Colts Offseason Priorities: Mission Accomplished...Almost
While some teams are making headlines with big free agent signings or solidifying their lineups with quality trades, the Colts have been quietly working on altering their roster for the 2010 season.
While their have been a few minor surprises, the Bill Polian's plan has been nearly perfect.
It was obvious Polian's top priority was resigning linebackers Gary Brackett. Normally, this would go against the Colts normal philosophy. Linebackers have never been a top priority to re-sign when their contracts come up. Quality starters like David Thornton and Cato June have been allowed to leave via free agency.
The fact that Polian chose to sign Brackett to an impressive 5-year, $33 million deal shouldn't be seen as a change in Polian's defensive priorities. But it clearly is a sign of the importance of Brackett in the Colts' scheme.
They could not have allowed him to leave and expected to maintain a solid defense in 2010.
In the past, when guys like Thornton and June left Indianapolis, the Colts could rest easy knowing Brackett has still there. If Brackett had gone, the linebacking corps would have been led by Clint Session or Philip Wheeler. Quality guys, sure, but neither possess anything near the leadership ability of Brackett.
Brackett will probably go down as the best linebacker in Indianapolis era of Colts history, which is impressive considering the Colts have had some talented linebackers in the past such as Duane Bickett and Jeff Herrod.
His presence is sure to help Session and Wheeler grow into even better players.
The Colts also made a number of cuts. The only mild surprise was the release of Raheem Brock. Brock's been a solid contributor for the Colts for many years, but his release makes sense on the surface. rock is 32 and was making significant money for a rotational bench player. Brock might get interest from a defense needy team, but I wouldn't be surprised if he came back to Indianapolis with a cheaper contract.
Other than Brock, the other releases weren't really surprises. It's a shame Marlin Jackson won't get one more shot with Indianapolis. But considering he's had two knee injuries in two years, it's not surprising he was released.
The loss of Jim Sorgi means the Colts obviously see something in Curtis Painter. Painter may have been a disaster on the field at the end of the regular season, but I have a feeling the Colts saw some mental toughness in him that leads them to believe he'll grow from that.
Colts' fans also won't have Tim Jennings to kick around anymore. Jennings will move on, and the Colts can only hope to see him again down the road, much like they enjoyed their reunion with Jason David in 2007.
Finally, the Colts put tenders on some restricted free agents they want to see return for 2010. Most got second-round tenders. This includes key contributors like Melvin Bullitt, Daniel Muir, and Antonio Johnson.
The top tender went to Antoine Bethea. Bethea's first-round tender looked to be safe. In a year that the draft is said to be one of the deepest in recent memory, it was probably safe to assume that their would be little interest in trying to obtain Bethea from Indianapolis knowing you'd lose a first-round pick in return.
However, some teams have expressed interested in acquiring the safety's talents. The Redskins and Cowboys have been rumored to be in the market for Bethea. While it would be intriguing to consider the Colts with two first-round picks should Bethea leave, it wouldn't be as big a positive as one would think.
Without Bob Sanders last season, Bethea helped lead a very inexperienced secondary. The Colts are built to win now. Losing Bethea means the Colts would have to rely on Sanders not getting injured again. Otherwise, the Colts would have tremendously inexperienced secondary.
Bethea may not be in the same league of safeties as Ed Reed or Troy Polamalu, but he's definitely one of the better safeties in the league. The Colts have been making all the right moves so far this offseason, but it could come crashing down should they lose one of their best defenders.
The Colts have made all the right moves so far. If they can keep Bethea, they will retain the nucleus of the team that made it to the Super Bowl. That's not a bad position to be in when it's only March.
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