With the drama of the NBA trade deadline now behind us, let’s turn our attention back to the NFL, specifically, the Indianapolis Colts. The date when teams can begin negotiating with free agents is about two weeks away, so speculation is running rampant as to which teams will try to sign certain players. SB Nation discusses an ESPN piece that suggests five moves the Colts should make going into the 2017 season. To knowledgeable Colts fans, most of these potential maneuvers are fairly obvious, but let’s discuss what Bill Barnwell of ESPN had to say about Indianapolis’ offseason plans.
The first task listed is getting defensive lineman Arthur Jones to take a pay cut. Jones has not been able to stay healthy since coming to the Colts as a high-priced free agent in 2014. Indianapolis could simply cut Jones, but getting him to accept a pay reduction would be an even better solution. If Jones could remain healthy in 2017, he could give the team’s defense a significant boost. If Arthur Jones is willing to play for a much lower salary this coming season, the Colts would be wise to keep him. However, if he refuses to take a pay cut, general manager Chris Ballard might have to send Jones packing.
Fixing the right side of the offensive line is the next suggestion; the problems are no secret to Colts fans. Indianapolis is set on the left side with Anthony Castonzo at left tackle, Jack Mewhort at left guard and Ryan Kelly manning the center position (per ESPN). The right guard and right tackle spots saw a number of different faces in 2016, and none of them stepped up and claimed either of those spots. The team is high on some of the younger linemen such as Joe Haeg and Le’Raven Clark, but adding at least one veteran free agent may be necessary to bolster this unit going into 2017.
Another clear need for the Colts is to add a top-flight pass rusher to the defense. Trent Cole is a free agent who was a disappointment in his time with the Colts, and Robert Mathis has retired. Indianapolis has a dire need for an edge rusher (or two), and Chris Ballard will be targeting that position in free agency, as well as in the upcoming NFL Draft in April.
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The next topic touched upon in the Bill Barnwell article is that Indianapolis needs to acquire a young running back prospect. Frank Gore is 33-years-old, and has a ton of mileage on his legs after nearly 3,000 NFL rushing attempts during his career, as detailed by Pro Football Reference. Robert Turbin did a solid job as Gore’s backup last season, but the Colts definitely need to start thinking about developing a young runner to replace Gore. Fortunately, running back is one of the easier positions to learn for a young player coming out of college, so Indianapolis could use a draft pick on a player they feel has star potential at that position.
The final suggested move mentioned in the piece is to find a second tight end to play alongside Dwayne Allen, however, the Colts may already have that player on their roster. Jack Doyle had a breakthrough season in 2016, but he is now a free agent. Indianapolis should re-sign Doyle unless they get into an expensive bidding war for his services.
The team has also been working to develop former college basketball player Erik Swoope for the past few years, and his success story as a long-shot NFL player is described by the Indianapolis Star. Swoope made significant strides as a tight end prospect last season, but he is now a restricted free agent, so he and Doyle would both have to sign new deals to return to Indianapolis. Allen, Doyle, and Swoope would represent a solid trio of tight ends if the Colts are able to re-sign the latter two. If not, the team will have to look elsewhere for tight end depth.
The five possible offseason moves detailed here would all help the Colts improve their standing in 2017 and beyond, but even if Chris Ballard is somehow able to accomplish all these goals in the next few months (which is highly doubtful), there is still more work to do. Aside from Arthur Jones’ status and improving the pass rush, the entire Colts defense needs an overhaul. Ballard and his staff have a huge challenge ahead of them, and they won’t be able to address everything in one offseason. However, if some progress can be made in several of these areas, it would probably be enough to lift the Colts back into the playoff picture this season.
[Featured Image by AJ Mast/AP Images]