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ESPN’s Bill Barnwell Ranks the Colts’ Offseason as the NFL’s 13th Best

ESPN’s Bill Barnwell isn’t quite as high on the Colts’ offseason—as others have been.

NFL: JUN 01 Indianapolis Colts OTA Offseason Workouts Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

According to ESPN’s Bill Barnwell (subscription), the Indianapolis Colts have had the NFL’s 13th best offseason—following the big additions of quarterback Matt Ryan, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, and cornerback Stephon Gilmore:

13. Indianapolis Colts

What went right: Things looked pretty precarious for most of the offseason, but the Colts managed to have their cake and eat it, too. First, amid reports that they might be forced to cut Carson Wentz, general manager Chris Ballard sent the frustrating quarterback to the Commanders for a surprisingly large package of picks. The Colts moved up four spots in the second round, added a third-rounder in the 2022 draft and picked up a conditional pick in the second or third round of next year’s draft. Washington also picked up all of the remaining money on Wentz’s deal. The whole Wentz saga was probably a net negative in the long run, but given that we’re judging this based on expectations heading into the offseason, the Colts can chalk up this one as a win.

Then, after a couple of weeks without a starting quarterback, the Colts stumbled onto a solution when the Falcons alienated Matt Ryan. Indy eventually landed the former MVP for the 82nd pick in the draft. At 37, Ryan is on the tail end of his career, but he could still credibly be an upgrade on Wentz. Adding Nick Foles gave the Colts a competent backup in the case that Ryan gets injured. I’m not sure they could have predicted how their quarterback situation would work out, but they managed to upgrade under center and pick up draft capital in the process.

After years of trying to get by at cornerback, the Colts finally took a more significant swing at their weakest position by signing former Patriots star Stephon Gilmore to what amounts to a one-year deal for $9.5 million. Gilmore might not be the player he was when he won Defensive Player of the Year in 2019, but he allowed a 78.6 passer rating in coverage for the Panthers last season.

Indy then parlayed frustrating former second-round pick Rock Ya-Sin into a swap for Raiders edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue, who was being shipped off to create cap space and room on the roster for Chandler Jones. Ngakoue addressed the Colts’ other biggest weakness and will form a one-two punch on the edge with second-year defender Kwity Paye.

What went wrong: The much-vaunted Colts offensive line of years past has a few cracks. The three most important players are still around, as draftees Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly and Braden Smith aren’t going anywhere. Mark Glowinski left in free agency, though, and neither Eric Fisher nor the team seemed interested in a second go-around at left tackle. Dennis Kelly seems likely to take one of those starting spots — and the Colts drafted tackle Bernhard Raimann in the third round — but this doesn’t project to be the sort of dominant unit Indy had when Anthony Castonzo was in the lineup.

The Colts either didn’t want or weren’t able to land more veteran help at receiver, which looked like a position to target this offseason. T.Y. Hilton and Zach Pascal were free agents, while Jack Doyle retired and Parris Campbell hasn’t been able to stay healthy. Ballard brought back Mo Alie-Cox, but otherwise, the Colts will count on second-rounder Alec Pierce and third-round pick Jelani Woods to make immediate impacts. I argued for a reunion between Ryan and Julio Jones earlier this month, but realistically, the Colts are one Michael Pittman Jr. injury away from having the worst receiving depth chart in football.

Honestly, this ranking seems a bit lower than anticipated, especially when you consider that the PFF Offseason Improvement Index had the Colts only trailing the Denver Broncos, who traded for Russell Wilson, and that was even before Indy signed Stephon Gilmore.

The Colts did well to upgrade at the league’s most important position: quarterback, and even if a 37 year old Matt Ryan cannot regain his 2016 NFL MVP form, he should still be an improvement from a leadership, consistency, and accuracy standpoint over Carson Wentz.

Meanwhile, the Colts added a top pass rusher in Ngakoue, who should provide much needed speed and pass pressure off the outside—while Gilmore figures to solidify the defense’s #1 cornerback spot (even if he’s no longer quite NFL DPOY caliber anymore).

The Colts did well to upgrade through the NFL Draft with a potential starting WR2 (Alec Pierce), TE2 (Jelani Woods), swing-tackle (Bernhard Raimann), and athletic safety (Nick Cross) in their recent 2022 NFL Draft Class. At least some of those rookies should be able to have an immediate impact next season—especially Pierce and Woods in run blocking.

While the offensive line lost two veteran starters: Eric Fisher and Mark Glowinski, it’s a unit that projects to have at least a pair of solid replacements in Matt Pryor and Danny Pinter—with quality depth in Dennis Kelly and Raimann behind them.

For a national writer, Barnwell does a commendable job in his analysis, even though I don’t necessarily agree with the end result here.