Winners and Losers of Indianapolis Colts' Offseason So Far

Kyle J. Rodriguez@@coltsauth_kyleCorrespondent IJune 15, 2015

Winners and Losers of Indianapolis Colts' Offseason So Far

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    The offseason is a long, arduous process for NFL teams, but with the June minicamp now complete, the Indianapolis Colts are finished with offseason workouts until training camp begins in August. 

    With free-agent signings, draft picks and cuts, the Colts have made a lot of changes in this year's offseason. Under general manager Ryan Grigson, the Colts have often had attention-grabbing offseasons, but this year's was the most memorable since the transition from the Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck era in 2012.

    With the additions of big names like Frank Gore, Andre Johnson and Trent Cole in free agency and the controversial selection of Phillip Dorsett in the first round of the 2015 draft, the Colts have drawn national attention. Then there are moves like cutting Trent Richardson and allowing veterans like Reggie Wayne and Cory Redding to leave in free agency. No matter how you look at it, the 2015 Colts will look very different from last year's team.

    Of course, at the core still lies the NFL's best young quarterback, which is where the Colts will look for leadership and big plays in 2015. Fortunately for the Colts, Luck should be very happy with the team's changes this offseason, one of several "winners" so far. As we look back on the bulk of the offseason, who joins Luck as a beneficiary, and who is in a less than favorable situation?

Winner: Phillip Dorsett

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    Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    When you get to go from a predominantly running college offense with a freshman quarterback to one of the NFL's most pass-heavy teams with its brightest young star throwing the ball, you're automatically a winner as a wide receiver.

    But there are plenty of other factors that make Dorsett a very happy man this summer.

    Indianapolis, for one, is the perfect place for him. The wide receiver room is loaded, giving him a wily veteran in Andre Johnson to learn from along with a similarly built T.Y. Hilton to imitate. As one of the draft's most dangerous deep threats, Dorsett now comes to the team that threw the ball deep (20-plus yards) more than any other team in the league last year.

    Dorsett has fit in right away in Indianapolis, making big play after big play in organized team activities (OTAs) and minicamp. His speed has been apparent to everybody in attendance, but it's his full body of work that has impressed general manager Ryan Grigson the most, per Steve Andress of Colts.com:

    He’s already a pro. He’s learning multiple positions, which is not easy in this offense. We wouldn’t be moving him around, if he wasn’t able to handle that. His aptitude has impressed me. Obviously, his speed is his calling card, but it’s not just that. He’s a fast guy that can play football. He has receiver’s hands, and he has elusiveness laterally and has change of direction that a lot of times true speed freaks don’t have. A lot of times they’re straight-liners, they can’t catch, or they’re little guys that lack toughness or lack true hands. He has that skill set.

    Unless he (furiously knocks on wood) suffers an injury, there seems to be little stopping Dorsett from making a big impact in the NFL.

Loser: Gosder Cherilus

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    Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

    Gosder Cherilus' return from offseason surgeries was never going to be easy.

    But the lack of positive news for the tackle, and the Colts' use of second-year player Jack Mewhort at right tackle, makes his story one of the least inspiring for 2015.

    At his predraft press conference in April, via Kevin Bowen of Colts.com, Grigson said Cherilus' target timetable was June, potentially even sooner. But Cherilus missed all of the team's OTAs and minicamp work, and Grigson told media last week that the team now just hopes he can be ready in time for training camp:

    Grigson: #Colts hope Cherilus will be ready by camp. But RT just starting on road back to field.

    — George Bremer (@gmbremer) June 11, 2015

    Cherilus has enough guaranteed money left on his contract that he won't be leaving anytime soon. Spotrac.com estimates that Cherilus would have $8.7 million left in dead money if he was cut this year, compared to a $6.9 million cap hit. And even if he doesn't start the year right away, he could always regain his starting spot midway through the season.

    But after being healthy for just one year of his five-year, $35 million contract, Cherilus has been a huge disappointment thus far. These lingering injuries are the kind of things that derail a promising career completely. Right now, it seems like Cherilus' 2012 season, in which he ranked fifth among all tackles in Pro Football Focus' pass-blocking grades, was a lifetime ago.

Winner: Cam Johnson

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    Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

    It's a bit of a miracle that Cam Johnson made it onto the positive side of this list.

    After missing most of the last two seasons with injury, the former seventh-round pick came into this offseason with a long shot of making the roster. Then the Colts added more pieces, signing Trent Cole in free agency and looking forward to the return of Robert Mathis.

    With his lack of snaps over the last two years and Mathis (if healthy) and Cole immediately jumping him on the depth chart, things seemed grim for Johnson.

    But the fourth-year pro has impressed throughout the offseason workouts in Indianapolis, even working with the first team last week, according to Kevin Bowen of Colts.com. It still seems to be a bit of a long shot for him to make the roster, and one that may depend on the health of Robert Mathis, but Johnson has done everything right thus far this offseason.

Loser: Griff Whalen

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    Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

    For a while there, it seemed like Griff Whalen, the former roommate of Andrew Luck at Stanford and an undrafted free agent, was going to be the permanent fifth wide receiver in Indianapolis.

    Whalen has been the Colts' jack-of-all-trades from the wide receiver position, playing on special teams coverage units, returning kicks and punts, playing slot receiver, you name it. Whether it was a spot on the practice squad, a starting spot or as a special teamer, Whalen has been a fan favorite since he came into the league, and he is very familiar with people in the organization.

    But now it's hard to see a path for Whalen to stay on the roster going forward.

    Not only did the Colts add rookie Phillip Dorsett and veteran Andre Johnson, but the team also signed Canadian Football League star Duron Carter and veteran Vincent Brown. Throw in returning T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief, and you have six wide receivers that will likely be ahead of Whalent on the depth chart.

    Perhaps Whalen will be able to carve out a specific role on the team, but that seems like a pipe dream.

Winner: Veteran Free-Agent Signings

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    Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    This is true for all the free agents coming into Indianapolis, but especially for the offensive skill players. Getting to play with Andrew Luck is a big-time bonus.

    Just ask Andre Johnson and Frank Gore, who are fitting in seamlessly, as Chuck Pagano told Kevin Bowen of Colts.com. For Johnson, a wide receiver who has dealt with a variety of quarterback situations over the last decade, Luck is both a breath of fresh air as well as a new challenge:

    Not a media session w/ Andre Johnson goes by w/out praise for Andrew Luck: “He’s a hell of a player. I think he’s the best QB in this game."

    — Kevin Bowen (@KBowenColts) June 9, 2015

    For Johnson, having Luck and the culture of winning in Indianapolis has helped him rediscover his love for the game, according to Zak Keefer of the Indianapolis Star. Johnson and Gore came to Indianapolis to have a better chance at winning a Super Bowl, and it's hard to argue with them at this point.

    As for Gore, he won't have quite the same quality of offensive line as he did in his prime in San Francisco, but he also won't be seeing defenses geared totally toward stopping him:

    Frank Gore: “I’ve never seen a six-man front. Hopefully, this year it happens. And hopefully, I can take advantage of it."

    — Jeff Darlington (@JeffDarlington) June 9, 2015

    The two veterans perfectly encapsulate why Indianapolis is such an attractive place to play for many veterans. With a young, promising nucleus and a culture of winning, it's hard for free agents to visit Indianapolis and leave without signing a contract.

Loser: 2014's Linebacker Depth

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    Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

    After signing former CFL linebacker Henoc Muamba and drafting sixth-rounder Andrew Jackson last offseason, the Colts seemed to have several promising linebacker options on the inside.

    With Josh McNary slated to return and take on a a bigger role, the team's depth was at least promising, if not proven. But the offseason has been brutal on that depth. McNary is a complete question mark, out of the picture as his trial for rape charges begins on Monday. Jackson was released from the team after a DUI arrest in January, his second of the year.

    The one depth player returning this season is Muamba, who was the Colts' third-highest graded player in the preseason last year, per Pro Football Focus. However, he has likely been surpassed on the depth chart by free-agent signing Nate Irving, and possibly by sixth-round pick Amarlo Herrera as well.

    Muamba may not even make the final roster, which is mind-boggling to consider. The Colts starters will be the same as 2014, barring an injury, but the depth will be a complete change.

Winner: Andrew Luck

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    Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

    Of any one individual amid the Colts organization, Andrew Luck has to be the one that has won the most this offseason.

    In past years, the Colts have often failed to get Luck the help needed to truly unlock his potential and lead the team to success. Still, he's managed to get the job done with production from unlikely sources.

    But this offseason the Colts made Luck's future their top priority.

    The team went out and got a premier, if aging possession wide receiver in Andre Johnson to take Reggie Wayne's place. They went out and drafted another big-play wide receiver in Phillip Dorsett as well as adding another high-ceiling receiver in Duron Carter. They dropped Trent Richardson and signed the super-reliable Frank Gore to be Luck's backfield security blanket. They drafted another running back, Josh Robinson, to develop behind Gore.

    This is, by far, the most talented group that Luck has ever worked with. No, the offensive line isn't drastically improved, which means Luck might still get hit too often, but the team did add a few versatile pieces, and the line isn't in as bad of shape as some would have you believe.

    Overall, Luck is a clear winner from this offseason, and we should see a career year in 2015 as a result.

Loser: The AFC South

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    Darron Cummings/Associated Press

    Unfortunately for the rest of the AFC South, the chances that the Colts give up their hold on the division didn't change much with this offseason.

    The Tennessee Titans did inject the franchise with a bit of hope with the drafting of quarterback Marcus Mariota, but the Titans were unable to stop the Colts offense in any way at all last season and Indianapolis' improvements should continue to keep them out of reach.

    Jacksonville drafted pass-rusher Dante Fowler out of Florida to help them get after Luck in the pocket, but Fowler tore his ACL early on in OTAs, pushing him out for the season.

    Houston drafted cornerback Kevin Johnson in the first round of the draft, likely in part because Johnson is the kind of cornerback that may be able to slow T.Y. Hilton, who has killed the Texans in recent years. But then the Colts went out and drafted a Hilton clone in Dorsett, staying just one step ahead yet again.

    With Houston and Jacksonville's quarterback situations staying relatively the same and Mariota not looking like someone who will be able to carry the Titans' depleted roster anytime soon, the Colts are poised for another division crown.

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