Indianapolis Colts April Scouting Report
Hey there Colts’ fans! Here is my monthly update with the news and events going on down at the Colts Corral.
Losses: Within a few days after my last report on March 21st, the Colts continued to make a few more moves to shore up the roster, mostly on the defensive side of the ball. Although the week started with the biggest release of a player they have had in some time as top CB Pierre Desir was released, saving the Colts about $7 million against the cap this season. Desir was released going into the second year of a huge 3-year extension he had just signed last season, but his play dipped a bit in 2019 and the team decided he was not worth the price tag. Desir was quickly picked up by the Jets. The team also released veteran QB Brian Hoyer with time left on his contract immediately after signing QB Philip Rivers. With so much money tied up in cap space for Rivers and the now-backup QB Jacoby Brissett, a veteran #3 was a luxury that this team could not afford even with the cap space.
Resigned: The team did make some qualifying offers for some of their depth players as well. Backup S Robin Milligan signed his exclusive rights free agent tender and will afford special teams help and depth familiar with the system. Project WR Daurice Fountain was also signed to this exclusive rights tender after spending all of last season on the injured reserve and barely contributing as a rookie. He has flashed some in camp each season, but has yet to make a true impact. With the sparse depth at receiver currently on the roster, the Colts might need him to stay healthy and have a breakout, unless some more signings or draft picks put him on the roster bubble.
Additions: Seemingly moments after releasing Desir, the team announced the signing of veteran free agent CB Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes is obviously a top-end cover corner who also has the physicality to be effective in the run game as well. Coming off his 3rd Pro Bowl season, Rhodes has even been first team All-Pro as recently as 2017 and makes the secondary better and more veteran by walking in the door. While not expected to start across from Rhodes, they also added veteran CB TJ Carrie who has a wealth of starts and games under his belt with the Raiders and Browns. Carrie has mostly been a slot corner, and with top slot CB Kenny Moore slated to possibly start outside that became a need. Even if the more likely things happens and second year man CB Rock Ya-Sin starts outside (keeping the valuable Moore in the slot), the team really struggled when Moore was injured last year and Carrie can fix that gap in the depth chart. These two signings make the secondary much better and deeper and could take it from a youthful liability to a strength.
One of the most popular signings in the last few weeks was the return home of Indianapolis native and former Notre Dame star DT Sheldon Day. Day was a valuable part of the deep and talented line rotation for the 49ers for the last few years and rarely got attention because of the bigger names there. GM Chris Ballard has repeatedly wanted to build the defense from the line outward and this signing (along with the trade for DT DeForest Buckner) mean that the depth and talent up front is tremendous. The final signing this month was just yesterday as the team announced the addition of Pro Bowl FB Roosevelt Nix from the Steelers. In addition to the novel twist that Nix can add to offensive sets, he has been a stalwart special teamer over the years with many tackles and even a blocked punt in 2018. This is the kind of quiet signing that can really make a huge impact on the overall flavor of a team at minimal cost.
Draft: Well the debate on whether or not the Colts would do something with the 13th overall pick to address the quarterback position were totally laid to rest with the signing of Rivers and the trade of that pick for Buckner. Adding those two players also means that two of the biggest areas of concern for the team have also been addressed, so those positions are not going to be of interest with the two early 2ndrounders either. If a passer that they had rated in the first round is still there at the 34th overall pick, they likely still would pass on him because then they would have to carry 3 quarterbacks or release Brissett – neither is likely. I think there is potential if a guy like Jalen Hurts falls to the 3rd day of the draft, but my feeling is that this is still pretty slim chances. It is obvious that the team is building to win now as well as looking towards the future, so the glaring need at receiver almost surely will be addressed early with the depth at receiver evident in the first half of this year’s draft. While a Jerry Jeudy sort won’t be around, there are plenty of guys that could be immediate starters or impact receivers. And with Rivers experience with generally taller receivers, I can see a guy like Clemson’s Tee Higgins being a desirable target there at #34, or maybe USC’s Michael Pittman or Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool to a lesser extent. They definitely also need a field-stretching tight end which is something that Rivers has always had in his career, although with the poor history of impactful rookie tight ends I question whether they get a guy with immediate impact for either the NFL or for fantasy. A guy like Dayton’s Adam Trautman fits this description for a guy likely to be there, perhaps even with the second of the 2nd round selections; Washington’s Hunter Bryant also is a good fit for this role, although he might be available in the 3rd or 4th round.
But aside from those needed receiving weapons, the team mostly just needs to add some depth and competition at safety and linebacker. With S Malik Hooker possibly in a make-or-break year as the playmaker they need in the deep secondary, and the lack of any true stars alongside LB Darius Leonard at that level of the defense, no position will be without competition. I personally would love to see Wisconsin linebacker Zach Baun with one of those 2ndrounders, but he probably won’t get there. I surely wouldn’t rule out the addition of another edge pass rusher or an offensive lineman on the second day of the draft, especially because Ballard does not believe you could have enough of either of those two positions… and we have good front-liners, but little depth. I think that the team surely is going to look for elder statesman OT Anthony Castonzo’s eventual replacement on the blindside to make sure the line stays solid into the future, if the right opportunity presents itself. Either way, I suspect that the bulk of this draft from round 3 onward will be from those four positions most likely.
That’s all for this month from the Crossroads of America. I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy as we await the return of not only sports but the rest of our normal lives as well. Be well, be sane….and wash your dang hands!!
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