2014 Team Needs: Indianapolis Colts
The Colts finished last season two wins away from a Super Bowl appearance with second year quarterback Andrew Luck leading the way. The big question now is how will they improve a defense that allowed 43 points in their season ending loss to the Patriots? With no first round pick, expect Ryan Grigson and Jim Irsay to make though improvements through free agency, where they were big players last season.
Indianapolis is in the enviable position of having $38m in cap space, the fifth-most in the league currently. They’ve already made the biggest signing so far, nabbing D’Qwell Jackson from the Browns and there will certainly be more to follow.
Potential Cap Casualties
There isn’t really any fat that needs to be trimmed that hasn’t been cut already. Samson Satele’s release created about $4m in space and the Colts now have so much room that overpaying starters and role players by a couple million dollars doesn’t seem like too big of a deal.
If the Colts really wanted room, Greg Toler’s contract is probably the best one to part ways with. The corner underperformed when not injured and is due $4.8m and $5.1m cap hits the next two seasons. Cutting him would save the Colts $4.2m although I don’t expect it to happen. Toler has shown enough in the past to warrant at least another crack at the starting job this season.
Vontae Davis hitting free agency leaves a gaping hole in the Colts’ secondary. Davis held together a group of corners that didn’t feature another player with a positive coverage grade. The need for a corner is also heightened by the free agency of Cassius Vaughn. Vaughn played a bunch of snaps (1302), but his production should easily be replaced. Vaughn had a grade of -19.1 over that time span.
Free agent fix: This is a difficult one because it all depends on the price. Vontae Davis is an obvious choice because of his familiarity with Indianapolis, but I have a feeling Davis will get paid handsomely somewhere. The Colts’ front office has been extremely active in mid-range free agents (~$5m a year) and if they wanted to go that route, Sam Shields would be a quality option.
Samson Satele was a disaster at center in Indianapolis last season. Satele’s -13.2 run blocking grade was the worst at the position last season. The year before that he had the second-worst pass blocking grade of any center at -9.0. He is rightfully gone now, but his replacement is unsure. Khaled Holmes was drafted in the fourth round of the 2013 draft to be Satele’s replacement, but after only 13 snaps in his rookie season it’s unclear how good Holmes will be.
Free agent fix: With the transition tag, it’s unlikely Alex Mack is leaving Cleveland. Brian De La Puente is probably the next best thing. The Saints are pretty cash-strapped and they could easily be outbid. De La Puente’s best season came in 2012 where he was our second highest graded center at +23.0.
This stems from the impending free agency of Antoine Bethea. LaRon Landry is under contract at the other safety position for the next three seasons, but Bethea’s impending departure means Corey Lynch is the only safety on the roster with considerably playing time in the NFL. Delano Howell filled in last season when Landry was injured and graded out at -2.0 in 212 snaps. Relying on one either of those two to be a starter seems like a risk the Colts might not want to take.
Free agent fix: While there are quality options about at the position, Antoine Bethea makes the most sense. After inserting multiple new starters in the secondary last season, having some continuity on the back end would be nice for Greg Manusky’s defense. Bethea is 30 years old and will likely come for considerably cheaper than his previous four-year, $26m deal.
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