Hey there Colts’ fans! Here is my first report for the 2017 season. Although training camp is still many months away, there has been a serious buzz around the Colts’ Corral this month as many huge changes are in store for the blue and white.
After two depressingly mediocre seasons, and the general decline in overall talent on the roster, the long-anticipated divorce of GM Ryan Grigson and the Colts was finalized a few weeks back. It was clear that the results simply had not been there since his stellar rookie draft, but in the opinion of many Hoosiers it was the personality clashes which eventually drove a wedge between the franchise and Grigson, and eventually drove stake through the heart of his tenure here. According to industry experts and pundits, the Colts’ GM job was a real prize opportunity with a great deal of cap space and a young franchise QB Andrew Luck around which to build. They apparently got a top notch option as the hot name for years has been new Colts’ GM Chris Ballard out of the Chiefs organization and they landed him easily. The Chief’s track record of building from within speaks for itself, but I will reserve judgment until I see what Ballard does while flying solo here in Indy.
On the less desirable side of things, civic favorite and Pro Bowl P Pat McAfee announced his sudden retirement at the age of 29 and coming off his finest season. Besides being the best in the NFL at his craft, he also was a huge fan favorite – I mean really….when have you ever seen the PUNTER have the 2nd most jersey sales in a city (and it was pretty darn close to Luck’s numbers). On that note, he is probably one of the few guys whose jersey sales might go UP when he leaves the game! So the Colts have to replace a huge weapon in the punting and kickoff game, as well as find a new holder for veteran PK Adam Vinatieri. After several years of improving special teams play, this could be a step back in 2017.
There will certainly be a lot of turnover on a questionable defense, but some of the most productive stat-wise players will not be a part of the equation. Veteran LB Robert Mathis already had announced his retirement back in December, and Ballard’s first move as GM was the release of veteran LB D’Qwell Jackson. Despite being the leading tackler in his three seasons here, Jackson had a $5 million cap number and was suspended for the last four games of the 2016 season. The team simply decided to move on and use that money elsewhere. They could use that money to re-sign LB Erik Walden who had a team-high 11 sacks in 2016, but likely will not use it on veteran LB Trent Cole. Rumor has it that they have serious interest in the Chargers’ LB Melvin Ingram (assuming the Chargers don’t franchise tag him), and likely will move young SS Clayton Geathers (frankly the best linebacking option on the field in 2016) into the position, and look to backfill in the secondary. There will be some other big turnover on defense as they look for some playmakers. I suspect they will look for another corner in free agency or the draft and move slot CB Darius Butler to safety to replace Geathers. The real question is whether or not they will resign the aging-but-still-reliable FS Mike Adams to lead the deep secondary unit.
On the offense, there are really only two free agents to be concerned with. Clearly TE Jack Doyle came out of nowhere to be one of Luck’s favorite and most reliable targets in 2016. While he is probably the most attractive from among the Colts’ available free agents, he surely will not garner enough interest on the open market to merit the franchise tag (at nearly $10 million for the season. I do suspect he will get a multi-year deal done for maybe $12 over three seasons. They simply have too much wrapped in in an ineffective TE Dwayne Allen to do more, and the undrafted free agent playing in his hometown would surely jump at a $4 million per year offer, I would think. The other guy of note is OG Hugh Thornton. He was a guy that played decently last season, but just couldn’t stay on the field enough. Assuming that this is not an ongoing issue, I think they sign him to a moderate deal to ensure some continuity along the O-line, a much-maligned unit that gradually started to click better as the year concluded and could continue to grow together. OL Jack Mewhort is not a free agent this year, but is entering the final year of his rookie deal. It is likely that the team could look to lock him up with an extension unless they choose to look to make a splash in the free agent market for a relatively young but veteran line anchor. While both backup running backs (RB Robert Turbin and RB Jordan Todman) are free agents, they should each be signable at a very low number as the dependable backups that they are. I suspect that a possible future replacement for veteran RB Frank Gore could be drafted in the 2nd-4th round this year, making one of these two expendable – likely Turbin with his limited special teams contributions.
The only big injury news is indeed big news. QB Andrew Luck underwent surgery to repair his throwing shoulder that apparently had been bothering him for two seasons. The team reported that he is recovering very well and it should not be an issue for2017….but then again they hid this from the world for two seasons so I question their transparency on this matter LOL
That is all for this month from the Crossroads of America. Despite the big news with the punter and front office….the biggest NFL story in the Circle City this month is the annual NFL Combine which is here next week. I am sure that the attention of Chris Ballard will be a big news item around the area, with so many needs in the draft and free agency for the new front office leader. It should be an exciting month with the combine on 2/28-3/6and then free agency starting on March 9! WELCOME BACK TO FOOTBALL, BABY!!!!!!