Stephon Gilmore, Matt Ryan Adds Suggest Colts Are All-In for 2022; Will It Work?April 16, 2022
About a month after acquiring quarterback Matt Ryan from the Atlanta Falcons, the Indianapolis Colts are in the headlines again. This time, they reportedly signed five-time Pro Bowl cornerback Stephon Gilmore.
If the Ryan trade wasn't enough evidence, this move made it clear: The Colts are going for it.
They also added pass-rusher Yannick Ngakoue from the Las Vegas Raiders, suggesting Indy—which lost in the opening round of the 2020 postseason and missed the 2021 edition in exasperating fashion—wants to do more than merely flirt with the playoffs.
That is, without hesitation, the proper stance. Chasing a championship is always admirable. The objective is to win, after all.
The moment the Colts landed Ryan, who is approaching his age-37 season, this was the only acceptable path. They didn't sacrifice much (a 2022 third-round draft pick because of Ryan's massive salary), but trading for a productive quarterback—even if he's past his prime—to hope for a division title would be ridiculous.
Indianapolis also had an immense need at cornerback. Gilmore was by far the best player available at the position, and the Colts had plenty of cap space for his reasonable two-year deal. Most importantly, shelling out $14 million guaranteed, per ESPN's Adam Schefter, for Gilmore won't prevent them from making other moves.
The team's remaining needs—wide receiver in particular, plus offensive tackle and tight end—can be addressed in the draft or with veteran free agents afterward. General manager Chris Ballard has built a reputation as a strong drafter, especially since the hiring of now-fifth-year head coach Frank Reich.
Every decision is a calculated guess, yes. But it's more likely the Colts will find a starter at those positions than turn a Day 2 pick or bargain-bin cornerback into a pillar of the defense.
Gilmore, though, has that ability.
Even if he does not regain his 2019 Defensive Player of the Year form, Gilmore is a huge upgrade. He nabbed two interceptions and allowed just 6.4 yards per target last season. Gilmore immediately becomes the top outside corner on the roster, given that Kenny Moore II is a nickelback.
The obvious subsequent question is whether Indy's aggressive additions will result in a championship.
In the loaded AFC, the Colts will probably fall short of the Super Bowl. We could outline a path to win the conference, and—provided they bolster the offensive line and receiving corps in the coming months—they will be capable of a deep postseason run.
At the same time, Indy is understandably behind the Buffalo Bills, Cincinnati Bengals, Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers in most projections. All four of them boast an elite quarterback and held a top-seven ranking in points per game last season.
The Cleveland Browns and Denver Broncos should be stronger after trading for Deshaun Watson and Russell Wilson. Plus, the Lamar Jackson-led Baltimore Ravens and two-time reigning AFC South champion Tennessee Titans have playoff-worthy rosters. Even the Miami Dolphins should be more competitive in 2022, too. The conference is really, really tough.
However, the Colts are embracing that challenge.
They already had MVP-caliber running back Jonathan Taylor and a promising defense. Not only does Indianapolis have a propensity for creating turnovers, but also the defense has established stars with lineman DeForest Buckner and linebacker Darius Leonard in front of Moore and Gilmore.
And the Colts made a necessary change at quarterback. Carson Wentz wore out his welcome, and Ryan—short of a blockbuster for Wilson—was the best option available. Ryan isn't a guarantee, but the alternatives were uninspiring.
Ngakoue is the impactful edge-rusher the Colts lacked. Throw in Gilmore and recently signed safety Rodney McLeod, and the secondary is reinforced, too. Indianapolis has struggled to field both a dangerous pass-rush and reliable coverage unit, which is begging for trouble in the quarterback-rich AFC. Ngakoue and Gilmore give the defense a much greater chance to navigate the deep conference.
Yes, the AFC is crammed with quality rosters. Waiting for a perfect year to go all-in for a ring, however, would be foolish. Championship windows can slam closed at any moment.
Since the Colts are in position to be a real contender, there's little sense in timid roster management.
It might not work. Heck, it likely won't.
After entering the offseason on the edge of relevance, though, the Colts bolstered the roster with patient, cost-effective moves. Rather than relying on half-measures to improve the fringes of the team, Indy has taken title-caliber swings this offseason.
Follow Bleacher Report writer David Kenyon on Twitter @Kenyon19_BR.