February is here, which means NFL free agency is just around the corner. The Indianapolis Colts, like many other teams, will have decisions to make regarding their 2022 free agent class this off-season.
Inspired by a similar article created by Kevin Bowen, a Colts’ reporter for 1075 The Fan (linked here), here’s a look at the ten free agents, in no particular order, who I believe to be the most important in bringing back for the 2022 season.
- Chris Reed, G, Age 29:
When left guard Quenton Nelson missed a handful of games for the first time in his career, the Colts turned to veteran guard Chris Reed to take the All-Pro’s place. Reed, a former starter for the Carolina Panthers in 2020 whom Indianapolis signed to a one-year deal back in April, filled in for Nelson nicely as he started six games for Indianapolis this past season.
With guard Mark Glowinski set to be one of the team’s free agents this offseason, Reed could be an excellent replacement for the Colts, especially given how well he played in Nelson’s absence and in splitting reps with Glowinski at right guard throughout the season.
- Mo Alie-Cox, TE, Age 29
Tight end Jack Doyle is mulling retirement, and the Alie-Cox produced 318 yards and four touchdowns for the Colts this past season. GM Chris Ballard acknowledged the tight end position could use some upgrading this off-season, but that doesn’t mean they should let Alie-Cox walk.
The belief is that Doyle could likely retire, leaving Indy even more thin at tight end than they already are. Alie-Cox has shown enough as both a pass-catcher and run-blocker for the Colts to bring him back in 2022.
- Taylor Stallworth, DT, Age 26
Stallworth had a career-high three sacks and 16 combined tackles for the Colts in a rotational role in 2021. Stallworth provided a boost to the team’s defensive line, at times, which struggled to generate a consistent pass rush for the majority of this past season.
The 26-year-old had played well overall when given the opportunity. Couple that with Chris Ballard’s philosophy of having ‘at least eight’ defensive lineman who can play at a high level, and Stallworth could and should be a prime candidate for the Colts to bring back for 2022.
- Kemoko Turay, DE, Age 26
Turay, like Stallworth, had a career-high in sacks (5.5). While the fourth-year defensive end has struggled with injury at times, he did play 13 games this past season and provides the Colts with a combination of speed and finesse, which makes him unique compared to the other defensive ends on the roster.
At 26 and coming off a career-best season production-wise, it would be in the Colts’ best interest to bring Turay back on a short-term deal and hope he can evolve into a consistent force at defensive end in 2022.
- Tyquan Lewis, DE, Age 27
Lewis’ 2021 season was cut short due to an injury suffered in Indianapolis’ Week 8 game against the Tennessee Titans. However, Lewis had recorded 2.5 sacks and an interception in his eight games.
That said, Lewis has had 6.5 sacks throughout the last two seasons and was starting to come into his own before going down with a season-ending injury. Similar to Turay, Lewis has also dealt with injuries throughout his career (one full season played: 2020), but the Colts could still benefit from bringing him back on a short-term deal.
- Al-Quadin Muhammad, DE, Age 27
As a 17-game starter for the Colts last season, Muhammad recorded a career-best 6.0 sacks to go along with 48 combined tackles (7 TFLs, 32 solo) and 13 quarterback hits. Since 2018, Muhammad has played a minimum of 15 games, so his durability and availability haven’t been an issue.
Yes, the Colts should look into making a significant upgrade at defensive end, but that doesn’t mean Muhammad, who’s best a solid contributor for the last four seasons, can’t continue to consistently contribute and shouldn’t be brought back.
- Matt Pryor, T, Age 27
When the Colts traded for Pryor last off-season, they likely didn’t anticipate him starting at any point this through 2021. But right tackle Braden Smith missed six games during the season, and Pryor was asked to step in.
Pryor filled in nicely during Smith’s six-game absence and filled in for left tackle Eric Fisher once last season as well. A one or two-year deal for the 27-year-old tackle makes too much sense for Indianapolis, especially considering how difficult it is to find quality backup offensive lineman nowadays.
- Eric Fisher, LT, Age 31
Coming off a torn Achilles suffered in the 2020 AFC Championship game, left tackle Eric Fisher didn’t perform as well as the Colts would’ve probably liked in 2021. But the team currently has no succession plan, and Fisher was an excellent run blocker this past season.
Sure, some would say that bringing the veteran tackle back would be sort of a gamble for 2022. But bringing Fisher back on a short-term deal would make sense for both parties, and would ultimately allow Indianapolis to have a starter in place for next season while they search for a more long-term solution in the off-season.
- George Odum, S, Age 28
Safety George Odum was asked to step in for Julian Blackmon for seven games this past season. Odum had an interception, 55 combined tackles (45 solo), two pass deflections and a forced fumble in those seven starts.
While Odum has primarily been an excellent special teams contributor, including earning an All-Pro selection in 2020, he played well for the Colts when asked to step up in Blackmon’s place. Like many of the other players mentioned on this list, a one or two-year deal makes sense for both sides this off-season.
- Zaire Franklin, LB, Age 26
Franklin, a special teams ace for the Colts over the last few seasons, slid into the ROLB role in 2021. In 17 games played and 11 total starts, Franklin recorded an interception and 40 combined tackles (21 solo).
Given his impact on special teams and leadership, the Colts would be wise to offer the versatile player a contract extension this off-season.
- Michael Badgley, K, Age 26
When kicker Rodrigo Blankenship went down with a hip injury, the Colts signed Michael Badgley to take Blankenship’s place, and the veteran kicker didn’t disappoint. During the 2021 season, Badgley was a perfect 39-of-39 on extra points and went 18-of-21 (85 percent) in field goal attempts, marking his second-best season as a pro.
Having consistency on special teams, especially with a position as kicker, doesn’t always come easy. For the Colts, signing Badgley to an extension and holding on to he and Blankenship would be wise. At the very least, Badgley would give Indianapolis insurance if Blankenship were to go down again in the future.