It’s been a weird little offseason for the Indianapolis Colts.
The Colts are looking like a brand new, solid NFL team. They entered into free agency with a ton of cap space, and general manager Ryan Grigson took advantage by adding a handful of new players, announcing a changing of the guard in the Colts lineup.
Some of the offseason pickups and some players retained from last season's Colts team can expect to see their roles expanded in 2013.
Here is a look at five such players.
Donald Thomas was picked up on a four-year, $16 million dollar contract.
I really like this signing.
Thomas was a backup for the New England Patriots last season. The fact that he was a backup does not discount his talent. The New England Patriots had a talent-heavy offensive line that kept him from becoming a starter.
He did play a total of seven games for the Patriots, but with the Colts he can expect to play much more. Chuck Pagano has confirmed that Thomas will play left guard this upcoming season.
The talent is there. That talent is why the Colts signed Thomas and why he will see his role expand this season. Pro Football focus (subscription required) rated him as the fourth-best offensive linemen available in free agency this year.
Considering how bad the Colts offensive line was last season they need all the fresh talent they can to protect Andrew Luck. Thomas will become an integral part of protecting the second-year quarterback in 2013.
Vick Ballard really started to come into his own in his rookie year last season. He will now be the feature back for the Colts in the upcoming season.
Ballard's role will expand due to both increased playing time and offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, who will be implementing a variation of the West Coast offense.
This type of offense requires a short passing game to complement the running game. Executing this offense will depend a lot on Ballard, as he will now be called upon to catch the ball out the backfield more than last year.
Stanley Havili was acquired this offseason from the Philadelphia Eagles for defensive back Clifton Geathers. Havili only played on the Eagles' practice squad in 2011 and only carried the ball six times in 2012.
He is the kind of explosive fullback the Colts need to run Pep Hamilton’s West Coast system.
Havili is a strong running back. However, he really shines in his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. This type of ball-control passing will come up quite a bit in the new season due to the principles of the West Coast attack.
Darrius Heyward-Bey was signed to a one-year, $3 million dollar deal.
Now, DHB does not have all Indianapolis fans jumping up and down with excitement. He had issues with consistency and production in his years with the Oakland Raiders.
However, he was in a tough situation with the Raiders, going through seven quarterbacks and dealing a lack of continuity on offense. With the Colts things should look up for him and his role and success as a wide receiver should expand.
DHB will be working alongside a young group of receivers and will have ascendant quarterback in Luck throwing him the ball. Additionally, Reggie Wayne, while no longer young, is the perfect mentor for younger players.
He will finally have the continuity and offensive talent around him to fully bloom. As a result, DHB should see become more of a go-to player in 2013.
Ricky Jean-Francois was signed to a four-year, $22 million dollar deal.
He recorded 33 tackles and three sacks while playing 27 percent of the defensive snaps last year for the San Francisco 49ers. The fact that he has never started is enough to predict that his role will increase in the upcoming season. He quite possibly will be playing a majority of the defense's snaps for the first time in his professional career.
Whether he will play well enough to maintain this increased playing time and earn his contract is still unknown, however.