INDIANAPOLIS – We are about to get some answers.
With free agency starting on March 15th and the draft beginning on April 27th, it’s time to examine where the biggest needs are for Chris Ballard’s 7th year as general manager.
Here are my rankings of the positions of need for 2023:
1. Quarterback: Duh. It goes without saying how dire of a need the Colts have at the most important position in sports. The good news is they’ve made a head-coaching hire with an impressive and diverse quarterback background. And in holding the No. 4 overall pick, the Colts are in a position to make a significant investment to the future at quarterback. Outside of that, the Colts would be wise to explore a veteran QB name, with the expectation Matt Ryan and Nick Foles are not here in 2023 (Sam Ehlinger is under contract through 2024).
2. Defensive End: Yannick Ngakoue is a free agent. If he walks, that puts even more on the plate of Kwity Paye to be a consistent, healthy, 3-down presence. Paye has missed 7 games in his two NFL seasons, but has shown more and more signs of a reliable and productive defensive end. But the Colts cannot stop looking for that dynamic rusher to complement a really good interior presence in DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart. It does sound like the 2023 draft class has some nice depth with the edge group.
3. Offensive Line: Let’s keep this generic as the Colts could go with a couple of different areas to address their offensive line. I view the offensive line need as finding an interior starter in free agency, and some tackle insurance, too. Bernhard Raimann showed me enough as a rookie to give him a full-season of starting in 2023, with an off-season focus on building more strength. Interior wise, the Colts need bolstering, with questions at right guard and center Ryan Kelly not living up to his contract.
4. Wide Receiver: This remains a position of need, preferably in the veteran market. Parris Campbell is a free agent in 2023 and it’s not a good year for FA wideouts. Yes, the Colts have Michael Pittman and Alec Pierce to provide to their new quarterback. But they need more at the pass catching spots. That ‘more’ could be further growth, but I don’t want to put all my eggs into that basket. Along with defensive end and the offensive line, this is a position Ballard mentioned back at the Combine as places to add.
5. Cornerback: Outside of Brandon Facyson, the Colts return all their cornerbacks from last season. But Stephon Gilmore does tack another year on. Gilmore has one more year left on his contract, as he turns 33 years old in September. It was a really impressive first season in Indy for Gilmore, but his age can’t be ignored. The Colts could use another young/long body at corner. And that’s before pointing out the uncertain future for Kenny Moore, who has one year left on his deal.
6. Tight End: From a depth chart standpoint, all the notable tight end names are back for the Colts in 2023. But this group lacked consistency last season and an in-line blocking presence. It would make sense to explore the veteran FA market to help out a very young group. Of all the positions on the Colts roster, this one might have the most on-paper potential.
7. Linebacker: It’s not the norm for the Colts to have many linebacker questions but they do this offseason—from Shaquille Leonard’s health to the uncertain free agencies of Bobby Okereke and E.J. Speed. Given how wildly successful Chris Ballard has been in drafting linebackers, all throughout the draft, that is an avenue to certainly explore this offseason.
8. Defensive Tackle: The tandem of DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart continues to be one of the best in the NFL. Always though with the defensive line, tapping into some depth is a wise move. Tyquan Lewis, an interior option on pass downs, is a free agent following a second straight year of rupturing the patellar in his left knee (it was his right knee last year).
9. Safety: Even though Rodney McLeod is a free agent, the Colts have some young options at safety. Julian Blackmon will be in a contract year in 2023. Rodney Thomas II had a really nice rookie year. And the hope is Nick Cross makes a jump in Year Two.
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