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On The Clock: Indianapolis Colts 2016 Offseason Preview

In his “On the Clock” series, NFL analyst Brett Casella (@NFL_iQ on Twitter) will take an in-depth look at all 20 teams that failed to make the playoffs as they head into the 2016 offseason. He will conduct a thorough examination of each roster and make recommendations on whom to cut and re-sign, as well as which players to target through free agency and the draft.

This article will focus on the Indianapolis Colts.

Team: Indianapolis Colts
2015 Record: 8-8
Draft Pick: #18

 

Season Summary

2015 was the year that Andrew Luck and Colts would go to the Super Bowl – or so everyone thought. Prior to last year, Luck’s Colts had progressed deeper and deeper into the playoffs through each of his first three seasons; first losing in the Wild Card Round in 2012, then the Divisional Round in 2013, then the Conference Championship in 2014. Judging by this pattern, Indianapolis was a lock to make Super Bowl 50.

To make sure of it, the Colts added several big-name veterans to their roster last offseason, such as Frank Gore, Andre Johnson, and Trent Cole. Adding these established players to their already talented team was sure to make the Colts a contender in the AFC.

Then, it happened. Andrew Luck dealt with a lingering shoulder injury before lacerating his kidney in Week 9. The Colts offense never was able to put it together and the team skidded to an 8-8 finish, completely missing out on the playoffs altogether. Offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton lost his job along the way, and GM Ryan Grigson and head coach Chuck Pagano were lucky to keep theirs.

Re-Signings & Cuts

The Colts defense struggled as a whole last year, but linebacker Jerrell Freeman and strong safety Dwight Lowery were two of its bright spots. Both players are impending free agents, and you have to think Indianapolis will try to re-sign both of them. If the Colts are serious about competing for a championship in 2016, they will need a complete defense; one that features both of these players.

DwayneAllenOn the offensive side of the ball, the Colts should make it a priority to re-sign running back Ahmad Bradshaw and either tight end Dwayne Allen or Coby Fleener – preferably the former. Despite his down season, Dwayne Allen is still a very good do-it-all tight end. His lack of production last season was simply because he was only targeted 29 times. While Ahmad Bradshaw’s best days may be behind him, he is still a viable running back who can handle around ten touches per game.

AdamVinatieriAt the ripe age of 43, Adam Vinatieri is still one of the best kickers in the league, and will probably continue to kick for another 43 years. He is happy in Indianapolis and the Colts should pay him to stay there.

Notable Colts free agents that should be seeking new homes come March 9 include quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and cornerback Greg Toler. Wide receiver Andre Johnson was the first player cut by Indianapolis this offseason, and he might not be the last. Releasing outside linebacker Trent Cole would save the Colts over $6 million in cap space, and defensive tackle Arthur Jones would open up an additional $4.5 million if the team lets him go after June 1st.

Free Agency Needs

As of today, the Colts have just over $24 million in cap space, and a lot of needs to fill.

Probably the biggest of these needs is their offensive line. They have a franchise quarterback in Andrew Luck, they don’t want him suffering another separated shoulder or lacerated kidney. Most of their protection problems stemmed from the interior line, where there is plenty of talent available in free agency. Alex Mack and Stefan Wisniewski are two of the best centers in the league, it would make sense for the Colts to make a run at either player. Plenty of serviceable guards are available as well, such as Evan Mathis, Jeff AllenRichie Incognito, and Brandon Brooks.

Photo by; Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Photo by; Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Running back is another area of need, as Frank Gore can’t have much left in the tank. By far the two best free agent running backs available are Doug Martin and Lamar Miller. Miller has less wear-and-tear on his body, but either player would help balance out the Colts offense to take some of the pressure off of Andrew Luck.

On defense, Vontae Davis is a standout at cornerback, but Indianapolis doesn’t have anyone decent to line up opposite him. Luckily for them, they can sign a high-quality starter in free agency. Keep an eye on names such as Sean SmithJanoris Jenkins, and Casey Hayward.

Signing a safety wouldn’t be a bad move, either. Eric WeddleReggie Nelson, and Tashaun Gipson are all quality players who can help solidify the Indianapolis secondary.

The Colts may also look to fortify their defensive line by bringing in a run-stuffing tackle such as Damon Harrison or Jaye Howard. Veterans such as Brandon MebaneNick Fairley, and Terrance Knighton will also be available; probably with a lower price tag.

Potential Draft Picks

Chances are good that the Colts spend their first draft pick on an offensive lineman. Jason SpriggsJack Conklin, and Taylor Decker are all players that could step in and start opposite Anthony Castonzo, allowing Jack Mewhort to operate full time at guard.

Arkansas Tight End Henry Hunter.

Arkansas Tight End Henry Hunter.

Indianapolis’ second pick can go a variety of ways. They could further strengthen their offensive line by drafting a center such as Nick Martin or Ryan Kelly. Or, if both Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener leave in free agency, this would by the perfect opportunity to grab a tight end like Henry Hunter or Austin Hooper. Or, maybe the Colts look to improve their secondary with safety Darien Thompson, Vonn Bell, or cornerback Kendall Fuller.

As the draft enters the mid-to-late rounds, they should target a running back such as Alex Collins, Devontae BookerJordan HowardPaul Perkins, and C.J. Prosise. 

Have any questions, comments, or just want to talk about the article? Just use the comment section below.

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