One of the reasons Colts have been quiet at WR in free agency: Reich is high on the returnees. Behind Pittman, he named Strachan, Patmon, Campbell, Dulin and even Coutee. "We’re not a desperate team that’s gonna say, 'Let’s go grab a guy that’s a name just to grab somebody.'"— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) March 28, 2022
However, all signs still point to the Colts attempting to upgrade their wide receiver and/or tight end units through this year’s NFL Draft—presumably early on, especially the former in what’s been regarded as a very deep rookie wideout draft class:
My sense from various conversations is WR will definitely be addressed in the draft. At the same time, relying totally on the draft is not wise and the Colts don’t necessarily expect huge, immediate production from a rookie. All of which tells me they actually believe this. https://t.co/RCkKdmw4cp— Stephen Holder (@HolderStephen) March 28, 2022
For the record, I still think they need to add something at WR, though it's been my thought all along that's what they do with their 2nd round pick.— Zak Keefer (@zkeefer) March 28, 2022
As for Ryan, the full expectation is that he's here for two seasons. That's why team moved back some of the GTD$$ back to 2023.
Given the current marketplace for NFL wideouts—in a bold new world where ex-Arizona Cardinal Christian Kirk just landed a 4-year, $72M deal, one can’t necessarily blame the Colts for sitting the first few pricey waves of free agency out at wideout.
That being said, they can’t sit idly by this entire offseason regarding the position either.
Yes, selecting a younger, cheaper, and potentially just as good rookie instead of paying big bucks to a veteran receiver definitely makes sense in theory, but the Colts still have to execute the second half of it. That is, drafting a really good rookie wide receiver this year.
This current group simply isn’t good enough right now to completely ‘run it back’, as new veteran quarterback Matt Ryan could use some upgraded weapons in his arsenal.
Ryan should make the Colts’ receiving room at least a little better than it showed last season, by providing superior accuracy and yards after the catch opportunities than his predecessor, Carson Wentz, but there’s still significant work to be done personnel wise at receiver. This unit needs more speed, separation, and dynamic downfield threat ability.
Soon-to-be third-year wideout Michael Pittman Jr. remains a rock solid #1 wideout—although he might be a WR2 on some of the NFL’s truly elite passing offenses right now.
But beyond him, the Colts receiving cupboard is pretty barren regarding proven options.
Veteran wideout T.Y. Hilton is a free agent, and might be transitioning to more of a WR3 anyways at this point in his late career. Last year’s starter, Zach Pascal, signed with the Philadelphia Eagles, and the Colts needed more of a consistent separation threat regardless.
Oft-injured wideout, and former 2019 second round pick Parris Campbell seems like he could continuously be the ‘X-Factor’ of the Colts receiving room—given his tremendous speed if healthy. However, the Colts keep relying on him, and he keeps getting hurt. Once again counting on him without insurance for a prominent role doesn’t seem all that prudent given his lingering durability concerns, but he’s talented enough to certainly keep around for a longer look and to (hopefully) finally breakout.
Wideouts further down the depth chart such as Ashton Dulin, Dezmon Patmon, and Mike Strahan seem like intriguing developmental options, but none should be sound bets to be safely penciled in for a WR2 or WR3 job heading into the 2022 regular season.
The Colts clearly need an upgraded starting caliber option on the other side of Pittman Jr. (preferably with downfield speed)—and a dynamic receiving option over the middle of the field at tight end may not hurt either, although second-year tight end Kylen Granson could take another step forward after showing some initial flashes as a rookie.
Right now, it’s fine for the Colts to have confidence in their current group publicly (I mean what else are they supposed to say, ‘This room is run-of-the-mill?’). However, if the powers that be aren’t eyeing upgraded options early on in the NFL Draft, then it appears that it’s a clear mistake again—for a unit that’s desperately needed an infusion of dynamic receiving talent for quite some time.