AFC South Free Agency: Grading the Indianapolis Colts
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In the last few weeks the Indianapolis Colts have overhauled their entire roster. The ins and outs of those decisions and their consequences have already been covered in more depth than I care to repeat here.
Today, let's just review the actual additions to the Indianapolis roster, rather than dwelling on who they lost.
There have been two additions on offense and two on defense.
Offense: OT Winston Justice (trade) and G/C Mike McGlynn
Justice was acquired via a swap of 17 positions in the sixth round, or as I call it "for free." That's not technically accurate, I know, but in the sixth round, teams are largely just guessing anyway.
Teams will often dedicate late-round picks to players they don't think they can sign as undrafted free agents. If there's a player you like, but aren't sure you can land, you drop a sixth or seventh-round pick on him. That means that for all intents and purposes, Justice was functionally a free agent.
The Colts immediately reworked Justice's deal, slashing his base salary in half. He leveraged a pay cut with getting to walk a year earlier. It was a good move for both parties. Justice is a highly talented player who battled injuries last year. For less than $2 million and the draft equivalent of a box of tic-tacs, the Colts get to try out a potential tackle. This was a good, safe move.
Grade the Colts' free-agent pickups.
Mike McGlynn is a warm body to throw in front of opposing defenses but is on his third team in less than a year. He started a few games at guard for the Bengals after starting at center for Eagles in 2010. Ultimately, he just doesn't have much value. This is a minor signing not unlike Adam Terry was in 2010.
Defense: DT Cory Redding and S Tom Zbikowski
As the Colts look to move toward a hybrid 3-4 defense, they had to pick up a quality tackle capable of playing that role. Redding fits the bill and then some. Redding was strong against the run and pass and is capable of playing inside in a 4-3 or outside in a 3-4.
Zbikowski is a great special teams addition but walks into a perfect situation if he hopes to compete for a job in the Indianapolis secondary. The release of Melvin Bullitt leaves the Colts with no obvious solution to line up alongside Antoine Bethea in the defensive backfield.
It's easy for fans to get excited about ex-Ravens, but it's important to remember that ex-Ravens typically struggle away from the structure of the Baltimore defense. In fact, it's difficult to name anyone who came out of the Ravens' system and went on to have significant success with other teams. Of course, the counter to that is that the Colts have brought the Ravens' system along for the ride with head coach Chuck Pagano. Of course, that has been tried before with decidedly mixed results.
It's not fair in this case to ask if the Colts are better than they were. As bad as the 2011 team was, the 2012 Colts will likely be worse. That's the price you pay when you rebuild. Still, given the limited cap room they have to work with, the Colts have managed to add a few players. Maybe one of them works out. Their total investment appears to be less than $15 million with just a small fraction of that in guaranteed money.
Rebuilding is a long process, and it was never going to be completed in a week. Still, with the exception of Redding, it's difficult to imagine any of these players making much lasting impact beyond this next year.
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