5 Pressing Issues the Colts Need to Address This Offseason
After an all too familiar ending to the season on Sunday, the Indianapolis Colts enter the offseason with a long list of issues to correct if they hope to become legitimate, and consistent title contenders. Let's look at five of those issues that I think should be at the top of the list.
If, for whatever reason, you still hold out hope Trent Richardson can turn it around and become the guy the Colts envisioned he would be when they brought him in, stop. He won't be. The fact he was practicing with the punt coverage team leading up to the Divisional game against Denver, then listed as a healthy scratch speaks volumes about the team's confidence in him.
I was all about giving him this season to adjust to the system and show improvement, and it never happened. To his credit, his yards per average did go up from 2013, but only by .4 yards. For a guy the team invested in so heavily, the improvement should be much better. It's time to cut him loose and eat the just over three million they owe him for the final year of their contract.
"Boom" Herron stepped in and did a much better job (averaging 4.5 yards per carry), but fumbling was an issue. Unless he's part of a running back by committee system, I don't think he's the guy the Colts can lean on to lead the way. Zurlan Tipton is just a rookie, so it's too early to tell what he can bring, but with $30 million in cap space, the Colts should (and I assume will) look at a few of the free agent backs that could be available such as Baltimore's Justin Forsett who put up over 1,200 yards this season.
Despite what fans may think, the offensive line isn't as bad as it's perceived. Look at how they performed the past three weeks once they were able to get the same group of guys to start. In those three weeks, they gave up one sack on Andrew Luck; an eight yard loss in the Wild Card Game versus Cincinnati.
Rushing-wise, while not spectacular in those three games, wasn't awful either as they picked up 114 against the Bengals, 99 versus Denver, and 83 in Sunday's game against New England. If they keep this group healthy, the players they have could be successful. That's not to say they should ignore it all together in the offseason. They need to decide what to do with Donald Thomas, who was brought in from New England as a free agent before the 2013 season. He's only played two games since joining the team, landing on IR after week two last season, and never touching the field after ending up on IR again during training camp this year. It's time to cut the cord.
Defensive Front 7
You could make a convincing argument that the entire defense, outside of Vontae Davis, needs to be completely overhauled. The fact that former first-round pick Bjorn Werner was a healthy scratch for the AFC Championship throws up a red flag that says to me they're not confident in his abilities. They are in desperate need of a pass rush, and guys who can stop the run. Robert Mathis will return after signing a one-year contract extension, however he is getting older, and there's no guarantee he'll return to form after the Achilles tear that kept him out this season.
While some draft experts have the team selecting a wide receiver with their first pick this year, I feel like they're pretty set at that position and can wait until later rounds to address that area. Bolstering all aspect of the defense should be first and foremost on their minds as they prep for the Draft.
Resigning Andrew Luck
In only his third year in the league, Luck has lived up to the hype that surrounded him when he entered the Draft, and he'll only get better assuming the Colts put the right complimentary pieces around him. He won't be a free agent until after the 2016-2017 season, and the team is already working on locking him up for the long haul. While I absolutely, 100% agree it's the right move to take care of this now, and he deserves the shipping freighter full of money they'll no doubt give him, BUT they need to be careful to structure the contract in a way they don't bury themselves underneath it to the point they can't effectively build a team around him.
Reggie Wayne, Hakeem Nicks, Matt Hasselbeck, Cory Redding, Darius Butler, Josh Gordy, Fili Moala, Sergio Brown, Mike Adams, Josh Cribbs, and Ahmad Bradshaw will all be unrestricted free agents when the new league year starts on March 9th. Personally, I would be perfectly fine with the team allowing all of them to test the market. Even the beloved Reggie Wayne if he decides he wants to give it another go. There's not one name on this list I think the Colts can't live without, especially those on defense.
After a couple of head-scratching signings in his short tenure, GM Ryan Grigson needs a solid offseason to prove he's the guy for the job. That means not only letting some or all of the guys listed above hit the road, but also bringing in other free agents that can help make this team a perennial contender.