In light of the Free Agency period starting next week, the following is a run-down of recent developments in the FA market. I've concentrated on the three main areas of need for the Colts - OL; CB; WR.
With the deadline passing on Monday for teams to use the franchise tag, the picture became clearer with regard to potential Colts targeta in the offseason. For posterity, the list of franchise tags is as follows.
Branden Albert - Kansas City Chiefs - OT
One of the better pass protectors league-wide, Albert received the tag in light of the Chiefs' successful contract negotiation with Dwayne Bowe. Would seem to be a curious situation in light of yesterday's release of Eric Winston - Albert has steadfastly maintained that he's a LT, and to use the #1 overall pick on a future RT would seem to be folly. Look for Albert to hit the market next year.
Jairus Byrd - Buffalo Bills - FS
As expected, the Bills tagged their marquee playmaker on the back end.
Ryan Clady - Denver Broncos - OT
Same as above, a tag everyone expected. Anyone willing to give a first and a third for a franchise pass protector?
Anthony Spencer - Dallas Cowboys - OLB/DE
This was a bizarre one - and as a Colts fan, i'm fairly grateful. The Cowboys opted to pay Spencer over $10.6m for 2013 despite a position change from 3-4 OLB to 4-3 DE. Had a feeling that the Colts might've pursued and overpaid for Spencer, so we should be thankful for small mercies and Jerry Jones.
The other tags utilised by teams across the league didn't have a particularly significant effect on our free agency plans, given schematic and positional depth differences. Michael Johnson of the Bengals, Randy Starks of the Dolphins, Henry Melton of the Bears and our very own Pat McAfee were the other players to receive the tag.
The aforementioned release of Eric Winston has further bolstered the free agent OT market, with Winston, Vollmer and Andre Smith all excellent options for teams seeking upgrades at RT. While I think the Colts will be open-minded about where to take the OL in light of last season, it'd make the most sense to keep Anthony Castonzo where he is and opt for a free agent tackle.
The release of Winston effectively confirms the Chiefs' desire to draft one of the young OTs in the 2013 NFL Draft - with Luke Joeckel the clear favourite.
Anyway - In light of Grigson's comments illustrating his preference for young CBs over young OL, the following list should be a who's who of Colts OL targets over the next few weeks. Improvement on both the exterior and interior of the line is clearly required - only Castonzo can be considered a mainstay.
Eric Winston - RT; Andre Smith - RT; Sebastian Vollmer - T; Sam Baker - T.
Andy Levitre - G; Louis Vasquez - G; Brandon Moore - G; Brian Waters - G.
Brian De La Puente - C; Fernando Velasco - C.
Elsewhere on the FA board, supposed 'information' has to come to light in the last week regarding Greg Jennings' contract demands, while the 5-year $56m deal signed by Dwayne Bowe clearly sets the market for Mike Wallace in the young receiver bracket. The strange relationship enjoyed between the Patriots and Wes Welker became even more evident over the weekend, as they failed to lock him up on a long-term deal and avoided the use of the franchise tag. The Welker situation in turn has led to speculation regarding Danny Amendola and the inevitable Patriots pursuit, given the lazy comparisons which are easy to make between the two.
I'd look for the Colts to pursue a variety of different options at WR to at least survey the territory regarding contracts. The names of Jennings; Welker; Wallace, Amendola et al are likely to be heard in relation to the Colts in the next few weeks - though Grigson's proven ability to acquire weapons for Luck (Hilton and Allen spring to mind) makes a left-field signing more palatable if it were to come. Possibilities on that score range from Devery Henderson to Jerome Simpson, though the amount of activity will undoubtedly be determined by the confidence of the coaching staff in LaVon Brazill and T.Y Hilton.
Delving into the corner market is always a quick recipe for lost cap space. Corners tend to warrant very lucrative contracts relative to their skill set in FA, and I don't expect this year to be any different. Recent developments on the corner market have focused on the trade side of things - the Eagles' apparent desire to cut or even trade Nnamdi Asomugha and the Jets' stumbling effort to move Darrelle Revis. I've spoken my mind previously regarding Revis and the potential to at least explore the parameters of any deal. Asomugha is an interesting case - the skills on show in Oakland seemed to disappear completely upon his arrival in Philadelphia - and may well have been a casualty of poor coaching and a toxic locker room. A potential reunification with the position coach who helped truly propel him into the limelight - Chuck Pagano - is an intriguing idea, dependent on cost. I'll be watching how the situation develops.
On the true FA side of things, the deep class of CBs should offer the Colts a variety of different opportunities dependent on the coverage they want to play on the back end. Lightning speed is available in the form of the mercurial (but in my opinion, dreadful) Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, while the diametric opposite in the form of the high-risk Brent Grimes would help any secondary provided he's recovered from last year's torn ACL. The accession of Sean Smith to UFA status makes the 'Dolphin Duo' at CB an interesting proposition at the least, though Vontae Davis' slip of the tongue might point to him signing elsewhere.
Chris Houston is another option at least worthy of examination in my book - I don't trust the coaching in Detroit, and I trust Pagano more than most to bring along a promising DB. Having brought the best out of Vontae toward the end of the year and Lardarius Webb the year prior, he deserves credit on that score.
Cary Williams of the Ravens is an obvious link given Pagano's history in Baltimore, for those with a penchant for trash-talking. The riskiest option of the lot is Aqib Talib, with a rap-sheet the size of my arm and man coverage skills which would help any team improve their secondary. Given the frequency with which he seems to attract police attention, I'd hope the Colts give him a miss. In any case, the aforementioned Grigson quote referring to rookie DBs over rookie OL hopefully indicates that we're due an injection of talent from the draft - the best place to acquire your defensive pieces.
Ultimately, the CB market is saturated to say the least. The Colts should be able to pick up premium talent at an affordable price if they shop wisely. If I've missed anything, don't hesitate to pull me up. Would be interested in hearing people's final thoughts prior to the FA period.
In Grigson We Trust.
Good article, I think OLB and O-line are the highest needs right now, but if we can sign a bigger receiver, like a Randy moss, it would make this offense even more dangerous, we already have the speedster of the offense in T.Y, who will do nothing but improve, we have the bangers in Fleener and Allen(who was a very pleasant surprise, proving he can be just as dangerous as Fleener in the passing game as Fleener and is already a great blocker) and then of course there is the ways reliable Reggie Wayne who just catches everything, if we could get a guy for luck to just toss it up to down in the redzone(where we really struggled) we'd be nearly unstoppable. Yes, moss is old, but if we used him as a situational receiver like on thirds and redzones, he'd be a dangerous vertical threat, he has shown great maturity since coming back, he proved last year he'd be willing to be put in a smaller role in the offense, and he would come at a reasonable price!
@Colts 87 Moss is an interesting candidate. Seems to have put a lot of the nonsense behind him. I wouldn't see it as a negative were he to be added, just sceptical of what's left given that Jim Harbaugh et al didn't use him terribly frequently. Then again, the same could be said about Vernon Davis for the majority of the year.
@Ben Savage Yeah Harbaugh is a good coach don't get me wrong, but he is very questionable in his personale decisions( ala Alex smith and as you mentioned Vernon Davis). When moss got passes his way, he still showed exploSiveness in the open field, lets not forget this guy is the most feared deep threat in the history of the game, even though he's slowed down, he is still scary fast, not to mention he can jump out of the building.
With the Bengals having $17 mil more in cap space than the Colts, IF the Bengals don't resign their own RT, Andre Smith, it should tell you something. Maybe he is eating his way out of the league.
Nice article, but I have to disagree with your premise that we need a FA RW. I think a rush LB is much more of a need. Second only to O line help.
@smonroe Fair enough - I know you know your stuff :)
As I said earlier, completely understand the viewpoint. Just view Luck as the ultimate priority at this point.
@Ben Savage No doubt. If we came out of free agency with two starting guards, and a rush LB, we could get a CB in the draft. We still have a lot of young talent on the team. Good enough to go 11-5, anyway. Fix the O Line and we're real close.
@Ben Savage @smonroe True, but a guy who was a heisman candidate a few years ago and as you said, dominated in the sec, Who would have been a 1st rounder had he stayed out of trouble, we could snag him with a measly 4th round pick?! I think it's something we can't pass up
He will have a fair amount to offer in the nickel coverage game and in sub packages - I just feel he'll be overdrafted based on the fact that so many people have seen his talent on the most prominent of stages.
@smonroe @Ben Savage I personally think the colts should draft Tyrann mathieu(formally known as the honey badger). Polish was never one to take risks, but grigson strikes me as the type to be more aggressive, mathieu would be a STEAL. Everyone is worried about his baggage so we could snag him in the 3rd, 4th, maybe even 5th round. It would bring a dynamic CB to Indy for the first time ever since I can remember, and if we can sign Ed Reed, him along with Bethea, Mathieu, and vontae Davis, we'll have a very dangerous secondary
I really liked Grigson's answer to the rookie OL vs rookie DB question. I do believe the OL will be best addressed through free agency. More and more, I think I would prefer a DB in the first round of the draft. As far as the receivers go, I would like to see further development of the current crop. I think the combination of increasing the use of the TEs and RBs as receivers, the improvement of Hilton and, maybe, Brazill or Whalen, and the new scheme will go a long way to improving the passing game. And, while unlikely, if Grigson finds a Pierre Garcon in the later rounds of the draft, I certainly won't complain.
This offseason will be more fun than the last one.
@Ben Savage Ummm wouldnt you say that OLB/DE is a bigger area of need than WR?? From what it sounds like the coaching staff has a lot of confidence in Hilton, and may resign Donny Avery (ugh) remember Pep's press conference? In fact, i wouldn't be surprised to see them even address RB before WR in either free agency or the draft. Im sure they realize upgrading the O-line will help the run game, but they also realize that brown is injury prone and carter is really just for short yardage. They also probably have a not so fond memory of that second half of a game last season when ballard was literally the only RB that could play. The young receivers will develop in their second year and a better O line will help run blocking, we need a good edge defender and potentially another body or two for the stable of RBs, especially since we seem fond of the RB by comity.
@thebluemonster I'm more of a mind to focus on Luck's development at this point in time. Can't disagree with your points and think have truth in them. Filling the receiver positions early - not to mention finding someone to take over seamlessly from Reggie Wayne - will aid Luck long-term as well as short, a net benefit which we won't get from addressing RB.
At OLB, perhaps I rate Robert Mathis too highly, and at the present moment in time I don't see Jerry Hughes as a woeful starter opposite him.
I think my priorities are as such because I see the Colts taking a front 7 player in Round 1 come April, so I'm wary of saying the pass rush desperately needs an infusion from FA. Having watched the every defensive play of the year two or three times, I'm under no illusions about it.
I like Cary Williams, big athletic corner. Let me emphasize "big" at cb because all the receivers in the league now are over 6'3'. Revis is still an option I hope they will consider. I still like Wallace a game changer, big play receiver. It is a no-brainer on the offensive line take Levitre who is worth the money or Vasquez who has ties to Raye in the front office.Do not spend the money on stop-gap players? You can also draft cbs in the draft along with ss, there are a lot of good ones in this draft.
@unitas19 The problem I have with Cary Williams is the trash-talking part that I referred to. Cheering him on would be pretty difficult.
Agree on Levitre/Vasquez. Either would do.
Chris Houston is an option to "examine" because you don't "trust the coaching in Detroit"...are you serious? He should be a good option to "examine" because he's a good fit for the Colts system, not because you don't trust the coaching in Detroit.
Ricardo - perhaps I should've elucidated further. He was a promising corner when drafted initially by the Broncos, and the combination of Josh McDaniels and Jim Schwartz with their respective coaching staffs is enough to stunt anyones career.
I've seen him play absolutely terribly (Thanksgiving vs. Patriots springs to mind), while I've also seen him flash more than the other Detroit corners. Not particularly difficult, but there we are. As for not fitting the system, he's seemed adept enough at man coverage when I've seen him.
@Ben Savage Well unless he's extremely expensive he would be a big up grade over Vaughn.
Have you looking into the DL LB free agency pool? Is Kugler still free? He seemed like he might be a good fit, if a bit expensive.
@hankster Kruger of the Ravens? He'll indeed be a UFA, and undoubtedly will be considered by Pagano and the coaching staff. Could certainly do worse, though I feel he'll be overpaid. His production came mainly down the stretch in a contract year - risky proposition.