Indianapolis Colts: State of the Franchise at the Start of the 2014 Offseason
Despite going 2-14 back in 2011, the Colts have already been rebuilt. The team has an excellent group of young players, and they're already just a couple of steps away from being a legitimate contender in the NFL.
But this coming offseason is a big one for the Colts. There are still a lot of questions surrounding certain players, positions and even coaches, but a successful offseason could quickly answer a lot of those questions.
With that being said, let's take a look at the state of the franchise heading into the 2014 offseason for the Colts.
2013 Season in Review
Despite numerous injuries, weaknesses and sometimes poor play, the Colts still showed improvement from 2012 to 2013.
The record was identical, with the Colts going 11-5 once again, but this year they were finally able to win their first playoff game in the post-Peyton Manning era. An epic 28-point comeback over the Kansas City Chiefs led them to a remarkable 45-44 win.
A week later, the Colts fell to the New England Patriots, losing 43-22 after LeGarrette Blount ran all over them, putting up 166 yards and four touchdowns on the ground.
The season was filled with criticism about the new offensive philosophy under Pep Hamilton with a run-first mentality. Despite that mentality, the Colts ended up ranking only 21st in the league in rushing, averaging 108.9 yards per game in the regular season.
The Colts thought that trading a first-round pick to the Cleveland Browns early in the season for Trent Richardson would make them a contender, but so far T-Rich hasn't done anything to impress, averaging just 2.9 yards per carry.
There were problems, tough losses and so much more that fans will complain about, but at the end of the day, the Colts came away with wins against three of the four teams that played in the conference championship games and won a playoff game of their own without some of their most talented players.
Once again, the Colts will have plenty of money to spend this offseason, much like the last one. However, the Colts are hoping that they can spend this money in more efficient ways than they did in 2013.
According to OverTheCap.com, the Colts will have an estimated $34.6 million in cap space. While this seems like a lot, the Colts will also have to try to bring back a number of players that will be entering free agency, but we'll get into that later.
This is an important offseason for general manager Ryan Grigson with this much cap space. He acquired some terrific talent in 2012, but 2013 was a different story, paying a lot of money for some very questionable free agents that have yet to pan out.
While it's highly unlikely Grigson would be fired with another bad offseason, it is something to look out for. With this much cap space, Grigson has the opportunity to bring in a lot of talent, but he also has to be careful about not overspending with the looming deals of players like Andrew Luck and T.Y. Hilton coming after the 2015 season.
Impending Free Agents
Plain and simple, the Colts have a lot of free agents that they need to consider bringing back.
To start, the Colts will need to find a way to bring back both Adam Vinatieri and Pat McAfee, who are both free agents. Both won't be cheap, but considering how popular both players have been during their time in Indianapolis, it's hard to picture the team without them.
The secondary could also be taking a hit with both Antoine Bethea, Josh Gordy, Cassius Vaughn and Vontae Davis entering free agency. Bethea had a seriously bad run in the middle of the season that showed he isn't the player he once was, but he did end up turning it around and played some very good football by the end of the year.
For Davis, he'll likely be looking for a big deal, but the Colts might be forced to re-sign him given how thin their secondary is right now, even if they also bring back Gordy and/or Vaughn.
Offensively, the biggest name hitting free agency is running back Donald Brown. He's coming off of a career-best season, averaging 5.3 yards per carry while putting up over 700 total yards and eight total touchdowns.
While it sounds like a good idea to bring back Brown, the combination of Vick Ballard coming back from a torn ACL along with the likely commitment to Richardson could have him going to a different team. Brown already had an ominous tweet to suggest his time in Indy is done, so that may very well be the case.
Here's the full list of impending free agents:
- Adam Vinatieri
- Aubrayo Franklin
- Antoine Bethea
- Mike McGlynn
- Fili Moala
- Darrius Heyward-Bey
- Vontae Davis
- Donald Brown
- Lawrence Sidbury
- Pat McAfee
- Jeff Linkenbach
- Pat Angerer
- Kavell Conner
- Sergio Brown
- Ricardo Mathews
- Cassius Vaughn
- Joe Reitz
- Josh Gordy
- Scott Lutrus
- Justin Hickman
- Cam Johnson
Current Coaching Staff
Head Coach: Chuck Pagano
An incredibly popular man in Indianapolis, Chuck Pagano isn't going anywhere anytime soon. But this is a big year for him in his third year as a head coach, as this is the time where he should begin to feel more comfortable with the organization.
Players absolutely love Pagano, and it's not hard to see why. He's an incredible motivator and leader, pumping up whoever he's talking to. One of the best indicators of this came back before the 2012 playoff game against the Baltimore Ravens, when so many of their defensive players talked about him and how much they loved him.
At the same time, Pagano doesn't always make the best decisions, especially with the game on the line. Fans are still upset that he decided to punt it against the Patriots when they were down big in the fourth quarter. These kinds of decisions are ones that Pagano is going to have to fix to help lead his team.
Offensive Coordinator: Pep Hamilton
Pep Hamilton was under fire more than any member of the Colts this season with the possible exception of Richardson. His "No Coast" offense didn't exactly work out, as the Colts ranked 15th with 341.8 total yards per game and 14th with 24.4 points per game.
With Luck under center, you would expect a bit more.
But there were times at the end of the year where Hamilton showed some real creativity and let Luck loose, leading to some big offensive performances.
There were rumors that Hamilton was a candidate for the head coaching job at Vanderbilt, but he took himself out of the running to stay with the Colts. Regardless of what you think about him, if Hamilton had left, Luck would have had to work with his third offensive coordinator in three years, and that would seriously hinder his development.
Defensive Coordinator: Greg Manusky
Some Colts fans are calling for Greg Manusky to be fired, and it really feels like this could be his last chance at proving his defense will work.
The defense looked good at times, but they also looked very bad at others. The Colts allowed 357.1 total yards and 21.0 points per game in 2013, ranking 20th and ninth, respectively.
Those numbers could be better, but at the same time they're not completely terrible. However, the big concern was the complete collapse during the postseason, with the Colts allowing 87 total points in just two postseason games.
The defense will need to step it up this year or the Colts could be looking for a new defensive coordinator after the 2014 season.
2014 NFL Draft Preview
Given their current situation for the 2014 NFL draft, it's unlikely we see as many impact rookies next season as we saw in 2012.
After trading for Richardson, the Colts are without a first-round pick, as they'll have to wait until the 58th overall pick to make a selection in May, unless they trade up. The Colts will also be without a fourth-round pick, as they traded for a fifth-rounder in last year's draft, picking up Montori Hughes.
The most obvious need for the Colts is help on the interior of the offensive line. Donald Thomas will be coming back after tearing his quad early last year, but the Colts will still need better options and Hugh Thornton and Samson Satele.
Earlier prospects like Gabe Jackson out of Mississippi State and Zack Martin out of Notre Dame could be ideal additions in the second round at guard, while Travis Swanson out of Arkansas would be a solid selection at the center position.
The Colts could also go for another pass-rusher to help out Robert Mathis. While the Colts did draft Bjoern Werner last year, he has yet to develop into an intimidating force that can put pressure on the quarterback, so the Colts may try to look for a more pro-ready guy that can rush the passer like Kyle Van Noy out of BYU.
Later in the draft, I expect the Colts to look at adding more depth at inside linebacker, safety and cornerback, as well as more help on the offensive line. For a closer look at some late-round guys, you can see six of them here.