I said early on this season that I wouldn’t ever tank, but I’d be all for letting our youth play, and the most important thing to accomplish was taking stock. We are in year 1 of a new a head coach and rookie QB. It would be unheard of to run the table right away. What was and is far more important to our cause is this. We need to enter this offseason with a laser focus on what we need, and more importantly what we want and want to be too. As for the first part, I think we did that pretty well. I do believe they mismanaged Richardson, myself wanting Minshew early then a transition mid year, but what’s done is done.
Save for a bit higher of a draft pick. We have all the assets and cap space you’d want to make some major additions while losing very little. While Ballard’s approach has built a very healthy young roster. We now have the answers we needed at QB and HC. We don’t need another offseason of quantity. This one needs to be about quality and precision. Im not complaining about what’s taken place. More so saying I appreciate it, but it’s no longer what’s needed. Drafting a pair of like position guys later is great for depth and non defined roster building, but it’s not what’s going to push a team from good to great. Stars do that.
Look at SF and BAL for examples of what I’m thinking. Both are well built and rounded out rosters, that have been tough and competitive for some time. Still you take away just a couple guys from each team and they are a shell of themselves. That is where I see us. We are well run and with the new playcalling going to be tough regardless of personnel. We just need to find more Christian Mccaffery, Zay Flowers, Mark Andrews, Kyke Hamilton, or Nick Bosa level players to help AR and Buck. Along with a few auxiliary pieces to fill out. Which gets me started on my first major thought for the offseason.
#1- We will never get the stripes off of a tiger, nor should we.
Anthony Richardson cannot be asked to play slow, different, or safe, nor does it make any sense, even though it sounds good to say. As I’ve said before about him. You don’t buy a Ferrari to go the speed limit and baby the engine. Now, what you can do is limit its mileage. So by all means try to teach him how to fall better, remind him to slide, and do our best to scheme the most protection we can. Doesn’t change the fact that when the game is on the line the kid is going to look to make a play, and when that’s part of why we wanted him in the first place. Let’s just accept that and change the discussion to the real solvable problem. How do we limit him being in a win or go home situation/situations every single week.
Here are some suggestions to this. First, I’d like to see us use a roster spot on a Taysom Hill type guy. Doing this won’t be a major impact itself, but it can add to the fix with other things. Say it’s a game we are dominating the LOS, or a less meaningful snap, and Steichen likes the chances of a QB designed run. Bring in Hill to run that snap. Yes you sacrifice some stealth, but if we are doing it right then we should have the physicality and push advantage regardless. It needs to be an OL win not an AR win anyways basically. Even just 2 snaps a game saves AR 170 hits taken over the next 5 years.
Next, I’d look at how we avoid 3rd/4th and short all together. Great we have that tool in the bag, and the personnel to be great on that down. Although, if we can avoid the ask, we certainly should. For this my main suggestion is an upgrade at WR. Pittman is still stuck in that fringe #1 category, just the use and playcalling improved. Downs looks nice, but in a perfect world, he’s mainly a slot weapon. What we lack is someone that can score in one play. Not just vertically, but in the screen and short motion game too. Sure they will only do that feat a few times a season, but turning 3-5 yards into 5+, and affecting defensive playcalling is the far bigger impact over the course of a whole season. We add that to what’s in house and we are cooking.
Lastly, much of the same applies to the TE position. We have talent, and maybe even more than we know if Woods returns and finds his prime. However, we just played an entire season without one that strikes fear into the opposite team. With all of the resources we have it can’t happen again. Similarly we’d benefit from a change of pace stud at RB. Many could fit, but interestingly. Nyheim Hines will likely be cut. Would he accept the role and contract he’s really meant for finally and return?
#2- Probably a guy away.
The OL was much better this season. There was a time I was thinking Kelly had to go, and that it may even get so deep into a rebuild that Braden Smith could even be dealt for the right price, especially if the new staff was high on Freeland. I’m doubting both of those things now.
However, I’m not thrilled with Will Fries, and I’d strongly consider getting out in front of Kelly aging. I don’t think a high ticket vet is the move, due to continuity and preference to splurge elsewhere. So our 5 should be the same come week 1. I do love the idea of spending a 2nd-3rd pick here. An IOL in that range typically will start at G anyways before going to C, so it could kill 2 birds with one stone. If Fries can’t hang we have another plus athlete option, that hopefully is ready to take the reins at C if needed in a couple of years.
I’d still keep an eye on Freeland. I love Braden, but if that kid can take a Raimann level leap, and Shane prefers the fit. I’d really like to get something while we could come deadline time next season. To feel best about this unit I need to see that one more big upside guy added to the room.
#3- The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Our defense would make for a world class roller coaster. Honestly the same thing applies to the last few seasons here. There are times we smother teams, and other times we can’t stop a nose bleed. Sometimes 10 minutes apart. I know some of that is just football, but there are more consistent teams in this league right now, so it’s certainly possible. Thats our ugly imo.
As for the bad. While expected due to youth, it’s still worth talking about the secondary. Especially the saftey position. I’m glad we have Nick Cross, but I’m not counting on him as the sure answer. Blackmon is the far tougher conversation. He has production and tape that might net him major offers. I just don’t think we should match them if so due to his inability to stay healthy. I’m not mad if we do, that’s just my true feeling. There are a handful of other options in FA, and likely the draft too.
We also have Kenny Moore due at CB. I try to avoid the just what’s happened lately attitude. Although my knee jerk feeling is to try for a short extension. Where as before I wanted him gone pretty bad. I’m just about over it by now, but I still will never forget that he got cooked up well done by Hunter Renfrow week 16 a cpl years back. Which then led to the Jacksonville fiasco, and ultimately led to Matt Ryan ever being a Colt. Amongst other reasons sure, but it burns fresh for me as it was the undiscussed side of that team falling apart for the most part, and is still an issue today. CB play in general that is.
I could go on, but getting to the good. We are a LB factory. That’s maybe the only thing about the Ballard’s tenure and style I’d not change at all. Sure I’d change Leonard’s fortunes given the chance, or not extend him and keep Okereke with perfect hindsight. It really doesn’t matter though. The guys behind them have been great too for the most part. So by all means draft a couple more late and let’s keep it up Chris.
Ebukam was a major addition to this unit. I’m not even sure if the stats say that for sure. I just know on the eye test for me he brought a level of heat we’ve been missing, and did so in some big spots. I’m not off Paye or Dayo at all. It’s just seeming more and more like they are rock solid cogs, but ones that will need some heater relief for best results. So if the chance comes up for us to get another difference maker here we should. Be it the least likely Brian Burns, more likely FAs like Danielle Hunter/Chase Young, or even a guy like Jared Verse sitting at pick #15. If not we are probably ok another year, but I’d like to see something here too.
#4- Letting my mind run a bit wild.
I can easily get behind thoughts of AJ Brown or insert any other stud surefire fit after him. There’s plenty of time to talk about all of that stuff and do the thousand mocks. Y’all know I can dive into draft prospects for hours too, and get very excited about what impact they can and will bring. So this is by no means my last or only thought. It’s just one that I pondered a few weeks ago, and as long as it’s possible. I want to be on the right side of talking it into existence. I also think it happens to be a good tie in back to the beginning of this post. We need stars. Yes they need to fit and have a major purpose, but getting something sweet and creating more of an identity is where my heads at first.
We also know the true best of the NFL don’t come via FA, but usually trade. Typically from a good football team that just can’t keep everyone. Timing matters too, as it usually comes along with the talent looking to reset their positional market, while many other holes start to spring on their roster. No I’m not talking about Minnesota and Justin Jefferson.
Imagine this. We extend Deforest Buckner as deserved. Then turn right around and trade for a tagged Chris Jones and extend him. This of course means Grover’s time is up, but I think we’d all swallow that. I’m not even sure how you’d approach blocking those two together, not to mention the other rushers. I know it’s not the sexiest thought, but it might be the only one not named Brown or Jefferson that impacts the other 10 spots, on each players side of the ball, in an elite and immediate fashion.
Like Buck he’s no doubt a wrecking ball of a rusher, but he would be no downgrade to Grover either. So I don’t think any concern about overlap or fit exists. Jones is a HOF type talent that has been in the playoffs a ton and won some hardware in his career. So from a locker room standpoint. What better fit is there either? Those two DTs together for ARs rookie deal window should give our QB every chance he’d need to succeed, and then some most likely completely wrecking certain games.
If we could get that done for our 1st, and nothing else. I think I’d do it. We’d have enough picks left to help out, and just enough money after extending a few of our own with those 2 to grab a decent vet secondary piece too. Anyways, we have all offseason to come up with crazy ideas, then dissect reality, but this is just one thought I wanted to share. As I expect it’s not something most would think of or want at a glance. Curious to hear some of the other diehards opinions on it and where you think we stand.
Things are trending up, go Colts!