It’s possible a safer WR prospect may be available here and earlier. However, I’m not sure that’s the best play. Especially for how I have it mocked to this point. We got safe guys, and the option to rework Pascal back into the plans is possible if desired. We lack established deep threats, and playmakers as much as anything. We all hope for the best from PC. We have to plan for the worst too though. So I will shoot you straight. Tolbert needs some hands/concentration work, experience running routes at a much higher level, and a couple steak dinners to reach his peak. Risk is present, and amplified due to LOC. He’s a potential big time playmaker though.
He looks like a special athlete to me, that isn’t that far away from a really scary complete weapon. He is uniquely excellent at tracking, creating long seperation, and making plays deep. All with the speed and frame combo that gets drafted earlier. He also offers some excellent YAC ability. I like him to be a certified field stretcher that can actually play outside exclusively. Really just lacking the polish that comes from working against the best, with better coaches, and seeing more NFL applicable situations. I wouldn’t call it an outright chance pick, just a pick with risk, but the kind that may yield a 1st round caliber player with any luck. Worst case a Will Fuller knockoff, we can still use as an upgrade to Dulin.
Round 5 Comp- Reed Blankenship- S- Middle Tennessee State- 6’1" 205lbs-
I actually mocked this guy last year at one point, but he went back to school. He got better and more physical as a senior. He probably deserves to be drafted in the 2nd-3rd round. I say deserves Vs I think he will be, as he still plays for MTSU, and isn’t a completely clean or elite prospect to overcome it. We see guys like him go here every year, and especially see Safties slip. So I feel ok mocking it.
He may be a bit of a tweener S, but that’s a good thing for our team in many cases. He’s fast, long, and smart enough to play deep. While playing hard nosed and aggressive in the box as well. He has some nice length that aided some TO creation in his career. Also a 3 time team captain. The only real question is. What does he offer if left in 1 on 1 with NFL athletes? The answer to that question will determine if he’s more of an Andrew Sendejo, or more of a plus starting caliber player. For this price he’s excellent depth, and no loss if he isn’t a future starter. Should see STs work too.
Round 7- Brendan Radley-Hiles- CB/S- Washington- 5’9" 180lbs-
As wild as it may sound for a guy this late. I wouldn’t be shocked at all If this guy gets picked in or close to the first few rounds. I’m not calling it by any means. He’s small, likely slot locked, can be over aggressive, and those combined will make for some missed plays.
Really don’t see much on him from the media. He blew me away though. You won’t find a more physical, willing, decisive, or explosive CB in the class. I certainly haven’t made it to watching all the 4th-7th round DBs, but this guy jumped off the tape while I was watching Mcduffie and Gordon. He’s extremely fleet footed and gifted in man, makes instant reads, breaks down hill like a bat out of hell, and looks to hit like he’s 6’3". He’d be a shoe in for ST stardom, excellent slot depth/future, and I honestly would let the guy try out some S. Won’t be shocked if he makes it there either. Safe to say he’s gonna be one of my guys to watch this year.
Round 7 Comp- Nick Zakelj- OL- Fordham- 6’5" 325lbs-
I think this guy is going to hit the national radar at the senior bowl, his selection being how I learned of him. I am also very curious to see his combine. It’s not completely unfathomable he’s one of those guys that flys up the boards during the process as each task gets checked off. He looks like a LT with the length, big paws, and agility you want to see. I only watched 3 games, but this much is clear. He can be dominant Vs the lower competition, and still had good tape Vs Nebraska too.
The guy can step on the field day 1 for me as a run blocker. He’s one of those OL porn types that just looks like he has a blast mauling guys. His entire career value will be determined by pass pro. While to my eye he looks capable, he isn’t ready technically speaking. More so from the waist up. Best way to put it is he gets jittery and off balance. Seemingly due to blocking the pass like the run where he’s too willing to fight with a guy/punch at them, Vs keeping technique while steering the guy out of the play, as he drops gradually with a base under him. Likely a natural RT, but hey, we can always use OT depth and another athletic iron in the fire.
Hey, I get it. I didn’t answer everything, nor did I cleanse the team of all major offenders down the stretch. Also didn’t add much star power. The positive for the fans who hate this, is Mr Irsay will likely force a bigger splash into the equation. While I showed here that personally I’d recommend a stick to the plan type offseason. Depending what that looks like may be exciting too. So by no means am I closed off to other ideas, or not reserving the right to rethink some things myself down the line. Hopefully breaking it down like this with the cap space helps show what our options are realistically if anything. Maybe the move is a 20 mil per guy at one of our big needs, but at least you can see what else we’d not have money for if so.
I do think this mock would hold up on the field. Main reason being it’s basically the same team as 2021, only losing peanuts to the grand scheme. While also adding some really solid contributors. No they aren’t All Pro injections of talent. However, they are an improvement, and the kind of players that should only help enhance, and alleviate pressure on the key players we already have. Specifically I think the 3 weapons I mocked on offense would help JT, Wentz, and Pittman see more favorable gameplans. Which should be enough to make the impact we need to win more games. Always possible one of our in house WRs breaks out too.
On defense it’s really simple. We might have a couple of bad weeks early, or rather need to rely on RYS, Rodgers, and Moore to have excellent health to start the season. By late season we should be scary good. Roger McCreary or a similar CB alone is a huge addition long term. If Paye and Dayo turn it up a little, along with what’s becoming an 11-12 sack norm for Reddick. We’d be a top DL in every way finally. Even guys like Lewis and Turay aren’t out of the running for breakout play. I’d have liked to invested more into S losing Odum. Love the idea of a guy like Justin Reid in FA. Just ran out of assets. My hope is that Blackmon gets and stays healthy. I thought we were seeing him breakout before our eyes this season, and his return could mean as much as anything we do.
It isn’t sexy, but STs matter too. Not only was I able to retain most of the unit, and some of its better players like Zaire Franklin. Berrios and a couple of the rookies should make us even better. If Hines wins the PR job, by all means, but there definitely should be a competition. It’s probably time to get Rodgers off STs anyways, so another KR was a need anyways. I honestly have no clue who should be our starting K of the 2. I’m just going to assume the best man ends up on the team for around the price I listed for Badgley.
Thanks for the read, and Go Colts!