In the first of a series of offseason reviews looking at the Colts moves Steve Ovenden (@HappyHappySteve) takes a look at Free Agency
After a disappointing second half of the season, the Indianapolis Colts needed to address some needs in the off season. A season without a first-string Quarterback, a mass of injuries and a lack of strength in the depth of the squad, having a good Free Agency and Draft were especially important this year. So how have the Colts done so far? Let us take a look.
The ins and outs of the Colts Free Agency looks like this:
Josh Andrews C DeForest Buckner DT (Trade)
Eric Ebron TE Phillip Rivers QB
Devin Funchess WR Sheldon Day DT
Clayton Geathers S Xavier Rhodes CB
Joe Haeg T/G T.J Carrie CB
Dontrelle Inman WR Roosevelt Nix FB
Chester Rogers WR Tre Burton TE
Jabaal Sheard DE
Adam Vinatieri K
Jonathan Wilkins RB
Anthony Castonzo LT
Le’Raven Clark G/T
Daurice Fountain WR
Roland Milligan S
Looking at these lists shows that the Colts were very much looking to add experience and quality at certain skill positions. Players like Ebron and Vinatieri did not produce enough last year. With Eric Ebron, he put up some ok numbers in his pass game but did not do enough when blocking was required. With the amount Indy was running the ball, having another Tight End to block would have done a world of good. Adam Vinatieri showed inconsistent form all season, missing field goals and extra points galore. With these missed attempts contributing to some of the Colts losses, it would have been more surprising if GM Chris Ballard had offered him a new contract. Having had a healthy O-Line all season it was probably Joe Haeg that suffered most. Although the Guard/Tackle played some of the season, he was utilized more as a blocking Tight End as well as playing some snaps at Right Guard. Receivers Dontrelle Inman and Chester Rogers did not even manage to get more yards than T.Y Hilton between them and Hilton missed six games of the season. Overall, it was not really a surprise that these players were let go.
The players coming in should make excellent reading for Colts fans. A lot of quality has been added to the team. One of the first tasks was to keep that strong O-Line together and was quickly addressed by tying Anthony Castonzo to a new contract. Pen was put to paper and he signed a new two-year deal. With the Quarterback protection sorted, it was time to answer the question on who would be playing under center for the Colts next season. The answer to that question is former Los Angeles QB Phillip Rivers. A big player with a big arm and having worked under Head Coach Frank Reich before it made sense for him to sign on with the Colts. His style of play and the protection he will get, as well as some quick receivers and a strong run game, Rivers will be a good fit.
Another player coming in who has also worked under Coach Reich, is Tight End Tre Burton. Burton played under Reich in Philadelphia during the Eagles Super Bowl season. The big Tight End has come out of Chicago after being released because of a hip injury. Before the injury Burton was having one of his best seasons of his career. As well as his prowess as a catching Tight End he is a more than capable blocker too. He will be a more than useful addition to the team. Another useful addition will be Full Back Roosevelt Nix. Nix, released by Pittsburgh, has been recruited to help an improving run game. His powerful running will be a great asset to Marlon Mack and Jonathan Taylor, a recruit from the 2020 Draft. He will be used as a blocker for the backs and to create holes in the oppositions Defensive Lines.
Its not just the Offense that is being improved, the defensive side of the ball is getting some free agency help too. The Defensive Line has had more strength added to it as well. Defensive Tackle Sheldon Day returns to Indianapolis, his boyhood town. He entered the league through the Draft with Jacksonville before he moved onto San Francisco. Days presence adds more depth to the D-Line as former 49ers teammate and Defensive Lineman DeForest Buckner is now a Colt also. Buckners move was slightly different as the 49ers traded him for Indy’s first pick of this years Draft. The duo will give the defence that little extra oomph that the Colts needed after last season. Buckner will especially be that guy as he has the versatility to get after the Quarterback be also be just as solid stopping the run, something that the Colts have been after for years.
Free Agency saw the arrival of Xavier Rhodes and T.J Carrie. They both arrive in Indianapolis as Cornerbacks, another position of need for the Colts this season. Rhodes was released by Minnesota and brings a wealth of experience to a young defence. He was named to the Pro-Bowl for the third time last year after a career high 63 tackles. A previous record of his was being part of Minnesota’s number one ranked defence where he had 56 tackles, 2 interceptions and had Pro-Bowl selection and earned First-Team All-Pro honours. Carrie however, brings more experience and depth to the team. He has played 92 games with the Oakland Raiders and the Cleveland Browns since being drafted in 2014, putting up respectable numbers on the way collecting 331 tackles and 5 interceptions.
To sum this Free agency up (so far), this has been a solid effort on the part of Chris Ballard and the Colts. Making the correct decisions to clear some of the dead wood but also replace it with experience and quality, is exactly what the Colts fans needed after last year. The fans need to feel confident with what is front of them going into the next campaign and to have hope that the AFC South will be theirs again. The Free Agency players hint toward a win now attitude, something that the Colts may have been missing over the last few years. Let’s hope this same strategy has been applied in the Draft.