INDIANAPOLIS – Let the offseason fun begin.
After weeks of speculation, we are going to start to get some answers on the Colts plans for another very important offseason.
We know the quarterback move(Carson Wentz), but what about the questions at left tackle, defensive end, cornerback and wide receiver?
Some answers on those will start to come with free agency beginning on March 17th and the NFL Draft on April 29th.
Before we get to an offseason blueprint for the Colts, let’s point out a few items:
-The Colts currently have around $43 million in cap space (4th most in the NFL)
-As of now, Chris Ballard is working with 6 draft picks in ‘21 (with their 3rd rounder going to Philadelphia)
-Currently, the Colts have 15 unrestricted free agents yet to re-sign with the team
Here’s my blueprint for the Colts 2021 offseason:
Colts Own Free Agents
–Re-sign DE-Al-Quadin Muhmmad (roughly 3 years, $9 million): Unlike some other young defensive linemen on the roster, Muhammad has impressed this staff with his effort and professionalism. With so much unknown at defensive end, bringing back a consistent guy like Muhammad is smart for a defensive line wanting to play 7-8 guys every game.
-Re-sign WR-T.Y. Hilton (roughly 2 years, $20 million): How about a 3rd contract for one of the best Colts players over the last decade? It’s a deep wideout class in free agency, so the Colts must weigh a 31-year-old Hilton returning vs. some other options. With a quarterback more willing to test the field vertically, I still see a healthy Hilton being capable to back up such a contract.
-Re-sign RB-Marlon Mack (roughly 1 year, $3.0 million): It’s very difficult to gauge the potential market for Mack, who is coming off a torn Achilles. Mack, who turns 25 next year, should still have value to the Colts, even if Jonathan Taylor emerged as a definite No. 1 back late last season.
-Re-sign CB-T.J. Carrie (roughly 1 year, $1 million): As much as I’d like to bring back Xavier Rhodes, you have to acknowledge the price tag involved. Carrie, 30, brought some versatility and durability to a position that needed help last season. Let’s run it back for another year.
Free Agency Moves
-Sign Bengals DE-Carl Lawson, 3 years, $36 million (down to $14.5 million): Lawson is a high-level athlete, who has emerged with 22 and 32 quarterback hits the last two seasons. At 25, Lawson will be in high demand, if he hits the open market. The Colts have a desperate need to find more explosive/consistent production in the edge rushing department.
-Sign a mid-level WR: Some names that come to mind include Nelson Agholor (Raiders) or Demarcus Robinson (Chiefs). Even if the Colts bring back T.Y. Hilton, they need another move at wide receiver this offseason. You have to have some insurance in case Parris Campbell can’t stay healthy for a third straight season.
-Sign a mid-level CB: It’s not a great cornerback class in free agency, but the Colts need to find something. What about Quinton Dunbar (Seahawks), Ahkello Witherspoon (49ers) or Shaquill Griffin (Seahawks)? Some of those guys might be priced out of the Colts range, but you need to add another cornerback.
-If the Colts can achieve something like has been laid out above, that would let them enter the draft with a clear need at left tackle, but not really locked into any other positions besides that. Ideally, the Colts could look at pick No. 21 and No. 54 with the thinking that one of those selections needs to be a starting tackle and the other used on best player available. This doesn’t lock the Colts into having to go left tackle/edge rusher or edge rusher/wide receiver. If one of the elite tight ends, wideouts or cornerbacks falls to the Colts at 21, they take that best player available and rely on the strong offensive tackle depth in Round Two.
-I didn’t love letting CB-Xavier Rhodes (30) or DL-Denico Autry (30) walk, but welcome to the business of the offseason.
-I also didn’t like going through free agency without making a notable move at left tackle. Some young left tackle options are intriguing in Cam Robinson (26) and Julien Davenport (26). But they are going to cost something and have their own questions.
-With my approach at wide receiver, I view Michael Pittman as a future No. 1 wideout, and also acknowledge that some of those top-flight free agent wideouts will probably be priced out of the Colts range, when you think about the other needs on the list. A major goal for this offseason should be to help the confidence of Carson Wentz, so the lack of a marquee move at wide receiver doesn’t really help that cause. But I think left tackle and edge rusher is more important.
-Let’s go with Jacob Eason as the team’s backup quarterback. Again, these are my thoughts and not actually how I think the Colts will operate with that position.
-I wouldn’t mind a tight end at some point this offseason (maybe Round 4 or 5 of the draft). It’s probably a luxury, but I think it’s something that should be explored in trying to get younger and more potent at that position.
-These moves should leave around $7 million of money left based off my very rough estimates. You know Chris Ballard wants to have some extra money to operate throughout the rest of the offseason and even some for 2021.