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INDIANAPOLISThe Owner says “all chips in” for the 2022 offseason, so I’m following orders with my Colts offseason blueprint.

Without question, changes are needed to get the Colts out of being stuck in the middle of the AFC. Finishes of 10th, 7th and 8th in the AFC the last three years should not be the accepted standard.

The big dates to watch this offseason are Monday March 14th (the legal tampering period for free agency), Wednesday March 16th (the start of the new league year, aka free agency begins), Thursday April 28th (start of the 2022 NFL Draft).

Before we examine my offseason blueprint for the Colts, let’s acknowledge a few points:

-After Jack Doyle’s retirement, the Colts currently have just north of $40 million in cap space, which ranks 5th in the NFL (per Spotrac). That number will increase if the team releases/trades Carson Wentz ($13 million in cap savings if Wentz is released).

-To free up some more cap space with this blueprint, I was working under the parameter that Carson Wentz is released, which would bump the available cap space up to $53-ish million.

-In 2022, the Colts currently have 6 draft picks: Round 2-47, Round 3-82, Round 4-120, Round 5-158, Round 7-237, Round 7-238. The thought is the Colts could/will be getting additional compensatory picks at the end of Rounds 5 and 6, too.

-Decisions are needed on 23 in-house free agents before the new league year begins next Wednesday (March 16th). There are several notable names on this list.

With that, here’s my blueprint for the Colts 2022 offseason.

 

Colts Own Free Agents

-Re-sign LT-Eric Fisher (1 year, $4 million): I don’t see much other left tackle choice besides band-aiding it for another year. Re-sign Fisher and hope the medicals take a step in the right direction, despite him being 31 years old.

-Re-sign K-Michael Badgley (1 year, $1.25 million): Badgley should be back as the leader of the kicking competition at Grand Park. He deserves that after showing some nice steadiness in 2021.

-Re-sign OG-Chris Reed (1 year, $2 million): Could Reed be the starter at right guard in 2022? Again, it’s time for the Colts to make some offensive line sacrifices. So out goes free agent Mark Glowinski and returning is Reed. Danny Pinter remains a starting option at right guard, too.

-Re-sign DE-Kemoko Turay (1 year, $2.5 million): Turay showed me a few more flashes last season which has me wanting to give him one more chance to prove it. Plus, Chris Ballard wants to rotate bodies on the defensive line, so here’s a nice edge-rushing option on third down.

-Re-sign DL-Tyquan Lewis (1 year, $1.5 million): I look at a re-signing of Lewis similar to how Chris Ballard viewed Jack Mewhort’s injury situation a few years back. When healthy, Lewis is an important, versatile piece along the defensive front. But he’s played double-digit games in just 1 of his 4 NFL seasons. He’s got to prove his availability. 

-Re-sign OL-Matt Pryor (2 years, $6.5 million): This is pricey for a 6th offensive lineman, but Pryor has this value to the Colts. He can play multiple spots and is needed with some health questions on the offensive line. One has to wonder if Pryor will get offered a nice deal and the chance to start somewhere else this offseason.

-Re-sign S-George Odum (1 year, $1.5 million): Once again, Odum is expressing his free agent thoughts on social media. We will see what that does to his market as he is an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his NFL career. I could see Odum wanting to cash in somewhere else, but he should have value to the Colts, especially with Julian Blackmon coming off a torn Achilles.

 

Free Agency Moves

-Sign WR-Amari Cooper (3 years, $54 million): So, Cooper has to get to the open market before this can happen. But the Combine smoke of the Cowboys needing to clear some cap space makes sense. Assuming Cooper hits the open market, the Colts need to pounce. Cooper would bring annual production and durability to a position the Colts have struggled in finding either over recent years. Of course, will the uncertain QB situation in Indy lead to some hesitancy from wideouts wanting to join the Colts?

-Sign DE-Emmanuel Ogbah (3 years, $30 million): For me, I view free agency as a chance to address two lingering needs. That’s wideout and defensive end. Chris Ballard gets worried about paying free agents three years of guaranteed money, but this position is too much of a premium to bypass and rely strictly on the growth of the young in-house rushers. Ogbah, 28, is a high-level athlete and hasn’t missed a game the past two seasons. He had 9 sacks in each of the last two years in Miami and his 24 QB hits last year are the most of any 2022 free agent. His disruption included 12 pass deflections last season.

-Sign TE-Tyler Conklin (3 years, $14 million): Conklin was a 5th round pick of the Vikings in 2018. It took until his 4th season before he reached the 20-catch, 200-yard mark. Conklin had 61 catches for 539 yards this past season. I’m projecting a bit here, but I like Conklin as more of a receiving threat in the middle of the field.

-Sign QB-Marcus Mariota (1 year, $4 million): The QB move isn’t flashy (for now), but we have to live in reality. Mariota is a former top-5 pick who has played at a better than average level when looking at the Colts important passing metric. He’s also had some playoff success (winning a road playoff game). It’s just hard to make sense of the Colts making a true QB splash this offseason.

 

Draft Ideas

-So, under this lofty blueprint, the Colts would enter the draft having addressed some important questions. Two positions would still stand above the rest for me in the long-term category: Quarterback and Left Tackle. With the draft, I would not hesitate at all in spending the first two picks at those spots. In fact, I think it’s time to take an important piece of draft capital (i.e. a Day 1 or Day 2 pick) at QB and LT. This coaching staff needs investments there and the tasks of developing such a player. After these two, I still think tight end, particularly as an in-line presence, is a route to explore. Safety is another position that I think could be another middle-round option.

 

Overall Thoughts

-A pair of in-house free agents I could easily seeing the Colts wanting to bring back: TE-Mo Alie-Cox and/or DE-Al-Quadin Muhammad. But I needed a little more money for the outside moves of Conklin and Ogbah. Alie-Cox and Muhammad are two guys you’d, ideally, bring back. But it’s time to take a bigger swing at those positions, and I see those two being attractive (and wanting to cash in) to other teams.

-You’ll notice, I’m cutting it pretty thin with cap space. That’s very anti-Chris Ballard and his typical approach. It’s time for the Colts to attack the March portion of free agency with some vigor though. That means pushing some cap space into future needs, if necessary. To potentially make some more cap room, a trade of Ryan Kelly is an interesting thought. Remember without a first-round pick in April, the Colts have to alter some of their prior thinking when it comes to free agency.

-I’ve often referred to this offseason with two plates in front of the Colts: Address QB in a serious manner or support the QB by taking care of the ‘other’ needs. This plan tries to achieve both, to some degree. No matter who is under QB in 2022, I think the weapons would be better. And that’s needed. I also think an offseason can’t go by without trying to take another swing at QB. I look at a drafted QB in Round 2 as doing that. At some point, you have to take an important draft pick and see if Frank Reich can do something with such a QB talent. For me, I don’t look at Mariota as the unquestioned starter in 2022 either. If the rookie impresses enough in camp, let him grow with game reps and experience that fire right away.

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