The Indianapolis Colts have a plan. Some think that, because no blue-chip free agents have been signed this offseason, that new general manager Chris Ballard may not have done enough, but think again.
Ballard has stated that he is trying to build the Colts roster to be a complete unit with genuine competition at each position. And it’s all about making the roster thrive for the future, not necessarily right now. As Ballard said, “I know we all want instant coffee right now. But that’s not reality. Reality is, it takes time to build a team. It takes time to build a locker room. And those guys got to grow together and come together. I don’t know any championship team who didn’t have a great locker room and grow together. It’s hard to just throw people into a locker room and expect a winner. It just, it doesn’t work that way.”
With that said, the Colts have signed some free agents after the big initial rush and it has changed their team needs a bit. Here is where we stand now:
The Colts already needed a cornerback entering the offseason. Now, after releasing starter Patrick Robinson and re-signing Darius Butler to become a full-time safety, that need grows. CB1 Vontae Davis finds himself hurt quite a bit and his current contract only runs through 2017. Rashaan Melvin and Darryl Morris were nice surprise additions in 2016, but it would not be wise for the Colts to hang their hat on that. Cornerback needs an upgrade, and it needs to come near the top of the depth chart. The Colts tried to address the need by going after free agent A.J. Bouye, but he signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars instead. There are some other short-term solutions available in free agency, but nobody to invest in for the future. Luckily for the Colts, this draft is chock-full of cornerback talent, especially in the first few rounds.
2. Nose Tackle
The Colts have not had a tone-setter in the middle of the line since Chuck Pagano has been around. In order for a 3-4 defense to live up to its full potential, they need a commanding force at the nose. David Parry has been an okay player in that spot the last two seasons, but he can be upgraded over in a big way. Parry’s future with the team is also in question after a recent arrest. Art Jones is almost not worth mentioning, as he will almost certainly be released later this offseason. The Colts did sign Al Woods at the nose this week, but he is more of a piece than an answer. They went after top free agent Dontari Poe, but he signed with the Atlanta Falcons. The Colts could become suitors for the next best option, Johnathan Hankins, if his reported asking price drops. In the draft, there are not many options for the nose throughout, but there are a few quality ones.
3. Inside/Outside Linebacker
Both position groups have starters in place but could use upgrades. The Colts have added Jabaal Sheard, John Simon and Barkevious Mingo in free agency. While Sheard and Simon, along with Akeem Ayers, are likely to provide a steady presence against the run and rushing the passer, the Colts need a hell-raiser coming off of the edge. The only way for them to address that is through the draft. At inside linebacker, starters Antonio Morrison and Edwin Jackson have shown plenty of reason to keep them around. However, the Colts have been kicking the tires on some free agent linebackers recently, showing they want to upgrade. Morrison and Jackson could be nice players, but the Colts need a do-it-all, three-down ass-kicker at linebacker. There are still some options in free agency, and the draft’s first two days will have options as well. The Colts will likely, unfortunately, be out of range for Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster, but there will be other players that they could plug in immediately who will perform at a high level.
Jake Arthur is the AFC South Division Manager, Indianapolis Colts Team Manager, Assistant Director of NFL Content and a Featured Analyst for Pro Football Spot. He is also a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @JakeArthurPFS on Twitter as well as on Facebook. Check out his other work HERE.