With the Lockout putting an interesting twist on this NFL off season, many Colts fans were hoping to see a free agency splash from our front office. They were likely disappointed. The Colts haven't been huge spenders in free agency (like the Eagles), they didn't make headlines with their draft-day decisions (like the Falcons), and they haven't exactly been active traders on the market (like the Patriots). However, this does not mean that the Colts have had a bad off season; quite the opposite actually. There are many reasons to be optimistic heading into the 2011 season, and this team will undoubtedly be better because of 3 off season happenings...
First, the draft. As already mentioned, we may not have made national headlines with our selections, but we drafted exactly what this team needed. The Colts selected OT Anthony Castanzo from Boston College with the #22 overall pick. Castanzo should be able to step in right away as the team's starting left tackle. The team then traded up in the 2nd round, and selected OT Ben Ijalana of Villanova. Ben is a versatile lineman who projects as the Colts' future Right Tackle, but can slide inside to Guard if need be. In the 3rd round, the Colts decided to address their defensive needs, but again focused on the line, drafting DT Drake Nevis out of LSU. Nevis appears to fit well with what the Colts need, in that he possesses a quick initial burst and often spends most of his time disrupting plays in the opposing backfield. With their 4th round selection, the Colts drafted RB Delone Carter of Syracuse, who is an absolute bowling ball of a football player. He's 5'9", 220 Lbs, and should provide the team with a physical, short-yardage back. All 4 of these players have the potential to make an immediate impact for the Colts. MockingTheDraft.com agrees:
Winner: Indianapolis Colts - If there is one team that showed they want to win right now, it's the Indianapolis Colts. The team found the two offensive lineman it needs in Anthony Castanzo and Ben Ijalana and a scheme-perfect defensive tackle in Drake Nevis. Delone Carter should get a lot of carries at running back if his health holds up.
Secondly, the Colts have been quietly effective in free agency. This team doesn't need to bring in top-quality free agents like Nnamdi Asomugha or DeAngelo Williams. Teams like the Colts, Steelers, Giants, & Packers prefer to build through the draft - and those teams have combined to win 4 of the past 5 championships. That isn't to say that free agency doesn't play it's part - there are many ways to improve a football team. While many Colts fans were freaking out over the team's inactivity through the first week of free agency, the front office remained patient; and once again, it appears to have paid off. The Colts signed Peyton Manning to a cap-friendly, below-market-value 5 year, $90 million contract. This hometown discount allowed the Colts to re-sign some of their own free agents: Adam Vinatieri, Joseph Addai, Melvin Bullitt, and Antonio Johnson, all of whom project as starters for the 2011 season. The Colts have also begun digging into other team's free agents, recently signing DE/DT Jamaal Anderson from the Falcons, DT Tommie Harris from the Bears, and LB Ernie Sims from the Lions. All 3 of those players provide depth at a position of need, and should provide a significant boost against the run. Thirdly, finally, and most importantly - the Indianapolis Colts will begin the season healthy. I'm not suggesting that the team will remain 100% healthy throughout the season, but they can't possibly endure as many bad-luck injuries as they did last year. This was a 10-6 team last year that was a kickoff-return away from winning a playoff game. Yet, they did so with Dallas Clark, Austin Collie, Pierre Garcon, Joseph Addai, Donald Brown, Brody Eldridge, Gary Brackett, Clint Session, Jerraud Powers, Kelvin Hayden, Jacob Lacey, and Melvin Bullitt all missing significant time. It feels like I just rattled off the entire roster. No team was decimated more by injuries than the Colts last year, which also means that no team will benefit more from a clean bill of health. Peyton Manning was able to throw for 4,700 yards and 33 TD's last season throwing to the likes of Blair White & Jacob Tamme. Imagine what he'll do this year throwing to Austin Collie & Dallas Clark. The Colts are coming off a quiet, but effective off season. People around the league might be sleeping on the Indianapolis Colts, but I'm not. This is a scary-good roster, and as long as #18 is under center, I'll take our chances.