Indianapolis Colts February Scouting Report
Hey there Colts’ fans! I am back for yet another season to share my thoughts on the fantasy football fortunes of the Indianapolis Colts. Sorry if you came here looking for a replacement, but I am still lurking about here at FFMastermind.com, so hopefully you find that to be a good thing! Here are my thoughts on the eve of free agency and the combine here in Indy, and with about two months until the NFL draft
Coaching staff: The Colts’ staff welcomed more than a few new faces, most of whom had ties to Frank Reich in the past. Mike Groh was hired to be the receivers coach, a role he filled with the Eagles in their Superbowl run with Reich; he also was with Chris Ballard in Chicago, so this was a hire they really wanted to make. Former NFL passer Jerrod Johnson was an intern last year and was retained due to his demonstrated knowledge in the passing game. On the other side of the ball, Reich’s former college teammate Brian Baker was brought on to coach the D-line, a role he has done with some success in several spots, helping players develop and be productive. Another former colleague Matt Raich has come on to help game plan for the defense and help with the defensive line -- and he also has worked with Reich, this time in his stop with the Cardinals. I don’t anticipate that any of these changes will bring any new philosophies, but are all aimed at creating development for the young players and for game planning a cohesive strategy.
Free agency: The Colts have among the most salary cap room in 2020 with over $80 million under the cap as of the moment. This could allow them to sign a lot of their own guys (which is what Chris Ballard prefers to do) and -- and I do mean AND, and not OR – still sign two top end free agents or 3-4 mid-range guys as starters. It is worth remembering though that last year they had a ton of cap room also and spent it very sparingly despite losing their star quarterback as the season opened. Among their own guys, the biggest is starting LT Anthony Castonzo who is contemplating retirement. This is not about money for Castonzo, but about whether or not he wants to play; he is a lot like Luck in this regard, as he has a lot of interests outside of football. I really don’t think he will play anywhere else, but they need to get this done so that they can plan around that being a need or not in free agency and the draft. They also likely will extend OC Ryan Kelly who is in the last year of his rookie deal as a first rounder. His money for 2020 won’t go up much, but they could and should lock in this line anchor for some more years while they can afford to do so. They have a few other guys that were consistent starters that are free agents, but I am not sure if they will all get signed. S Clayton Geathers is the kind of guy that someone else might overpay for, and we have two good young safeties already. I do think they will bring back LB Jabaal Sheard for his leadership unless someone offers stupid money. I also think the door is still open for WR Devin Funchess to be a solid contributor after his disappointing one game as a Colt last year, but I would be shocked if TE Eric Ebron is back. The big question mark is whether or not they resign veteran PK Adam Vinatieri….I think it is really iffy because they really like young PK Chase McLaughlin, but they will give Vinny a chance to retire cleanly and not just let him go. They have a lot of depth guys that would also be nice to keep and most (like versatile backup OL Joe Haeg) should be able to be retained at reasonable prices. Another thing to consider is that they might consider extending starting RB Marlon Mack now before his price becomes too steep with another solid season.
Many have talked about them signing a veteran passer like QB Philip Rivers, but I don’t see this happening with the likelihood that the media seems to think. I won’t rule it out at the right price, but I wouldn’t think that the Colts want to pay $15 million to QB Jacoby Brissett to be a backup. I would personally love to see them spend top dollar and get two young superstars that fit immediate needs as well as setting the team up with a base for several years to build around. MY ideal targets would be WR Amari Cooper and DL Chris Jones. Cooper would team with WR TY Hilton to be a great complementary 1-2 punch that would be hard to stop and that would make any quarterback dangerous; Cooper’s young age also gives us a true #1 for after the aging and oft-injured Hilton loses a step or hangs it up. Ballard helped draft Jones in KC and knows that he could be an anchor of a defensive line for several years; Ballard is also prone to saying that you can never have enough strong defensive linemen. I do think that they will make a splash signing of a pass rusher to complement DE Justin Houston in the free agent market. I can also see them looking hard at some of the stretch-the-field tight ends on the market, especially a mismatch guy (again, with Reich history) like young TE Hunter Henry.
Draft: I’ll have more on this as the draft approaches, but there has been a lot of talk recently about mock drafts and I gotta tell you…..most don’t make a lot of sense to me. Many have talked about the Colts being in the market for one of the top young passers (especially QB Jordan Love) atop the draft board with the 13th overall pick. Personally, I don’t see any of the top four guys falling to 13th, and I can’t see them being so much in love with any other guy to spend the 13th pick on the 5th quarterback in this class. There is the possibility that they will move up with all the draft capital they have, but I can’t see that as likely either. If they don’t sign a veteran quarterback AND a guy like Tua drops into their laps, they would take him, but I think this is a real long shot at best. I can see them taking one of the top receivers at that position like Alabama’s WR Jerry Jeudy, or even a high-end pass rushing option. And if Castonzo retires, it would almost lock in taking a top tackle at that spot. Heck, I am actually a favor of taking a top offensive tackle no matter what. In the worst case scenario, he plays right tackle for a year or two until Castonzo retires and then slides over; this would allow the team to slide young OL Braden Smith (who has been great at right tackle) back inside to his natural position of guard and really make the line tremendous. With picks also at #34 and #44 overall, they have a chance to get three starters in this one draft class. Pass rush help, O-line and some kind of receiving help seem the most likely for those top three draft positions as I see it based on needs plus the value in this class.
That is all for this month from the Crossroads of America. I will be back in March to preview the early returns in the free agent market as well as to look ahead and recap the state of the roster and depth chart. Until then…..enjoy the XFL?
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