There will be a new sheriff in town for the 2012 season instead of Peyton Manning, the team's starting quarterback since 1998. Manning recently signed with the Denver Broncos, leaving a glaring hole at the quarterback position.
Luckily for the Colts, they hold the No. 1 overall selection in this April's draft. Additionally, they will likely use that selection on Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, who has been praised as the best prospect since the aforementioned Manning.
However, the Colts could still stun everyone and draft Baylor quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III. I highly doubt they'll do that, but anything can happen in sports.
Along with the release of Manning, the team also cut Dallas Clark, Gary Brackett, Melvin Bullitt, Joseph Addai and Curtis Painter (yay!). The team also neglected to re-sign wide receiver Pierre Garcon, who took his talents to Washington, and long-time fan-favorite center Jeff Saturday, who signed with the Packers yesterday.
Tackle Ryan Diem announced his retirement on Friday as well, and tight end Jacob Tamme will be joining Manning in Denver this season. On top of that, starting cornerback Jacob Lacey signed with the Detroit Lions a few days ago. The front office also failed to re-sign offensive lineman Mike Pollak, who quickly latched on with the Carolina Panthers.
And as most of y'all know, the team dismissed head coach Jim Caldwell and replaced him with former Ravens defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano, a defensive-minded coach who will now run a 3-4 defensive scheme in Indianapolis.
Needless to say, there's been a slight overhaul. And they're not done yet. The team re-signed Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis and also signed receiver Donnie Avery, defensive lineman Cory Redding and safety Tom Zbikowski.
However, there are still many needs on the roster. As of right now, the Colts are nowhere close to a playoff team, something they are not used to. They will have to do a lot more through free agency or have an amazing draft if they want to return to the upper echelon of the NFL. But like I previously said, anything is possible.
There are still many solid free agents out there, and with more cap space than they had last season, the Colts should definitely take a look at the following players.
2011 Team: Jacksonville Jaguars
The departure of Dallas Clark and Jacob Tamme has left a glaring need at the tight end position. If the season were to start right now, there would be just Brody Eldridge and Justin Snow, who is primarily used as a long snapper.
The Colts could use a draft pick on someone like Stanford's Coby Fleener, Clemson's Dwayne Allen, Georgia's Orson Charles or Louisiana-Lafayette's Ladarius Green.
But the team needs a veteran. That's where Lewis comes in.
Lewis, the 28th overall pick of the 2006 Draft, has spent his entire career with the Colts' division rival, the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Jaguars have failed to make any attempt at re-signing the unrestricted free agent this offseason.
It astounds me that Lewis has not latched on elsewhere; I believe he's a top 15 tight end.
Lewis may not be Antonio Gates, Tony Gonzalez or Rob Gronkowski, but he's still a solid player. His underwhelming 2011 season could explain his current status, but it's really not his fault.
Last year Lewis had a rookie QB, Blaine Gabbert, who was inconsistent and regressed as the season went on. The Jaguars had one of the worst passing attacks in the NFL.
If he's given the right system and a solid quarterback, Lewis can return to his old form. And he can do that in Indianapolis with Andrew Luck and new offensive coordinator Bruce Arians.
2011 Team: Tennessee Titans
There's no doubt that the Colts need help on the offensive line.
They attempted to address that problem last year when they used their first-round selection on Boston College tackle Anthony Castonzo. They traded up in the second round to select Villanova offensive lineman Ben Ijalana as well.
Both players showed promise last season, but without Jeff Saturday, Ryan Diem and Mike Pollak, they'll need more help.
The team has signed Samson Satele to replace Saturday at center, and they also announced the signing of offensive lineman Mike McGlynn. The Colts also traded for right tackle Winston Justice from Philadelphia. But those three players aren't going to solve all of their problems.
The Colts seem to be set at tackle and center but need a talented guard.
Jake Scott seems like a viable option, especially since the Idaho native started his career in Indianapolis in 2004. Scott left for the Titans via free agency prior to the 2008 season and has stayed there.
The Titans elected not to re-sign him this offseason, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Even though he's 30 years old, Scott is still a quality offensive lineman that could immediately come in and start for the Colts. Scott may not be the long-term option, but for right now, the Colts should definitely take a look at him.
2011 Team: Dallas Cowboys
Some of y'all may be confused by this one. But Newman is still a valuable weapon that can play exceedingly well if he's healthy.
The Cowboys elected to release Newman this offseason and replaced him with former Chiefs cornerback Brandon Carr, who signed a five-year, $50 million deal with the team.
Newman has yet to latch on elsewhere, but the Colts should definitely take a look at him.
As of right now, the Colts list Jerraud Powers, Brandon King, Terrence Johnson, Kevin Thomas, Chris Rucker and Mike Holmes as their cornerbacks. In others word, that's not going to get the job done in the NFL.
Although Chuck Pagano has had a history of doing good things with mediocre players, I don't believe he can transform the Colts' current secondary into a solid group. Some of the players have a decent amount of potential, but I just don't think they can get the job done.
Their current secondary is exceptionally young, as Powers is the most experienced, and he's only been in the NFL for three years. King and Thomas have two years of experience, while Johnson has one. Rucker and Holmes just finished their rookie seasons.
The Colts' secondary needs a veteran presence, and Newman can provide that.
The fifth-overall pick of the 2003 draft, Newman can immediately become one of the biggest voices in the locker room and show the young guys the ropes. He can show those players what it takes to become a legitimate player in the NFL, as Newman is a two-time Pro Bowler.
Despite being 33 years old, the Colts need someone like Newman. He can still play with the best of them and because of his age, he would likely not garner a humongous deal.
Over the course of his career, Newman has played in 133 games, while registering 542 total tackles, two sacks, seven forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, 32 interceptions and three touchdowns. The team's secondary could definitely use a player like the former Kansas State star.
2011 Team: Baltimore Ravens
So far this offseason, new head coach Chuck Pagano has signed two players he coached in Baltimore—safety Tom Zbikowski and defensive lineman Cory Redding. The signing of Foxworth would make it three, the sole reason Foxworth is on this list.
The Ravens recently decided to part ways with the cornerback, making him a free agent.
Foxworth has a good amount of talent, but he is injury-prone. The cornerback also has a knack for getting beat quite often, but he's still a decent player that could flourish as a nickelback.
However, he has played in just two games over the past two seasons. During an OTA workout in 2010, Foxworth tore his ACL, which caused him to miss the entire season. After playing in two games during the 2011 campaign, the Ravens placed him on injured reserve because of his knee problems.
Foxworth's injuries were the main reason behind his release, and I can't blame the Ravens for handling it that way. There was no room for him on the roster, essentially because of the constant problems over the last two years. But when he's healthy, he has shown that he can be a solid cornerback, evidenced by his four interceptions in 2009.
Because of his injuries, Foxworth would be inexpensive. The Colts should look into signing him because he knows Pagano's system, and if he can stay healthy, it'd be a steal for Pagano and Co.
2011 Team: Tennessee Titans
I'm bewildered that Barrett Ruud is still a free agent.
Ruud, the 36th overall selection by Tampa Bay in 2005, saw limited playing time during his first two seasons with the Buccaneers. After showing glimpses of hope, Ruud was given the starting nod prior to the 2007 campaign, and he played great.
From 2007 to 2010, Ruud missed just one game and registered 114, 137, 142 and 118 total tackles, respectively. However, Tampa Bay elected not to re-sign him after the 2010 season and instead, the linebacker signed a contract with the Colts' division rival, the Tennessee Titans.
Unfortunately, Ruud didn't have a great campaign, as he was placed on injured reserve on Dec. 13, 2011. He played in just nine games last year while accumulating 57 total tackles and one interception.
Tennessee decided not to re-sign him this offseason, thus making him a free agent.
Now that the Colts will be running a 3-4 scheme, they will be utilizing two inside linebackers and two outside linebackers. The team re-signed Robert Mathis this offseason and will be switching him to an outside linebacker, instead of his natural defensive end position. The Colts also have Pat Angerer, who finished fourth in the NFL last season with 148 total tackles.
Those two are a given for starting next season, which means that there is one inside linebacker spot available, along with one outside linebacker slot. Kavell Connor showed promise last season, as he registered 104 total tackles, but it remains to be seen if he can consistently do that season after season.
Ruud has proven that he can be one of the league's top inside linebackers, and he likely won't garner a big contract.
The one problem could be that the Titans ran a 4-3 defensive scheme and a switch to a 3-4 could spell problems for Ruud. But I firmly believe that Ruud can make the switch if he were given the opportunity.
2011 Team: Pittsburgh Steelers
Y'all have no idea how much I wish Wallace would go to Indianapolis, but I deem it highly unlikely.
However, there is one thing that rules in the Colts' favor more than any other team in the NFL. And that's the system.
The Colts, under a new regime, signed former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians to the same position. Arians became the Steelers' offensive coordinator in 2007 and was an intricate part in the team's decision to draft Wallace in the third round of the 2009 draft.
Arians' system is the only one Wallace has ever known, and that could help the Colts land the former Ole Miss star.
Wallace has been perfectly utilized in the NFL, as he is one of the biggest downfield threats in the NFL. Arians' system has helped Wallace become one of the best receivers in the NFL, as he has registered back-to-back 1,000-yard campaigns.
The receiver has also caught 18 touchdowns over the last two campaigns. Arians knows how use Wallace better than any other offensive coordinator in the NFL.
The Colts could definitely use a receiver like Wallace, especially because they are in drastic need of another receiver to line up alongside Reggie Wayne. If the season were to start now, Wayne would undoubtedly be the team's No. 1 option with Austin Collie lining up on the other side and the recently-signed Donnie Avery as the team's third option.
Collie is a solid receiver, but I don't believe he'll be a quality second receiver. His career would likely flourish more in the slot rather than as a second option, much like former Colt Brandon Stokley.
The Colts need another weapon for soon-to-be franchise player Andrew Luck.
It seems as though they will use their second-round pick on a receiver, but I believe it'd be better if they signed a free agent. I'd definitely like to see Wallace become that player.
2011 Team: Seattle Seahawks
Raheem Brock is mainly on this list because he's one of those players that just seemingly belongs on the Colts.
Brock was a seventh-round selection by the Eagles in 2002 but was cut prior to the start of the season. The Colts claimed him off waivers and along with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, the trio became one of the best defensive line combinations in all of football.
He played eight seasons in Indianapolis, registering 288 total tackles and 28.5 sacks. He also forced eleven fumbles and recovered fifteen fumbles during his career with the Colts.
A free agent after the 2009 season, the Colts elected not to re-sign him and instead, Brock latched on with the Seahawks. During his first season in Seattle, the defensive end had the best season of his career, as he accumulated 32 tackles and a career-high nine sacks.
His stats declined last season, as he was only able to manage 28 tackles and was only able to get to the quarterback three times.
Now 33 years old, Brock is definitely towards the end of his career. But I believe he still has some left in the tank and could become a valuable rotational player for the Colts once again. There's really not a chance that he'd start for the Colts, but he could become a solid backup.
He's just one of those players that belongs on the Colts, much like Dominic Rhodes, who had two separate stints in Indianapolis.
He'd come rather inexpensively as well, so the Colts should look into signing him to a one-year deal to see what he does. And hopefully, if it were to happen, Brock can rightfully retire as a Colt.
2011 Team: San Diego Chargers
Chuck Pagano will be switching the Colts to a 3-4 scheme this season—this means that the Colts need a powerful big-bodied force up the middle, and currently they don't have one.
Antonio Johnson resembles that type of player, but many believe he won't play that well as a nose tackle.
Antonio Garay could fit the bill for the Colts' new scheme.
Last season, as a member of the Chargers, Garay was the team's starting nose tackle in their 3-4 defense. He started every game at that position while accumulating 57 total tackles and 2.5 sacks.
The previous season, the New Jersey native tallied 48 total tackles and 5.5 sacks, perhaps the best season of his career.
There are other players the Colts could look into such as Shaun Rogers, Kelly Gregg, Aubrayo Franklin, Fred Robbins, Justin Bannan and Anthony Adams, but Garay seems to be the best option.
He's been primarily used as a nose tackle in a similar scheme with a similar playbook. He also has the size to be a solid force for the Colts (6'4", 320 pounds).
Garay could be a solid addition for the Colts, as they look to return to the upper class of the NFL. In order to do so, the team needs a brute force up the middle, and Garay can provide that.
(And seriously, who wouldn't want that facial hair and haircut on their team?)
2011 Team: New York Giants
Some of y'all may be wondering why Brandon Jacobs is on this list. He's a loudmouth and is occasionally a prima donna, but he's a big dude that can carry the rock fairly well.
The Colts decided to sever ties with running back Joseph Addai earlier this offseason, leaving former first-round pick Donald Brown as the team's starter. Outside of the former UConn star, there's Delone Carter and Darren Evans. In other words, the Colts need someone else.
Since coming into the NFL, Brown has been rather inconsistent, but that can be attributed to the fact that he rarely saw many carries while behind Addai on the depth chart. During a six-week span, Brown's rushing yard total was 80, 41, 28, 161, 35 and 24, respectively.
It shows inconsistency, but he never carried the ball more than sixteen times in a game during that span. But as stated before, Brown's got talent, but he just needs to get a consistent amount of carries.
Now that he's considered to be the starter, Brown would likely see over twenty carries per game if everything remained the same. But if Jacobs signed with the Colts, we'd likely see something similar to last season with Addai and Brown.
Even though Jacobs would take carries away from Brown, it would give the Colts a nice combination. It'd somewhat be like "Thunder and Lightning," as Brown would be the quick, through-the-gap running back and Jacobs would be the tough, up-the-middle back.
It's a solid combination and very similar to the system that Jacobs was in while he was teamed up with Ahmad Bradshaw in New York.
Weighing about 265 pounds, Jacobs is an outstanding short-yardage back; he's got 56 career rushing touchdowns, most of which were goal line or short-yardage situations. The Colts could definitely use a bruiser like Jacobs that can help them convert short third-down situations.
Although I'm not that big of a fan of Jacobs, I'd welcome him in Indianapolis, especially if he can help the fumbling problems and close his mouth occasionally.
2011 Team: Baltimore Ravens
Lardarius Webb is another one of those players that has a decent shot at landing in Indianapolis. Webb played under new head coach Chuck Pagano in Baltimore, and the defensive-minded coach has already lured two former Ravens to the Colts.
There's a slight possibility that Webb could become the third player.
A restricted free agent, the third-year pro has gotten better and better as his career has progressed.
Last season, Webb had the best season of his young career, as he registered 67 tackles, one sack, one forced fumble, five interceptions and one touchdown—Webb also did not allow a single touchdown the entire season. The season prior, the former Nicholls State cornerback accumulated 54 tackles and two interceptions on a stout Ravens defense.
The Colts undoubtedly need help at the cornerback position. They recently lost 2011 starter Jacob Lacey to Detroit via free agency, which leaves a humongous gap in the secondary.
Lacey became the fourth good cornerback to leave the Colts in free agency over the last few years, joining a group that includes Kelvin Hayden, Marlin Jackson and Tim Jennings.
The Colts could definitely use a player like Webb.
He could immediately come in and be the team's No. 2 cornerback, possibly even the No. 1, alongside Jerraud Powers. There's also a chance that Webb could take over as the Colts' primary return-man, as he is one of the fastest cornerbacks in the NFL.
Last season, on Dec. 4, Webb returned a punt 68 yards for a touchdown, the first special teams touchdown of his career.
There's no doubt that Webb would be a great addition to the Colts, as they look to rebuild under an entirely new regime.
2011 Team: Minnesota Vikings
Tight ends have played a crucial role in the Colts' recent success.
Shiancoe could become a great option for the future No. 1 pick, whether it be Luck or Robert Griffin III. Like Brody Eldridge, Shiancoe is a better run-blocker than a pass-catcher, but he can still catch balls and score touchdowns, evidenced by his 2009 season in which he caught 56 passes for 566 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The nine-year pro could be a great target for Luck or RGIII, as they will not have Dallas Clark on the roster for the first time since 2003.
2011 Team: Dallas Cowboys
It's still very puzzling to me as to why the Cowboys elected not re-sign Bradie James, who had been one of the team's most consistent defensive players.
A fourth-round pick in the 2003 draft, James had spent his entire career with the Cowboys. After primarily being a backup during his first two seasons, the former Kansas State star was named one of the team's starting inside linebackers prior to the 2005 season.
During his first season as a starter, James registered 93 tackles. Over the next five seasons, James accumulated 103, 101, 116, 113 and 118 total tackles, respectively. Over that span, he also registered 13 sacks, eight forced fumbles, 10 fumble recoveries and two interceptions.
However, with the emergence of Sean Lee and Keith Brooking, James was forced to split snaps with the other two linebackers last season. For the 2011 season, James was only able to notch 44 total tackles, his lowest total since his rookie season.
With Lee appearing to be the team's future and with the signing of Dan Connor, the 'Boys decided to let James walk in free agency.
Two years removed from arguably his best season, James is still a quality linebacker that can get the job done. With the Colts switching to a 3-4 scheme this season, which is what the Cowboys run, James would immediately become one of the team's starting inside linebackers, along with Pat Angerer.
2011 Team: Miami Dolphins
The Colts' guard position remains very questionable. Jaimie Thomas, Matt Murphy, Jake Kirkpatrick and Seth Olsen are currently listed as the team's guards, and that's not going to get the job done.
The Colts need another veteran on the offensive line that can come in and immediately start. It seems entirely plausible that the Colts could use multiple selections on the offensive line in the draft, but it will take time for those players to fully develop.
As of right now, the Colts need a true veteran to help anchor the line. Not to mention, they need someone who can show the young guys the ropes and show them what it takes to be a solid player.
Currently, the recently-acquired Winston Justice has the most experience with six years. Satele has five, while McGlynn has four years of experience. No one else has more than two years.
A player like Vernon Carey would be a great addition to the Colts. The 19th selection of the 2004 draft, Carey had spent his entire career with his hometown Miami Dolphins. The team elected not to re-sign him this offseason, making him a free agent.
Carey may not be the best offensive lineman in the NFL, but he is very versatile and adds a veteran presence in the locker room. He's a shot worth taking.