Indianapolis Colts Free Agency: Potential Signings, Rumors and Storylines
The Indianapolis Colts are shaking things up in a big way this offseason. In the wake of a wretched 2011 campaign, Jim Caldwell, Dad and Son Polian and franchise pillar Peyton Manning saw the door. Just this weekend we found out that Joseph Addai, Dallas Clark, Melvin Bullitt, Gary Brackett and even (heaven forbid) Curtis Painter were all released.
The Colts will not be the dominant team of the 2000s that consistently competed for playoff glory in the AFC. Instead, this team will be in full-on rebuilding mode.
Let's take a look at the key questions for the Colts as we head into the free-agency period.
3/15: Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune is reporting the Colts have signed S Tom Zbikowski.
Trade: Colts Receive OT Winston Justice and the Eagles 6th Round Draft Choice
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3/13: Adam Schefter is reporting the Eagles have traded OT Winston Justice and their 6th round draft pick to the Colts for Indy's 6th round draft choice.
This looks like a good deal for the Colts. It is very low risk and can help provide good depth on the offensive line.
Report: Colts Re-Sign WR Reggie Wayne
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According to ESPN's Adam Schefter via his Twitter, the Indianapolis Colts have re-signed star wide receiver Reggie Wayne to a three-year deal.
This is a big signing for the Colts, as many expected he would end up wherever Peyton Manning signs.
Who Will Andrew Luck Throw the Ball To?
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The Colts are facing a scenario in which their wide receiving corps is Austin Collie, Blair White and some practice squadish-type fellow named Quan Cosby. Pierre Garcon and Reggie Wayne are both free agents.
UPDATE 3/13: Pierre Garcon reports on his Facebook page that he will sign with the Redskins.
In a conversation with the Indianapolis Star, Wayne complained that he hasn't heard anything from the Colts, which definitely does not bode well for his future in Indy.
To make matters worse, the Colts' only tight ends currently under contract are Brody Eldridge and Ryan Mahaffey, two incredibly green fellows. Dallas Clark has been released and Jacob Tamme is a free agent who could command more money than the Colts are willing to pony up.
In this scenario, the Colts will certainly need to draft at least one or two skill position guys who can catch the ball to fill all the holes on their roster.
The Colts just don't have much money to spend on any big-name free agents. While they could possibly sign a "second-tier" receiver like Robert Meachem, guys like Vincent Jackson and Brandon Lloyd are almost certainly out of their range.
No matter how it goes down with extra receiving help, likely No. 1 pick Andrew Luck will have a raw and undeveloped crew to throw to in 2012.
How Will Chuck Pagano Remake the Colts Defense?
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Report: ESPN's Adam Schefter reports via his Twitter that the Colts have signed defensive tackle Cory Redding to a three-year, $10.5 million dollar deal.
New head coach Chuck Pagano has a tall task ahead of him. The Colts defense was putrid in 2011 and there isn't much talent beyond a few key stars. Guys like Antoine Bethea, Jerraud Powers, Pat Angerer and Robert Mathis are good players, but there isn't much depth behind them.
Pagano is likely to shift the Colts away from their soft 4-3 defense to the tougher, "hybrid" 3-4 defense that he employed as the Baltimore Ravens' defensive coordinator. As such, he'll need to find a couple bigger and more athletic interior linemen to anchor his defensive front.
The Colts did end up signing free agent Robert Mathis to a nice contract last week. Doing so gives Pagano a nice edge rusher who could thrive in the new defensive scheme.
As the Colts look to restock at multiple positions, expect Pagano to try to find players in the draft and on the waiver wire who are bigger and stronger than the speedy (but light-weight) guys that the Colts have employed on defense for most of the last decade.
How Will the Colts Generate Yards on the Ground?
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Joseph Addai's departure means that the Colts backfield will have a different look in 2012. Addai has been the primary ball-carrier and served as an excellent pass-blocker and pass-catcher in the flat for the Colts since 2006.
Former first-round draft pick Donald Brown came into his own (finally) last year and showed that he can be an effective running back between the tackles and has a nice burst in space.
Although Delone Carter had some fumbling problems as a rookie last year, he showed enough to be entrenched as the change-of-pace back for the Colts. He's a big, bruising back who can push the pile and he showed good acceleration in 2011.
But the Colts will still need another couple backs to fill in the gaps with Addai gone. While Brown has improved his blocking skills, he's still not nearly as effective as Addai in that area. Getting an experienced veteran "on the cheap" who could come in for passing situations would be a wise move for new GM Ryan Grigson.
Will Dwight Freeney Be with the Colts in 2012?
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Dwight Freeney is being actively shopped by the Colts. With his salary counting for $20 million against the cap, the Colts would take a huge hit for one player if they aren't able to move him.
Defensive ends of Freeney's caliber are hard to come by, and I'm guessing that a number of teams would love to have him on their roster. Each of the last three years, Freeney has compiled at least 10 sacks. Those kinds of numbers are incredibly enticing.
As for what the Colts might get in return for Freeney, I really have no guesses. It seems likely, however, that they would get a least a couple draft picks as compensation, which would help them to build their core of young talent.
Could the Colts Target Some Baltimore Ravens Defensive Players?
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The guys that Chappell specifically mentioned were defensive end Cory Redding and linebacker Jarret Johnson. Johnson would be a nice veteran to have for the rebuilding Colts defense and Redding could either step in for Freeney (if he ends up elsewhere) or could enter to the defensive end rotation to add depth behind Freeney and Mathis.
Jerry Hughes has failed to live up to his high draft status, so Redding could be an adequate replacement for the underachieving Hughes.
With some room to work under the cap, but not enough to make a big splash, mid-range defenders like Redding and Johnson would make the Colts better at a reasonable cost. In addition, Pagano would be reunited with players with whom he's very familiar.
Will the Colts Special Teams Ever Improve?
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While the Colts have a decent kicking duo in Adam Vinatieri and Pat McAfee, the rest of the Colts special teams are fairly awful.
They are consistently ranked near the bottom of the NFL in kick coverage and their return game hasn't scared anyone in years.
With new coaches and a new GM, the Colts may be able to target their special teams as an area for improvement in 2012 and beyond. Improving that aspect of the game will necessitate a deeper roster and an emphasis on jack-of-all-trades players.