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Indianapolis Colts February Scouting Report
Chris Rito

Hey there Colts’ fans! Here is a brief update from the Colts’ Corral:


It has been a fairly quiet season around the Corral as they have been one of the least active teams in the NFL, and even among the rumor mills there has been precious little mention of the Colts. About the only talk mentioning the horseshoes was the big debate on the Hall of Fame finalists from the 2006 Superbowl champs, and whether or not DE Dwight Freeney (he did) and WR Reggie Wayne (he again did not) would get in. Receivers traditionally have never been elected on their first year of eligibility and there is a bit of a backlog of HOF caliber receivers that were in line ahead of Reggie so this was not a surprise. While I believe Freeney did have a Hall-worthy career, I was not sure that he would garner the national attention he merited statistically since he was not always a high-profile player on the national scene. Congrats to Dwight on a well-deserved honor as he will join the Canton fraternity in August.


Looking at all the way-too-early mock drafts and the free agency predictions, the Colts are generally all claimed to be targeting a player at one of the high-impact positions since they have built the O-lines and D-lines with some solid depth. While I do think the O-line is showing a bit of age, there is so much invested there already that it makes sense to fill the other gaps while they have a quarterback on a rookie deal. A lot of mocks have them targeting Georgia’s top TE Brock Bowers, but they have invested a lot of draft capital in the position for several years and they almost have to hope one of those picks pans out instead. They could use an impact player there, but with other needs and so many guys on the roster, they might feel the need to invest that top pick in a different place. Similarly, there are a fair number of mocks showing them targeting a pass rusher, but they likewise have spent even greater draft capital there in the Ballard era, so they need to cut bait on trying to select that position wisely. I think the possibility of a high-end corner prospect is more likely if one slides to them, which some have claimed, as they need at least one of those and maybe two. About the only thing they definitely do not need is a quarterback or a running back, since those two skill positions are locked up for several years with young superstar talent.


On the other hand, the free agent market also looks to be full of some impact veterans, and a lot of talk has been made locally and nationally about them going after any of the 7-10 front-line receiving options. WR Michael Pittman has posted great PPR numbers, but he is better suited to be a strong #2 than to being an alpha dog – and he also is a free agent, so there is no guarantee someone won’t throw a ton of money at him as well. I do think he will stay home though as he is not seen as that true #1 for a front-line offense. WR Josh Downs is a great slot option with some deep threat, but again is not a guy opponents will game plan around so there is not scary receiver that makes this offense dangerous. I can see them making a big push at a young veteran stud like Tee Higgins if he is not tagged by Cincias expected -- especially with the new $30 million in cap room available from the salary cap expansion in addition to the $55 million they already had under the cap. While not as young, Calvin Ridley is still on the right side of 30 and could be a guy that has proven himself as an alpha in the NFL. And even though he is not as young, I still think Odell Beckham could be a difference maker across from Pittman…but the fragile vet will probably cost more than he is worth at this stage in his career. And I would not be surprised to see them make a run at Mike Evans, but the vet will more likely chase a ring than he would a contract, so I don’t expect that would happen (even though I would love it).


Corner is still the biggest need on the defense, and they surely should spend some of their bucks on chasing a proven shut-down corner. The only guy with proven skill on the roster is CB Kenny Moore, and he is a slot guy by nature and currently a free agent as well. Just this week, there has been a lot of talk about the Colts targeting the recently-released CB Xavien Howard, and this makes a lot of sense if they can make it happen. They also have been linked to Chiefs’ stud CB L’Jarius Sneed who might be satisfied now to take his rings and now chase the money for himself. That’s the kind of guy they need while also drafting a top option in the early rounds that can have time to develop while playing the #2 position. The safety crew is very young but pretty talented, although the best guy back there is now a free agent as SS Julian Blackmon has just finished his rookie deal. I expect someone may throw a big number at him, but the Colts may do that also. If they can’t resign Blackmon, this goes from a young position of potential strength to one with a big gap in talent and experience. In a similar way, the defensive interior has a solid group, but veteran DT Grover Stewart is also a free agent and an ironman that could be counted to play nearly every snap for years. The Colts saw how the run defense staggered and reeled with him serving a 6-game suspension in 2023, so they will likely try hard to resign him. Unfortunately, the rest of the NFL saw that as well, so his value took an uptick league-wide. His loss would leave a gap that was definitely unfilled last year in the games he missed. While the Colts are solid up front at linebacker, they have zero depth so they are not okay in case of injury or defection in future years, so linebacking needs with potential to start are definitely on the horizon in the free agency and in the draft (where Ballard has done fairly well at the position).


What other free agents do the Colts have need to sign? I mentioned Blackmon, Stewart, Moore and Pittman but the reality is that there is a chance that 1-2 of them could get so much attention elsewhere that re-signing all four of them becomes too costly. Because of their ages, I would prioritize Blackmon and Pittman if there was a need to do so, but the possibility of new gaps is definitely a big one. There is also a priority in signing QB Gardner Minshew. I have laughably heard that his ridiculous ProBowl nod makes him attractive as a starter somewhere, but I simply can’t see that happening. No, Minshew is best fit right where he is – behind an injury-risk quarterback in a system and with a coach that knows and trusts him. I think he would be the most valuable backup passer in the league, but the worst starter if he went to a quarterback-starved team. I think they will re-sign P Rigoberto Sanchez to a team-friendly deal as they stuck with him through his Achilles recovery. In a similar vein, I hope they bring back versatile backup OL Danny Pinter after a lost 2023 season at a discounted price. While Pinter struggled as a starter, he was solid as a backup at multiple line positions and is way more valuable to Indy than to anyoneelse. Finally, RB Zack Moss was a beats while RB Jonathan Taylor was on the mend, but you simply cannot pay top dollar to two backs so he will be returning depending on what the open market brings him. He was hugely valuable in 2023, but with a stud every-down back ahead of him and no real likelihood of a RBBC, it makes no sense to pay heavily for a guy that can be replaced at a fraction of starter money. Any other re-signees from the 2023 team would have to be at veteran minimums as they are easily replaceable.


That is all for this month from the Crossroads of America. I will back in March to talk about any activity in the start of the free agency period, which begins with the "legal tampering" phase on March 11 and the league year opening on March 13. Until then….enjoy !



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