The Indianapolis Colts have made some free agency moves this offseason that would make their former general manager, Bill Polian, grumble and squirm in his chair like a man in dire need of Preparation H. Polian often chose to ignore free agency and preferred to build through the draft. That concept helped the Colts win seven division titles, two AFC Championships and a Super Bowl during his tenure.
After a 2-14 season, The Colts said goodbye to many of their core veterans and made massive changes in the front office and on the sideline. With their new coach Chuck Pagano comes a new philosophy on offense and defense. Taking all of that in to account, the Colts had to dip into free agency to even field a team.
New general manager Ryan Grigson began work on the rebuilding process immediately. He re-signed Reggie Wayne and Robert Mathis. (On a side note, Polian almost always resigned vets that came up through the Colts organization. Almost to a fault.) He added Cory Redding, Winston Justice (trade), Tom Zbikowski, Mike McGlynn, Samson Satele and Brandon McKinney, among others.
The majority of free agents are off the market, and the draft is now less than a week away, but there are still some free agents out there that could help the Colts through this rebuilding process.
During the Bill Polian/Peyton Manning era, the fullback was as rare as Polian engaging the media. But as we've been told countless times, this is a new era, and GM Ryan Grigson says the Colts will utilize a fullback. Andrew Luck, who will almost certainly be the Colts's new quarterback, used his fullbacks early and often at Stanford.
As of today there is no fullback listed on the Colts roster. Grigson mentioned using a tight end in the fullback role, but why not get a real fullback on the roster?
Well there is one still available on the free agent market, and he played for Grigson's old team, the Philadelphia Eagles. Because of Grigson's familiarity with him, I find it curious why the Colts haven't at least inquired about Owen Schmitt.
Schmitt, who will be entering his fifth year this season, is the prototypical NFL fullback. He delivers BIG hits, opens holes for running backs, can pick up those tough, short yards and is a reliable receiver out of the backfield. He is fiery, intense, and some would say, borderline crazy. Check out this video of him, when he was with Seattle, slamming his helmet against his head during player introductions.
Tight end is definitely a huge need for the Colts. After losing Jacob Tamme to free agency and releasing Dallas Clark, the Colts are left with Brody Eldridge, who is more of a blocking tight end than a receiving tight end.
As mentioned in the previous slide, new Colts quarterback Andrew Luck utilized the fullbacks quite a bit in the passing game at Stanford. He also looked to his tight ends, especially Coby Fleener (who the Colts may be looking at in the draft).
Regardless if the Colts take a tight end early in the draft, it would serve them well to have a veteran at the position. Enter Visanthe Shiancoe. He visited a few teams but is still available. Shiancoe rose to fame during the Brett Favre years in Minnesota. He was Favre's favorite goal-line target with 56 receptions and 11 touchdowns in 2009.
Since 2009 his numbers have gone down but so has the quarterback play in Minnesota. There's no doubt Luck and new offensive coordinator Bruce Arians would benefit greatly from Shiancoe's talent, and vice versa. Arians was fond of getting the ball to tight end Heath Miller in Pittsburgh.
Knowing all of that, there's no reason Shiancoe couldn't get back to those Pro Bowl-like numbers from 2009 in 2012 with the Colts.
If not Visanthe Shiancoe, perhaps Jeremy Shockey. Shockey was in Carolina last season helping No. 1 pick Cam Newton make a smooth transition from college quarterback to NFL quarterback. He can do the same thing in Indianapolis with Andrew Luck.
As stated in the previous slide, Luck and offensive coordinator Bruce Arians love to throw to the tight end. The Colts must get some pass catchers at the position. Shockey had just 37 receptions to go along with four touchdowns last season, but that's somewhat misleading as Carolina also had Greg Olson at tight end.
At 31, Shockey's been around, but he still has some good, productive years left. The Panthers have talked to him about re-signing, but he hasn't generated a ton of interest outside of that. He could be relatively cheap for a veteran tight end the Colts desperately need.
With Chuck Pagano now on the sideline, the Colts will switch to a hybrid 3-4 defense. They've already started to acquire some pieces for that defense with the signings of former Ravens Cory Redding, Tom Zbikowski and Brandon McKinney. One position they haven't addressed, that is extremely thin, is cornerback.
Sure Jerraud Powers has a lot of talent, but he's also proving to be injury-prone. After Powers, who's left? Kevin Thomas? Chris Rucker? Both are largely unproven. Which is why the Colts should be looking at former Steeler Bryant McFadden. MacFadden played in three Super Bowls with the Steelers, winning two. He battled some injuries last year and was a cap casualty, with a number of other Steelers, after the season.
The Steelers let McFadden go back in 2009 and saw their pass defense drop to mediocre. McFadden was brought back in 2010, and the pass defense improved. I'm not saying he's the sole reason (Troy Polamalu is the biggest reason for their defensive ranking), but he certainly contributed to the resurgence.
McFadden would provide veteran leadership to the thinnest position on the Colts roster, outside of tight end. He's a big-time hitter and can still make plays. Bottom line, the Colts can't afford to go in to the season with so much unproven talent and inexperience at the cornerback position.
Colts head coach Chuck Pagano is going to stand up Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis, and use them as outside linebackers in his hybrid 3-4 defense. Gary Brackett and Philip Wheeler are gone. Pat Angerer and Kavell Conner are back, but how will they fit in the new defense? After that, not much.
Like many other positions, the Colts are thin at linebacker. Former NY Giants middle linebacker Jonathan Goff would be a great addition. He did not play last season due to injury (torn ACL) and could be picked up at a discounted price.
Transitioning to the 3-4 shouldn't be a problem for Goff. Other 3-4 teams are said to be interested, as he has visited the Browns and Dolphins. Coming out of college, he was projected to be a 3-4 linebacker because of his physicality and ability to shed blocks.
Goff is also known to be a hard worker, good tackler and tough against the run. At only 26 years old and with a good work ethic, he shouldn't have a problem returning to form after the ACL injury. He started all 16 games in 2010 for the Giants. At 6'2" and 245 pounds, he would provide a little more size to the inside linebacker spot for the Colts.
Follow Brian on Twitter @coldy4goldy.