Editor's Note: This guest post comes to you from Jacob Lewin, who we are excited to work with. Enjoy his first post at Colts Authority!
Both Austin Collie and Donnie Avery are free agents and the Colts front office must decide what to do with these veteran receivers. Avery assumed the role of the Colts’ #2 receiver after Collie ruptured the patellar tendon in his right knee against Jacksonville on September 23, 2012.
Although Avery had the most dropped passes this season, he was a serviceable replacement and even made some of the most memorable plays of the 2012 season. Because Collie should be ready for the 2013 season and since there is some skepticism about re-signing Avery, the Colts have no reason to keep both players.
Between the two, Collie has more versatility: he’s a great route runner, possesses underrated quick speed, has excellent hands, and fearlessness running in the middle of the field (could be related to his four concussions). Collie’s numbers as a Colt in three seasons were pretty exceptional – 173 Receptions, 1845 yards, 16 TDs, only 1 fumble – and in one of those seasons he was being targeted by a Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky. He also had a memorable game against the Jets in 2009 AFC Championship.
Collie developed a great connection with Andrew Luck in the small amounts of film I saw – especially in the 8/12/12 game against the Rams – where they seemed right on the same page. Reggie Wayne and Luck shared a great connection this past season and if Luck and Collie connect in the same way, we could certainly see pro-bowl numbers in 2013.
However, because of Collie’s injuries, many (Brad Wells and Will Carroll just to name a few), think he has likely played his last game as Colt. While it’s true that he’s had 4 concussions over 2 years, it’s not much different than other wide receivers with similar injury records but whose jobs aren’t in question (think, Laurent Robinson and Desean Jackson). Also, because of his recent knee injury (not related to concussions at all), he's had a full year without any contact. More importantly, doctors have been astonished with how fast he was able to recover from his knee surgery.
Will Carroll believes that Collie could likely end up either a Bronco or Raven next season, which makes a lot of sense. Indeed, Collie had a great rapport with Manning back in Indianapolis, and he even worked-out with him in Duke in March 2012. His game does resemble Brandon Stokley in many ways and could be a more long-term option for that offense (also, Stokley is a free agent).
Baltimore could also be a nice fit since they may cut Anquan Boldin – he’ll be too expensive, with their cap issues – and although Collie may not have the size and strength of Boldin, he will not drop Flacco’s passes.
Assuming Collie isn’t coming back, there are some free agents the Colts should consider. Brian Hartline from Miami and Danny Amendola from St. Louis could both come at a reasonable price and both have a lot of talent. Although Amendola is the more explosive of the two, he is injury prone, whereas Hartline was a solid option for Ryan Tannehill (74 catches, 1083 yards, 1 TD), has decent size (6’2) and also played all 16 games in 2012. If the Colts are looking to save some money, Denario Alexander (RFA) from San Diego or Devry Henderson from New Orleans are good options that could come even cheaper.
Personally, I think the Colts should re-sign Collie for a short-term contract (maybe 7.5-8.5 million/2 years), and cut ties with Donnie Avery. With Luck under center, Wayne lining up with Collie, Hilton as a deep threat, and two budding Tight-ends that appear to have a high ceiling, the Colts offense will be complete with many different weapons.
Ultimately, Ryan Grigson has a tough decision coming up, but I trust his judgment. He won executive of the year and has a keen eye for talent; he may see something in Jeremy Kelley or perhaps a different wide-out in the upcoming draft class and use the money he could spend on Collie for an interior offensive lineman or even a new defensive back. Whatever the Colts decide, the most important thing is that Austin Collie can stay healthy, continue to play in the NFL, and become a success wherever he ends up.
Personally, I would be heartbroken if Collie got seriously hurt even if it wasn't with the Colts. (I would find no solice if Austin went somewhere else and got hurt, with the "at least the Colts didn't let him play". A fine, young man would still be hurt.)
Let's remember that Collie played in every game his rookie season in 2009.
2010 was the disaster, but he came back and played in every game in 2011.
If Collie wants to keep playing, the Colts certainly have enough cap space to make him a reasonably offer for both parties. I think he would make a great addition to a west coast oriented, Luck led offense.
@DougEngland True. After reading Brad Wells' article this morning about Wes Welker - http://www.stampedeblue.com/2013/2/11/3976080/wes-welker-likely-gone-in-new-england-should-the-colts-pursue - one cannot help but wonder what kind of quick route-running WR will the Colts invest in. Welker wont take less than 10/mil a year, which is A LOT, and if Collie is healthy, and will play for less, they could produce similar numbers, and save the Colts $$ to use on a lineman...
I wonder if we solidify most of the O-line, D-line, an secondary if we would be willing to target a WR in the first, I think Keenan Allen would be a really nice addition to our offense and exactly what we would need.
@paulcareyjr Allen is a SICK prospect for a WR, and could be a huge playmaker, but as of now, the Colts dont have a 2nd round pick. Colts would have to spend a lot of $$ of free agency in order to have that one pick for a WR. Not sure if they'd want to go down that road.
@jelewin I think we will spend a lot of money in free agency, actually we have to spend like 30 million something I believe, and with the draft accounting for less than about 3-4 million this year most will come from free agency signings.
@paulcareyjr True, very likely a lot of that money goes towards the o-line and d-line. Luck was sacked 46 times, and the Colts had some games where RBs were running all over the field. Not sure how much they'll invest on offense, especially when Colts have some legit playmakers already
Laurent Robinson's job isn't in question? You mean the Laurent Robinson who just told talked to Andrea Kramer about how he can't be around his crying infant daughter due to the lingering effects of concussions and is thinking about retiring?
That I like Collie is exactly the reason why I want to to quit.
@squirrel Thanks for the link. I was aware about his personal concerns, but I don't think the Jaguars are ready to cut ties with him. And yes, @rogcohen I would be horribly heartbroken if he would get another concussion in a Colts uniform, but I generally feel that football players have the right to make these kinds of choices. If an NFL doctor signs off on it, and the person wants to play and make $$, then that's their choice. The business side of the game is that the Colts pay for talent they want, and doctors to make sure they can be on the field. The players can quit, if they want, but that's their call.
Paying Collie 4 mil a year is insane! It's questionable if he'll recover from his knee injury to ever be full speed, and it's highly doubtful that he can take another hit to the head and still play.
If we resigned him for 1.25 mil I'd still have reservations. I feel bad just watching him on the field. You compared him to Jackson, but Collie's concussions have been both more numerous and far worse. Who can forget watching Collie motionless on the turf, scared crapless that he was dead?? That was my worst moment ever as a Colts fan..
As for Avery, he can be replaced by just about anyone. I honestly want both these players gone. Collie cause I don't want the Colts responsible for him becoming brain damaged, and Avery because I think players of his quality are a dime a dozen.
@rogcohen Hey - just saw this article by Andy Conty on Bleacher Report - http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1525719-2013-indianapolis-colts-free-agents-pay-em-or-let-em-walk/page/4 - he agrees with you. Pay him minimum wage to come back. While I agree, not worth it to pay him a TON of money, Collie still might be in a position to negotiate for more since other teams may want him...Colts have some money to spare and take a risk...
@rogcohen The odds of him not recovering after knee surgery are pretty slim given that he doesn't have a history of those injuries. The biggest issue is how long it might take him to get healthy, but ostensibly that was already addressed.
@rogcohen Also, I agree Avery is a dime-a-dozen, I just think Collie is a real special player and - assuming he's healthy enough to go - is worth a team's investment (especially when the Colts have so much cap-space, they could spare to make this kind of gamble).
However, I also don't think GMs should spend top dollar of positions like WRs, where the QB can make all the difference. But b/c Collie has been with Wayne and has a chemistry with Luck, and there are playmakers like Allen and TY Hilton, Collie could get lots of one-on-one matchups and wreak havoc on defenses...just imagine it...
@jelewin I remember back to before Collie's first Concussion. He was essentially the best receiver in the league that year. In top five I believe in receptions and yards, and number one in TDs, and he didn't drop anything. I agree that as long as the doctors clear him to play, and he wants to play, then that is his decision. But until he makes it for 8 or so games without getting hurt, I'll cringe everytime he catches a pass over the middle.
@rogcohen Let's not forget that Collie made it through the whole season of Painter/Big O unhurt. (I know most Cotls fans have wisely completely put that season out of their minds.)
@rogcohen Maybe 4 million might be a bit high, but I believe a short-term contract would be ideal (nothing more than 2 years) and make it competitive enough that he will take it over going to a different team. That being said, maybe the Colts could back-end a 7 mil deal for 2 years. If he plays X amt of snaps in '13, give him more in '14.
Both of those guys should be gone if you wanna be real about it. Austin is too injury prone and Avery has problems holding onto passes. Replace both,and I believe they will cause Whalen will be back.
Wouldn't mind if we got a big prototypical receiver in FA or the draft. I think Bowe could be worth the somewhat inflated money he'll no doubt get as long as the contract isn't over 3 years. We have plenty of cap room and someone who can stretch the field outside the numbers and not just down the seam could really open it up for Luck.
I badly want Collie to come back and be given another shot. Watching him grow with Peyton was awesome, especially the 2010 season when he was healthy. I still think about how good he could've been that year had the Philadelphia game not happened. I'm pretty sure he was top-5 in yards and had the most TDs up until that point... I digress, but if we give him either a 1-2 year contract, that would be great. I just don't want to give up on him too early (though it's possible it's already too late).
Posted on a previous thread that it is worth considering keeping Avery. If Collie really does look good and if the doctor feel that a year away from football will improve his concussion liabilities than keeping Collie over Avery is surely preferable.
Still, folks should not sell Avery short. All the colts receivers had more drops than one would like. Luck had limited off season work out time with his receivers due to his Stanford graduation commits. Training camp was busy with installing a new offense and developing Luck. Avery was out for all of the 2010 season with a knee injury with St Louis, then saw very limited playing time with Titans in 2011, so it would not be unanticipated that Avery was rusty. Avery was still a great find by Grigson. There may be more upside to keeping Avery than folks give him credit for, given that he is likely to see significant improvement with more off season workout time with Luck.
In spite of being ahead of schedule rehab wise, Collie will be unlikely to have off season work out time with Luck before the free agent deadline. Avery could however work out with Luck. If NFL rules permit?? Feedback from those workouts might make decisions easier.
Keeping Collie and/or Avery, and working on developing a late round or several UDFA's seems to be a better option than spending lots of cap space on over priced big name FA receivers. Defense and Offense line are the priorities.
Going the late round, UDFA route, you could sign Avery to a manageable contract, develop the rookie talent and still have Avery as a trade option before the 8 week deadline.
Totally agree with you, if Collie is back to his pre-injury state. Avery is basically the same receiver as TY, but more expensive. Personally, I'm not for picking up any FA WRs even if Collie doesn't play. We have a few guys on the roster that could compete for a spot and a QB that will make any WR (that can catch) better.
@smonroe I am glad I have someone on my side. Also, I agree, it's probably not worth paying a big name WR coming in free-agency, so cultivating our own talent/roster seems like smart approach. I trust Luck can "make players around him better" much like our previous star QB...