The 2014 NFL offseason is still far down the road, but it’s never too early to look at what some organizations might be looking to do to improve on the field.
The Indianapolis Colts are projected to have close to $30 million in cap room heading into the offseason. They have some players with expiring contracts that they could consider inking to long-term deals. These players include punter Pat McAfee, safety Antoine Bethea, cornerback Vontae Davis, inside linebacker Pat Angerer and running back Donald Brown.
There are three specific things that the Colts need to address in free agency.
The most important issue the Colts need to address is the interior of the offensive line. Colts owner Jim Irsay took to Twitter earlier this season and stated that there needs to be better protection in place for quarterback Andrew Luck.
Due to the injury of guard Donald Thomas early in the year, the coaching staff was unable to get a grasp for what he can do as a starter. Rookie Hugh Thornton appears to have the potential to develop into a solid member of the line next season.
The backup to Thomas, Mike McGlynn, has continued to be a weak link in pass protection this season. According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), McGlynn is statistically one of the least efficient pass blocking guards in the league. He has allowed 36 total quarterback pressures and has posted efficiency rating of 92.7, which is the fourth-lowest rating among guards who have played a minimum of 50 percent of the Colts' pass-blocking snaps.
Starting center Samson Satele has performed decent in pass protection, but he continues to struggle against the run. With the Colts running a power-run offense (for now), they need to look to upgrade over Satele.
The Colts also have center/guard Khaled Holmes, a fourth-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft. It is hard to tell if Holmes can be a long-term solution on the offensive line, because he hasn’t played a single snap during the regular season.
The second issue that needs to be addressed is bringing in another reliable wide receiver for Andrew Luck.
After the injury to Reggie Wayne, the Colts' passing attack has begun to struggle because of the absence of the team’s leader and most talented receiver.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, who signed a one-year contract last offseason, has struggled to play efficiently. According to Pro Football Focus, he has caught just 51 percent of the passes that have been thrown his way.
Another thing that the Colts will look to improve is in acquiring players to better stop the run.
Coach Chuck Pagano has said that he wants his defense to be one that shuts down opposing rushing attacks. Unfortunately for the Colts, they have been unable to do that this season, allowing 125.5 yards on the ground per game.
Ricky Jean-Francois has shown flashes of being a run-stuffing defensive lineman, but he has been unable to do so on a consistent basis. Cory Redding has provided leadership and also has produced against the run consistently. The only issue with Redding is that he is 33. He has slowly improved as his career has progressed, but the Colts could opt to go younger and the 3-4 defensive end position. Starting nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin is scheduled to be a free agent at the end of 2013, and he will also be 34 at the start of the 2014 season.
There aren’t many viable nose tackle options in this class so it wouldn’t be surprised to see the Colts address this position in the draft.
After examining the Colts’ biggest needs, I went through the potential free-agent class of 2014. I examine each potential signing and compare how their strengths, production in certain spots on the field and schematic fit line up with the Colts’ biggest weaknesses and schematic needs.
The following five players are the best potential signings for the Colts, ranked in order of who would fill the designated need the most.