Indianapolis Colts' Top Free Agents That Need to Be Re-Signed
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Bill Polian is not Dan Snyder. Thank God for that. Nothing personal against the Redskins' cranky boss, it's just the Redskins' strategy of going out and mortgaging the house on extremely overrated players hasn't exactly been a successful winning formula.
For comparison sake, since Snyder bought the Redskins in 1999, Washington is a rather unimpressive 86-106. The Colts on the other hand recorded the most wins in NFL history over a decade, going 138-54 over the same time span.
If the Colts don't waste money on mammoth deals on players such as Albert Haynesworth (seven-year $100 million contract) or DeAngelo Hall (six-year $54 million contract), how exactly have they been so successful?
Mostly by drafting wisely and retaining key free agents. This year however, both the draft and astute re-signing of free agents will be crucial to the Colts' continued success.
Bill Polian has whiffed on a few draft picks of late and more key players than usual are up for new contracts. How the Colts draft and who they choose to resign will go a long way towards determining whether or not the Colts' can squeeze other 5-6 playoff trips (and maybe even a Super Bowl or two) out of Peyton Manning's Hall of Fame career.
Here are the top players the Colts must target and re-sign during upcoming free agency.
1. Peyton Manning: The Most Important Colt of All Time
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Some have argued, including on this site, that Peyton's expected record-setting deal may handicap the Colts. Have you watched Curtis Painter? Not very convincing. Nor should Colts' fans put any hope into Nevada University's QB Colin Kaepernick (or anyone else for that matter) turning into the next Aaron Rodgers.
If ownership decided to hand over the reigns, it's guys like Painter (sorry Curtis) who would hinder the Colts. All Peyton Manning does is win games...and MVP trophies. Thankfully, Colts' Owner Jim Irsay is committed to handsomely rewarding Mr. Manning for his accomplishments.
Peyton Manning has a good five to six years left and as long as he is behind center, the Colts will be favored to win the division and keep their record setting streak of nine straight playoff trips alive.
Peyton Manning is deserving of every last penny that Owner Jim Irsay offers.
Here are just a few of Peyton Manning's honors and achievements.
- four NFL MVP's (2003, 2004, 2008, 2009)
- 11 Pro Bowl Selections (1999, 2000, 2002-2010)
- five First-Team All-Pro Selections (2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 20009)
- threeSecond-Team All-Pro Selections (1999, 2000, 2006)
- six AFC Offensive Player of the Year Award Honors (1999, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009)
- 2005 Pro Bowl MVP
- 2006 Super Bowl MVP
Again, just to be clear, these are only some of the awards Peyton has won throughout his career. In fact, Peyton has more pro-bowl records than most quarterbacks will have throughout their whole playing careers (pee-wee, high school, college and the pros).
I would say he's probably worthy of a new contract, wouldn't you?
2. Joseph Addai
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Joe Addai might not have won as many awards as Peyton, but if there were a "First-Team Most Underrated," Addai would run away with it.
The funny thing is, Addai has enough trouble running away from opposing defenses. His longest career run is only 46 yards. Furthermore, running back is said to be the easiest skill position to replace. Plus, the Colts drafted his replacement, Donald Brown, two years ago.
So why exactly should the Colts keep Addai?
Well first, Brown hasn't really panned out as hoped. But more than that, the Colts should make it a priority to keep Addai in a Colts' uniform because there is no other back in the NFL who is as complete a player as the sixth year man out of LSU. As Coach Caldwell said about him during a regular season post conference, "He understands all the nuances. He is very, very smart. He's a guy that can make you miss, but also has power and catches the ball out of the backfield. He's also a very good pass protector."
With the Addai in the lineup this past season, the Colts were 8-2. Without him, the Colts were 2-4.
Not only did the Colts' running game suffer in his absence, Peyton Manning was rushed and hit more often as well. Backups Brown and Mike Hart were unable to read the blitzes as successfully, and the whole offense failed to run as smoothly.
Re-signing Joe Addai is by extension a further investment in the well being and health of Manning. Not only does Addai excel at blitz protection, but he also takes pressure off Manning serving as a valuable safety-valve receiving option out of the backfield.
Keeping a quality back and helping to extend Peyton Manning's career? That's an idea that all Colts fans should rally behind.
3. Clint Session
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Linebacker is not a great need for the Colts. A lineup of Kavell Connor, Pat Angerer and Gary Brackett with Philip Wheeler and Cody Glenn as reserves is already pretty decent. Such a unit wouldn't challenge that of the Ravens, but for the Colts, that starting group is more than serviceable.
The Colts' actually have a greater need at safety where Melvin Bullitt is a free agent so you could definitely make the case that re-signing Bullitt is the greater priority.
No offense to Bullitt, because he is definitely worthy of a contract extension and I very much hope the Colts do keep him, but Session is someone the Colts can ill afford to lose.
The guy is a tackling machine. Over the past three years, he has averaged nine tackles a game. More than stats though, it's Clint's attitude that the Colts are in desperate need of.
Session brings a mean, tough aggressive demeanor each and every week. The guy is an absolute warrior, and for a Colts' team that is considered gentle and sensitive, Session's attitude is a breath of fresh air.
Its also infectious. Session energizes the defense. When Session is in the lineup, the whole unit is more feisty and assertive.
Before Session went down with a season-ending broken elbow, the Colts' defense was giving up 20.2 points a game. After Session's injury, the defense surrender 26.2 ppg or almost a touchdown more per contest.
Nothing speaks to Session's more toughness than the fact that after breaking his elbow against the Texans, Session tried to return and finish the game and lobbied even harder for doctors to allow him to play the following week.
The Colts should reward that kind of heart and dedication.
4. Melvin Bullitt
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Melvin Bullitt shouldn't be seen as "Bob Sanders replacement." He also shouldn't be considered a "rising star" as ESPN's Paul Kuharsky dubbed before him last year. Nor should he be a candidate for USA Today's "Unsung Hero of the Week."
Melvin Bullitt has arrived and should be considered a legitimate and top starting safety in the NFL. Colts' fans will always remember Bullitt for his stop on Kevin Faulk when Bill Belichick famously went for it on 4th-and-2 two seasons ago, but Bullitt's contributions go far beyond one awesome hit.
When Bob Sanders went down in first game of the season, many felt it was finally Bullitt's time to shine. Some were thinking a Pro Bowl honor was in his future. Unfortunately for him and the Colts, Bullitt was bit by the same injury bug that nabbed Bob Sanders, robbing him of another full year to prove his worth.
With the Colts' secondary dangerously thin after Bob Sanders was cut, the Colts would be wise not to let another starting safety leave as well.
Recent reports that Bullitt would rather leave than accept a one-year tender by the Colts are troubling not only because they indicate that Bullitt might not be back in blue but also because it would show the Colts are not serious about keeping their best players.
Hopefully, Bullitt will be around in Indianapolis for years to come.
5. Adam Vinatieri
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He's only the best clutch kicker in the game and a four-time Super Bowl champion as well. No biggies really.
After another spectacularly consistent season in which he went 26/28 on field goals (93 percent) and 51/51 on extra point attempts, Adam Vinatieri proved that his age is still not an issue.
At 38, the Colts could re-sign Vinatieri for another three to four years thus guaranteeing that as long as Peyton can take the offense to the 30-yard line, the Colts will at least get three points. That is a luxury few teams have.
With good reliable kickers hard to come by, it's hard to imagine the Colts passing on a future Hall of Famer, especially if Peyton has anything to say about it. After watching too many seasons end on the liquored up kicker Mike Vanderjagt's erratic postseason leg, Vinatieri is definitely a guy the Colts are going to want to keep around.
Random side note: Vinatieri went to South Dakota State. Colts' practice squad wide receiver Kole Heckendorf went to North Dakota State. What are the odds that a guy from each of those schools ended up on the same NFL team? I wonder if they are rivals?
6. Charlie Johnson
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It's no secret, the Colts' offensive line was terrible last year. The only reason Peyton Manning didn't spend all his time on his back is because of his lightening quick release (and his laser rocket arm).
Letting any even somewhat adequate lineman go would be a mistake given how thin the Colts are up front. Fortunately for the Colts, Charlie Johnson is definitely more than serviceable, and he wasn't even playing his natural position.
Because of the dire straights along the line, the Colts were forced to play Johnson out of position at left tackle rather than guard where he is more comfortable (and also apparently better too).
All signs are pointing towards the Colts finally drafting a premiere left tackle in the first round (at least all Colts fans desperately hope so). If that is indeed the case, the Colts could then shift Johnson to guard and begin to form a semblance of having a decent line.
Re-signing Charlie Johnson is crucial to the Colts' plans if they are serious about shoring up their offensive line.
Plus affter playing out of position and fighting through nagging injuries most of the past year, Johnson is definitely deserving of a new contract.
7. Antonio Johnson
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As fans, we would like to re-sign all our favorite players and key free agents, there comes a point however where its just too expensive and not feasible to do so.
Antonio Johnson is currently straddling that line. While Indianapolis doesn't have many impact 300lb-plus defensive tackles and are rather thin up front, the Colts are planning to address the defensive line in the draft, thus probably bumping Mookie from the rotation.
With those likelihoods and Mookie's history of legal troubles, it's hard to imagine the Colts shelling out the money necessary to convince him to stay.
Still, if it's possible, many Colts fans would love to see the fan-favorite back in a Colts' uniform. He can really take up space and is the only true run stopper the Colts have to throw against division rivals Chris Johnson and Maurice Jones-Drew. An added bonus are his on-the-field antics after big stops, which are always fun to watch.
8. Tyjuan Hagler
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Tyjuan Hagler has never been appreciated for his contributions and role on the team. Sure, he isn't a Pro Bowl starting linebacker, but he isn't being paid like one either.
Rather Hagler is a smart, high energy special teams player which is exactly why the Colts won't make too much of an effort to retain his services yet at the same time why they really should.
The Colts' special teams has been notoriously terrible. Its struggles are of epic proportions. High school teams could field a better unit. The Colts though continue to ignore the unit. Sure they made strides this year, but that's like saying the Bills made progress too. Great, let me know when they're in the playoffs.
Hagler though, is one reason why the Colts finally did show improvements. He brings energy. He hustles, and he plays with heart. Most importantly, when he gets in on the action, he steps up and contributes. In essence, he is the perfect backup role player. A guy who can start and hold down the fort when injuries strike and also can still find other ways to contribute when he isn't being called upon in an every down scenario.
After not playing in five of the first six games, injuries to Brackett and Session gave Hagler the chance to fill in and he made the most of his opportunities. Hagler contributed 57 tackles over the final 10 games including a season-high 13 in an overtime loss to Dallas.
If Colts can re-sign Hagler cheaply, he is a definite steal.
9. Dominic Rhodes
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To quote Will Ferrell, the chances of Dominic Rhodes being re-signed are "slim to none and slim just left the building."
That being said, it's the Colts loss. Dominic Rhodes is the offensive version of Clint Session. He brings a toughness and attitude that the Colts lack. After Rhodes arrived in Week 15, the Colts' backs ran with intensity and purpose. Dominic's influence rubbed off on the whole team, and the offensive line and running game were better for it.
The Colts' backfield is crowded, no doubt about that. Addai is the starter and Brown and Hart are the clear backups. But keeping Rhodes around may make more sense than the Colts brass thinks. For one, injuries ravaged the Colts running backs last year, which was the reason Rhodes was brought back to begin with. If the Colts suffer the same misfortune this season, they might not be as lucky to find a player like Rhodes on the waiver wire as late as Week 15.
Secondly, when given the chance, Rhodes can really preform. In three games with the Colts, Rhodes ran for 172 yards or 4.6 yards a carry. Granted it was only three games, but 4.6 yards-per-carry lead all Colts' backs.
Most importantly though, Rhodes can work with the younger guys to instill that toughness and killer instinct that will help make them better runners.
If Rhodes doesn't receive any other offers this offseason, the Colts should make an effort to bring him back.
It probably won't happen, but it doesn't mean it shouldn't.