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Rookie QB Anthony Richardson brings renewed excitement to the Colts in 2023

He’ll have some growing pains, but it’s an exciting new era in Indianapolis.

The Indianapolis Colts are getting closer to kicking off the 2023 campaign, as the beginning of the regular season is just a few weeks away.

With that being said, here’s a quick ‘roster refresh’ sponsored by DraftKings, highlighting the Colts’ key additions, subtractions, and underlying offseason moves:

Indianapolis Colts v Minnesota Vikings Photo by Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Key Departures

  • WR Parris Campbell (free agency, 1 year $6.7M, New York Giants)
  • CB Brandon Facyson (free agency, 2 years $6.5M, Las Vegas Raiders)
  • CB Stephon Gilmore (traded to the Dallas Cowboys)
  • DE Yannick Ngakoue (*free agent)
  • LB Bobby Okereke (free agency, 4 years $40M, New York Giants)
  • OT/OG Matt Pryor (free agency, 1 year $1.13M, San Francisco 49ers)
  • QB Matt Ryan (waived)
  • CB Isaiah Rodgers (waived)

The biggest ‘departure’ on this list is arguably at starting quarterback, the league’s most important position, where the ‘Matt Ryan experience’ was just one year and surprisingly done. Despite lauding the veteran’s accuracy and leadership last offseason, the former league MVP looked well past his prime, featuring a diminished arm, non-existent mobility (and frequent happy feet under pass pressure), and being increasingly turnover prone.

One of the biggest actual losses though is starting linebacker Bobby Okereke on defense, who played well in Shaquille Leonard’s extended absence, racking up tackles (151 to be exact, which was a career high) and being an asset against the opposing running game.

Joining Okereke is the loss of veteran standout Stephon Gilmore, who may not be an NFL Defensive Player of the Year-caliber cornerback anymore, still played at a pretty high level in Indy and was a veteran leader in their locker room. Compounding the loss of Gilmore at cornerback is that fourth-year cornerback, Isaiah Rodgers, who was previously penciled in as a starter this year and entering a contract year, was recently waived by the Colts after reportedly violating the league’s gambling policy last season (and suspended indefinitely). The Colts also lost Brandon Facyson at cornerback in free agency, who was benched after the beginning of last regular season but also served as veteran depth.

Otherwise, the Colts did not elect to re-sign veteran pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue, who recorded 9.5 sacks last season and remains a free agent. While Ngakoue showed that he can still get after the quarterback situationally, he’s purely a pass rushing specialist at this point of his career—as he’s a significant liability against the running game.

Lastly, despite the relatively minimal salary cap commitment, the Colts finally moved on from oft-injured former 2019 second-round pick, Parris Campbell, who had his best career last season manning the slot—catching 63 receptions for 623 receiving yards and nine touchdown receptions in 16 starts (17 games). Departing along with Campbell was Matt Pryor, who opened last season as the Colts starter at left tackle but struggled (and really all along the offensive line wherever he played), eventually being demoted in favor of rookie (and incumbent) Bernhard Raimann at the blindside.

NFL: JUN 14 Indianapolis Colts Minicamp Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Key Additions

  • CB Julius Brents (NFL Draft, 44th overall pick)
  • WR Josh Downs (NFL Draft, 79th overall pick)
  • DE Samson Ebukam (free agency, 3 years $27M)
  • PK Matt Gay (free agency, 4 years $22.5M)
  • QB Gardner Minshew (free agency, 1 year $3.5M)
  • QB Anthony Richardson (NFL Draft, 5th overall pick)

For the Colts, it all starts with top rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson, who was selected with the fifth overall pick and has the tantalizing athleticism, physical attributes, and potential to dream upon—and eventually be an elite starting NFL quarterback, if it all truly clicks.

In comparison to his aged quarterback predecessor, Ryan, Richardson possesses an incredibly strong arm and dual-threat ability—as both a passer and dynamic runner. While there are some technique issues to work through regarding his short accuracy and cleaning up things all together as a rookie, he is a special piece of clay that can be molded.

Initial patience will be required though as Richardson had limited starting experience at Florida (just 13 college starts) and is only 21 years old—meaning there will be some growing pains to work through. In the event that Richardson isn’t ready to initially start, veteran Gardner Minshew knows new Colts head coach Shane Steichen’s offense and has starting experience to man the fort during the interim period—keeping Indianapolis at least competitive at the quarterback position.

Even if it’s not the opener, Richardson should start sooner rather than later at the very least though, as we expect the Colts to simplify the offensive playbook and feature Richardson’s legs early and often—as he should be a dangerous complement to star running back Jonathan Taylor in the RPO game and bring back the much needed vertical passing game to Indy’s offense.

Helping Richardson’s initial transition into the NFL will be third-round pick Josh Downs, who will be replacing Campbell in the slot for the Colts. Despite his smaller stature at a listed 5’9, 171 pounds, Downs makes up for it with his route running, ability to separate, and snag contested catches—pound-for-pound, no rookie wideout may be better. He should be a security blanket for Richardson operating in the middle of the field and occasionally deep.

On the other side of the ball, the Colts had two big defensive additions—although through much different means. The Colts signed Samson Ebukam, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers, to a lucrative multi-year deal as their new starting defensive end to replace Ngakoue. Ebukam offers similar pass rushing ability (Ngakoue had 44 total QB pressures compared to Ebukam’s 43 last season respectively)—featuring a non-stop motor and quickness, but is a major upgrade against the run compared to Ngakoue.

Then there’s rookie second-round pick Julius ‘JuJu’ Brents, who with the offseason departures of both Gilmore and Rodgers, figures to be the early favorite to start on the outside at one of the vacant cornerback spots. Brents is freakishly long, very athletic, and is a willing tackler with solid ball skills in coverage.

Last, but not least, the Colts made ex-Los Angeles Rams Pro Bowler and Super Bowl Champion (and former Colt) Matt Gay the highest-paid kicker in NFL history. Chase McLaughlin was solid but unspectacular for the Colts last season, while Gay is one of the best kickers in football—meaning this should be a significant upgrade, especially considering the Colts lost six games by one score or less (and tied another) during the 2022 season. Perhaps Gay can be the difference in winning a few of those close games for an upstart Colts squad?

NFL: JUN 07 Indianapolis Colts OTA Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Line Movement

According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Colts are currently +10,000 to win the 2024 Super Bowl as a result of this year’s offseason.