The 2012 off-season promises to be a busy one (like it hasn't been already), with the Colts coming of of their worst season in 20 years. Not only do they have holes in almost every position, but uncertainty abounds with multiple key veterans becoming free agents. Coupled with the complete overhaul of the front office and coaching staff, and it makes the 2012 draft one of the most crucial Colts' drafts in recent history.
In order to prepare for April 26-28, Colts Authority is launching a "Seven in Seven" preview for the 2012 draft. Each week we will cover one round of the draft, starting this week with Round 1, and the first overall pick.
But, before we get into draft speculating, profiles, etc., we need to know what the Colts will, or should, be targeting come April. So, I give you, the first annual "What They Need" post, where we'll start with the offense, and finish up with the defense tomorrow.
2011: Peyton Manning (IR), Kerry Collins (IR), Curtis Painter, Dan Orlovsky
2012: Peyton Manning(?), Curtis Painter
The quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts in 2011 could be described a million different ways. Awful. Terrible. Vomit Inducing. Old. Young. Inadequate. Sunshine. Statue. The list goes on and on. No matter how you describe it, it was bad. Nobody can replace Peyton Manning, but to attempt to with Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter, and Dan Orlovsky was simply tortuous.
With Orlovsky and Collins departing in 2012, and Painter having the probability of getting cut, the Colts have a huge decision to make on the issue of Peyton Manning. If they choose to sign him (and he is healthy), then the need for a quarterback in the draft/free agency would drop dramatically. If Jim Irsay decides to part ways with the four time MVP, then the Colts absolutely need a new starting quarterback in 2012. We all saw how the Curtis Painter experiment turned out. Or rather, blew up in our faces. While the Colts could fathomably cut Painter and resign Orlovsky for a small contract, a new starter is necessary, as Orlovsky performed no better.
Of course, the widespread assumption is that the Colts will take Andrew Luck with the number one overall pick, no matter what happens to Manning. While the logic of this action could be questioned, the end fact is that the Colts would be well set for the starting quarterback position. So, besides drafting Luck, the only other quarterback move that would be needed would be a possible signing of a veteran backup if Manning is not retained.
2011: Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, Delone Carter, Darren Evans
2012: Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, Delone Carter, Darren Evans
The running game in 2011 wasn't fantastic by any measure, but the running backs did flash enough talent, and potential, to be fairly confident in the position going forward. There likely aren't any future Pro-Bowlers on that list, but the position is the most stable the Colts on offense, and the strongest it's been in years.
Joseph Addai has been a fantastic fit in the Peyton Manning offense, and has done everything asked from him, whether it be running, catching out of the backfield, pass blocking, even throwing a touchdown in 2009. He has battled injuries throughout his career however, and looked visibly worse after missing four games in the middle of last season. The Colts could feasibly cut Addai to save money, although it would really only amount to about $1 million in savings for 2012.
Even if the Colts do cut Addai, the duo of Brown and Carter showed enough in 2011 to trust them with the main rushing duties in 2012. Brown had his most efficient and productive season of his career, rushing for over 4.8 yards per clip, and finishing 5th among running backs in DVOA. Carter had his rookie moments (fumbling three times), but overall showed promise, especially in short yardage (3 yards or less to go), where he led the Colts with a 73% success rate. Even when limiting the rushes to "True Short Yardage" (3rd/4th downs, and goal-line), Carter still succeeded 63% of the time, albeit in limited carries. Using Brown and Carter as an "inside-out" combination could prove to be very productive for the Colts in the future. Add in a tough young running back (Evans) for depth, and you have a pretty solid, although unspectacular, group.
The Colts also could retain a fullback in 2012, such as Jerome Felton, who had some positive showings in 2011.
2011: Anthony Castonzo, Benjamin Ijalana (IR), Jeff Linkenbach, Quinn Ojinnaka
2012: Anthony Castonzo, Benjamin Ijalana, Jeff Linkenbach, Mike Tepper
The tackles in 2011 had mixed results, largely due to injuries. Promising rookies Anthony Castonzo and Benjamin Ijalana both had setbacks, with Ijalana missing the majority of the season. The injury also notably affected Castonzo's play for the remainder of the season, as he likely never fully recovered (thus, the surgery this January). Both Castonzo and Ijalana (in his brief play) looked like future starters before their injuries, and if all progresses as planned, then Castonzo will man the left side in 2012, and Ijalana the right.
Of course, Castonzo and Ijalana are not sure things, so depth is important behind them. Linkenbach will likely stay for another year, and is not a bad option as a backup tackle. One thing that could be helpful would be for the Colts to offer a small contract to Ojinnaka, who was much better than expected in 2011 as a stopgap right tackle.
Overall, the group requires less attention than any position other than running back in the 2012 off-season.
2011: Joe Reitz, Ryan Diem, Mike Pollak, Seth Olsen, Mike Tepper
2012: Joe Reitz, Seth Olsen
The Colts seemed to find a decent starter in Reitz this season, as he started for the first seven games of the season at left guard before getting hurt. The right side however, was not nearly as easy to man, with Diem, Tepper, Olsen, and Pollak all trying throughout the season (and failing).
While Reitz can start on the left side of the line, the Colts drastically need a right guard, as Olsen or Pollak (who may be re-signed, but likely only as a center anyway) won't cut it. The Colts could look to free agency for a guard, such as Carl Nicks, Ben Grubbs, or Evan Mathis, or they could wait for the later rounds of the draft to pick up a prospective guard.
2011: Jeff Saturday
Saturday is an unrestricted free agent this season, and is also contemplating retirement. Mike Pollak, the other player who could play center for the Colts is also a free agent, leaving the Colts with no centers on the current roster.
Saturday, although slowing down with age, still has some left in the tank, as shown in 2011, and would be a reliable anchor for whoever the quarterback is in 2012. Pollak has shown brief flashes at center, but overall has been very inconsistent, and likely won't be worth resigning.
The Colts could look for a center in the draft as early as the 34th overall pick, as the free agent class is skimpy, with Chris Myers or Nick Hardwick being the most attractive options. It's clear the Colts must sign SOMEBODY to play center in 2012, but just who that will be remains to be seen.
2011: Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon, Austin Collie, Anthony Gonzalez, Blair White (IR)
2012: Austin Collie, Blair White
With Wayne, Garcon, and Gonzalez all searching the market this off-season, the Colts WR position has gotten dangerously thin, with Collie being the only real weapon. The Colts will need two more outside receivers to take the pressure off of their quarterback, especially if that quarterback is a rookie named Andrew Luck.
Pierre Garcon is an enticing option for the Colts, as he is a known quantity, a player with #1 potential, but with a past that doesn't demand that kind of money. The Colts could also potentially re-sign Reggie Wayne, although he is likely looking for a little more money than we can afford to give an aging receiver.
If the Colts don't come to terms with either one, the 2012 free agent class has other options that may be just as enticing. This free agent class is as deep of one (in WRs) as I've ever seen, with players like Dwayne Bowe, Marques Colston, DeSean Jackson, and Brandon Lloyd all will be searching for a new contract. If not, I could see the Colts going as early as their second round pick to find another weapon for their quarterback.
2011: Dallas Clark, Jacob Tamme, Brody Eldridge
2012: Dallas Clark, Brody Eldridge
The tight end position is a tricky one for the Colts. While they've spent millions of dollars on someone like Dallas Clark, sometimes you just have to know when to let it go. Clark had his worst season of his career, and seemed to struggle throughout the season. Eldridge is a decent blocking tight end, but wouldn't give the quarterback much to work with for passing the ball.
It has been contemplated that, like Addai, Clark could be cut to save money, but again the savings would be minimal in 2012 ($1.2 million). If Clark is cut, Tamme would be a viable replacement for Clark, and has the background in Indy to convince him. If Tamme/Clark are not retained, then a top-notch tight end wouldn't be a bad selection in the second round of the draft, as the Colts try to give Luck some different things to play with.
Here's how I would rank the positions, in order of need:
QB (Assumes Luck is drafted)
What do you guys think?
I think you pretty much nailed it. Unfortunately this made for some depressing reading. Previous management left us drastically thin in talent at a lot of positions! I think we're really going to have to hope for some no-names to really step up, especially along the O-line. I wouldn't be surprised if Pollack is a priority at center if we can't convince Saturday to return, and I think the Colts will troll in the later rounds of the draft for guard or two. Wouldn't be surprised if a WR is taken in the second round, third at latest. What about Luck's old TE at Stanford? could a reuinion be in order?
@rogcohen Fleener looks like he'd be a good fit, but I can't see him being drafted by the Colts unless we really overhaul the TE position. Resigning Tamme shouldn't break the , and Clark and Brody are still under contract. Given the Colts needs at other position, I can't see us taking him unless he falls a lot farther than where he's projected to go at now.
How awesome would it be if Stephen Hill is there for the Colts in the second. Luck would have a tall speedy receiver. That could be a great combo for years. WR and O-Line should be our top priorities. Defense isn't going to get good over night, but protection our QB and giving him some weapons should be the #1 priority. QB is only as good as the O-Line.
Pollak is not a good player. They need to let him go. Interior O-line and WR are definitely the biggest offensive needs. Hopefully Peter Konz falls to us at the top of the 2nd but he probably won't. Best available in every round regardless of position. They can't make a bad choice.
@vinylsoundsgood Pollak isnt the greatest guard but his natural position is center. He played it in high school, and he played it all through college. He came to the Colts and played guard, a position he never player before. Then on top of that, he never gets to see the field when imo he's better than Reitz. I think the Colts should give him a chance at C and if it doesnt work out then sign or draft a C. If he's bad, the Colts can still survive. The Bengals survived with a terrible center.
I'd say OG is a bigger need than C. Pollak would become the new center and he was an extremely good one in college. I'm not saying he's Saturday, but he knows the line from being with the team for a while now, and he has center experience. I think he could come in and do well. Now if they don't resign Pollak, then C is a bigger need than OG.
The salary cap page says that Collins is under contract this year still, and for 13.7 mil. Why haven't we released him yet? Or did I miss something?
@coltsfanawalt He'll be gone. He's due 10 mil this year if he stays, but the Colts (and him) signed the contract knowing that he'd retire (or be cut) this year.
I remember that, but I was just surprised that it hasn't happened already. It looks like the team will have nearly 27 mil to work with this year even if they keep Manning, minus the money for Mathis this season. That is, unless Manning's 28 million dollar option affects it additionally. If they restructure Freeney, it's conceivable that they could be in the mid 30 millions even with Manning still, minus Mathis' portion and Manning's extra bonus. Just wondering how sound that figure is.
Also, I'm shocked at how much money could be saved by cuttting Freeney. I don't want to, but if we let a healthy Manning walk over money, we could save a bundle this year on Freeney too by that logic. I am hoping for a restructure.
@coltsfanawalt The 28 mil adds 7 mil to cap this year, if they sign it. I highly doubt they will though. Restructure or nothing.
With his background as an offensive lineman, I think it will be interesting to see how Grigson addresses the line. My guess is that Saturday is only an option if #18 comes back. I am intrigued more than most Colts fans about Pollak's potential at center. Also, I am glad you said what you did about Reitz. I think he has a great deal of potential.
@DougEngland I'm horrified at the prospect of Pollak manning the middle of the line. He was unreliable at guard duties, and that just involved his blocking assignments. Now add to that the responsibility of reading defenses and snapping the ball, then facing the occasional larger 3-4 nose tackle. I don't see that improving him.
Maybe I'm just being too cynical. But still, I just can't see how <i>adding</i> to his responsibilities would help. I'd rather pull in a draftee center than put Pollak in at it.
Not ripping up on you, Doug. I'm just not high at all on Pollak. He's had ample time to display his worth, and he's just not done so.
@AJ_ Not taking it personal, as I know that Pollak is very unpopular with most fans. (And perhaps rightly so.)
Just saying I know there is no way I can be a judge of interior line play. And Pollak played center in college and his rep was being a great teammate and a real bright guy and team leader. He has battled nagging injuries and if he could get healthy and back to his natural position, perhaps he still has a chance to be an asset.
@DougEngland Reitz and Castonzo looked very good on that left side in the beginning of the season. Then both got hurt and it all went down hill.
Agree with the priorities.... Would like to see Gonzo re-signed for veteran min with Garcon being a douche. Tamme should be one of the cap extensions and Pollak should be given a chance to start at C. Only if he signs for cheap though, maybe w some incentives.
@Atti46 Presuming he's got no lingering resentment, I'd **DEFINITELY** love to see Gonzo re-signed. I always thought he got a raw deal from the previous staff.
Don't get me wrong; I agreed with so much of what the Polians did, and a great deal of what Dungy did too (a fair amount less with Caldwell and his staff, but that's a digression that's not illuminative). But when Gonzo started riding the proverbial pine I started to wonder "WTF?". Maybe his skills fell off the face of the planet, but none of us were given any evidence to make independent judgement of that, so just non-injury scratching him, or scratching him for injuries other players would just play through, made me wonder what was going on. I'd love to see him get another chance and at the same time a fresh re-start with the Colts, if only to see whether he's still got "it" or not.
OMG, I was about to post "What about the defense??" Then I reread the headline and realized that this wasn't *team* needs, it was just *offense* needs.
Maybe I should just ban myself from posting on Mondays. Otherwise, I'll keep on making mistakes like that... :(
Anyway: Yes, I think that's a very accurate summary. WR is indeed a most important need, no question. Ask Colt McCoy what it's like to be a QB without a reliable receiving corp in this modern passing league. The team needs more than just Collie and Blair White. Even if they managed to hang onto Garçon, I'd say it'd still be a need, although I may not rank it as the top one at that point.
While people are pointing out that Dallas doesn't count as much towards the cap if he's cut, I fear that the other part of the equation is production. He just hasn't been playing up to his standard with all those injuries. So despite the minimal savings, I'm forced to sobbingly admit that my second favorite player on the team should probably go. And I say that with much anguish, too.
I'm torn between advocating for OG to be ranked higher than center, or accepting that it's the right ordering. I feel that OG play has been atrocious due to a variety of reasons: Tepper playing as well as he can but simply being merely acceptable at best, Pollak being an open liability at too many times, etc. But poor Jeff Saturday is simply aging, and while he's shown flashes of absolute brilliance at times - who could forget his flat-out pancaking of Wilfork during the '06 Super Bowl run? - we may be depending a bit too much on wishful thinking about his abilities. I've seen him get overpowered too many times to be comfortable, and that bugs me.
On the other hand, Arians version of the zone blocking scheme in addition to having a reliable guy on *both* shoulders might possibly allow for him to last a bit longer and still be effective. Which (if he re-signs with the team) is why I'm torn over it. I can construct a scenario where having him is a net benefit, and I can construct a scenario where it's not. So I'm not sure whether to say center is more important than guard. But I think everyone can agree that they're both important.
Blech... man, all that to think about, and that's only the offense. There's still tons to think about on the defense, and that's even *before* taking into consideration all the coaching changes. This is going to be an interesting offseason in which to analyze the Colts.
Nice write-up. I think you've put together a pretty decent list, all things considered. Personally:
WR - Wayne and Garcon are both going to demand more than we should be paying at this juncture. With Collie on board, we should go after a big, strong, fast receiver at #34. This is a HUGE area of need right now, and should be addressed as such. Even if we sign a big-name free agent, we need to grab another in Rd. 2.
C - I'd like to see us resign Saturday for a year, and pursue a future starter next year in the draft. I just don't care for the options that much this year. OG - Rd. 3/4.
TE - Tamme, and Rd. 3/4. TEs have become critical to today's NFL, and Luck has a nice track record throwing to them.
QB - You know the deal.
RB - Cut Addai, go with what's left for now.
@James_Otis Wideouts past Floyd are somewhat suspect in light of the new CBA. Teams with picks in the 15-30 range may be tempted to give up a bit of cash and grab a guy like Mike Wallace with their pick. That may make the possibility of a better quality WR prospect at 34 quite possible.
I don't see the cap allowing a "big-name free agent." It's just not in the cards to spend $5-10M this year alone on a receiver.