INDIANAPOLIS – Following one of the most disappointing, and embarrassing, seasons this franchise has had in multiple decades, the Colts face a litany of questions at the pillar parts of their organization.
The Colts (4-12-1) missed the playoffs in 2022 for the sixth time in eight years, extending their AFC South title drought to eight seasons.
With that brings some major questions for Jim Irsay.
Here are 9 storylines for the 2023 offseason.
1. Head Coach Decision
Even if the Colts want to hire Jeff Saturday permanently, they still must go through a full interview process.
Saturday has expressed a clear desire he wants to be a head coaching candidate for the full-time gig.
Outside of him though, it’ll be interesting to see how wide of a net Jim Irsay wants to cast.
Will he follow the prominent coordinator from a successful team like his last two hires of Chuck Pagano or Frank Reich? Or do we see something more outside of the box?
Despite the Colts getting frequently outplayed, and outclassed, in Saturday’s two months on the job, Irsay is very open to the idea of retaining the head coach.
2. Chris Ballard Returning?
Technically, and unlike at head coach, this is not an announcement the Colts need to make.
Chris Ballard is under contract through 2026. And at several points in recent weeks, Jim Irsay has been very staunch with a public backing of his GM.
But anytime you have the resume Ballard has—no division titles in 6 years, 1 playoff win in that span, a 4-12-1 season in Year 6 with maybe an ounce of improvement (offensive line?) post head coach firing—there’s reason to question his future in Indy.
And then you have the awkwardness of Jeff Saturday’s presence and what that does to Ballard’s power as the team’s GM.
Has the continued embarrassment as this season ended changed Irsay’s mind on Ballard?
The revolving door at the most important position in sports has to stop.
The Colts have chosen a path at QB that has created a ceiling that is unable to sustain success at the level Jim Irsay wants.
What the Colts decide at quarterback in 2023 will be the biggest personnel decision this franchise has made in decades.
It’s not as obvious as taking Peyton Manning No. 1 overall in 1998 or Andrew Luck No. 1 overall in 2012. But the Colts have to use their top-5 pick on a QB.
4. Plan At Left Tackle
Outside of quarterback, this is easily the biggest personnel question entering the offseason.
And it’s been that way since Anthony Castonzo retired following the 2020 season.
Did Bernhard Raimann show the Colts enough to cross off such an important position on the off-season needs list?
That would be huge, if the Colts believe that, and they are right.
If not though, left tackle definitely has to be debate in free agency and/or the draft.
It did seem like Raimann took some strides in the right direction as his rookie season played out.
5. Free Agent Locks?
Is Yannick Ngakoue a must-bring back for the Colts?
Here’s a look at some of the Colts free agents for the 2023 offseason: WR-Parris Campbell (25), OL-Matt Pryor (27), OT-Dennis Kelly (32), DE-Yannick Ngakoue (27), DE-Ben Banogu (26), DL-Tyquan Lewis (27), LB-Bobby Okereke (26), LB-E.J. Speed (27), CB-Brandon Facyson (28), S-Rodney McLeod (32), K-Chase McLaughlin (26).
At linebacker, I don’t see the money there to retain Okereke, who should garner a nice market in FA.
It’s a list with some notable names (several starters), but not a lot of guys you’d stand on a table for.
6. Any Cap/Trade Casualties?
The Colts enter this offseason with a nice amount of cap space (around $28 million which ranks 10th in the NFL, per Spotrac), but not the massive number they’ve had in previous years.
With that, do we see the Colts look to alter any contracts or even cut/trade some veterans to free up more cap space?
This becomes more of a storyline if the Colts remove Chris Ballard and new leadership is looking and evaluating this roster.
Names to think about: Matt Ryan? Ryan Kelly? Shaquille Leonard? Kenny Moore?
7. Other Needs Besides The Obvious
Quarterback is obvious.
Left tackle is probably next on the list.
What about some other Colts needs for 2023?
In no specific order, I think you could use some attention on the offensive line, tight end, defensive end, cornerback, wide receiver.
8. Defensive System Maintained?
Gus Bradley and the Colts defense had a pretty nice first season together.
But given all the uncertainty above Bradley there’s no guarantee he will be back in 2022. Plus, Bradly might want to move on himself.
Chris Ballard has long been a fan of a 4-man front and has had a ton of say in the defensive plan for the Colts, building a very specific unit behind tons of draft capital.
Making a significant change defensively would/could greatly impact the personnel Ballard has identified for that side of the ball.
9. Matt Ryan Still Want To Play? Colts Still Want Matt Ryan?
In a way, this is similar to the Colts and Philip Rivers back following the 2020 season.
Although Rivers seemed to be more of a retirement candidate entering that season than Ryan did back in the offseason. On the flip side, Rivers had a much better one year in Indy than Ryan.
For obvious reasons, the Colts could decide they want to move on from Ryan, but there’s some financial hurdles in there, and the lack of an obvious 2023 starter on the depth chart.
When asked about playing next year a few weeks ago, Ryan’s tone was a bit more hesitant than it was back in the spring.
Decisions are needed from both parties, with this being far from a definite multi-year marriage like it appeared in the offseason.
It would be a head scratcher if the Colts thought Ryan was needed on the roster in 2023.