Re-signing Jerrell Freeman top priority for Colts in free agency
Ben Stockwell breaks down the biggest decisions facing the Indianapolis Colts as they head into free agency.
Re-signing Jerrell Freeman top priority for Colts in free agency
The Colts went all in on 2015, and what they thought was a royal flush turned out to be a busted flush instead. It’s extremely rare that an “all in” free agency strategy pays off, and the Colts are now left trying to re-assemble their roster to build for the future again, with Andrew Luck and company looking to put a disappointing season behind them.
With that in mind, this figures to be a busy off-season for the Colts ,with plenty of decisions to be made over retention as they start to set their roster up to accommodate the enormous contract that will surely be heading Andrew Luck’s way in the not-too-distant future.
LB Jerrell Freeman
A contract year boom is always a concern, but the Colts must do what they can to bring Jerrell Freeman back in 2016. Already 30 years old after arriving via the CFL, Freeman is sure to look to maximize his contract value, but his performance in coverage ever since he joined the Colts in 2012 is a precious commodity in today’s NFL. Freeman’s exceptional run defense was out of character in comparison to prior seasons, but his solid play in coverage has been the bare minimum of his play over the last four years. In a league that is ever more predicated on the passing game, a linebacker who can cover like Freeman is a player that you cannot allow to walk out the door to a rival team.
SS Dwight Lowery
There are often players that teams feel they can “do better than,” and it results in solid starters wandering around the league, providing solid play for a host of teams that goes under-appreciated. One such player that the Colts found last year was Dwight Lowery, and though he hasn’t quite matched the play of his first five seasons in the last three years, he was one of the Colts’ most successful free agent signings for the 2015 season. Lowery has always been a safe pair of hands in coverage, and with Mike Adams’ performance dropping dramatically in 2015, the Colts would be well served to retain some solid consistency at the safety position in the shape of Lowery.
TE Dwayne Allen
Back in 2012, Dwayne Allen produced a spectacular rookie season that outshone fellow rookie tight end Coby Fleener, but his career since then has been derailed by a hip injury. After a solid 2014 that appeared to show the injury was behind him, Allen struggled this season with a down year at the worst time for him—but this should allow the Colts to retain Allen at a team-friendly price. At his best, Allen is one of the top blocking tight ends in the league, not to mention one of the most well-rounded tight ends, with solid work in the passing game. It’s easy to be spurred to move on from a player after a poor contract year, but Allen’s 2012 and 2014 seasons represent a player worth keeping around for the Colts.
K Adam Vinatieri
Though he turns 44 before the year is over, Adam Vinatieri has signaled his intent to return for another season, and the Colts could do far worse than to bring the veteran back for another year. Vinatieri has only missed five field goals in the last two seasons, including going 8-of-10 from beyond 50 yards in both 2014 and 2015.
TE Coby Fleener
Selected a round after his college teammate, Coby Fleener has flattered to deceive for the Colts ever since he arrived in the league. Teasing with moments of fine play and the downfield ability that got him drafted so high, those highlights are lost in a sea of otherwise underwhelming performances. There might still be a fine player in there, but if a team chooses to focus on what Fleener “can do,” then his market will run away from what the Colts should be paying him. There will be moments and plays that might make the Colts regret moving on from Fleener, but his body of work over the first four years of his career are that of a tight end that the Colts shouldn’t pay over the asking price to retain.
DE Billy Winn
The Colts got some strong play from a few defensive linemen this season—Billy Winn was not one of them. The former Brown failed to re-discover his best form from 2013, instead continuing his subpar 2014 form as both a run-defender (registering only nine stops) and a pass-rusher (registering only nine pressures).
CB Greg Toler
Even though he played fewer than 700 snaps last season, only four cornerbacks surrendered more passing yards than Greg Toler, whose time in Indianapolis is surely at an end after three poor seasons. In 10 starts last season, Toler allowed 100 yards or more in five games, and was spared more by missing late season encounters with the Jags and Texans, who would surely have piled more pain onto his season-long stat line.
G Brandon Brooks
The Colts have a lot of holes to fill on defense, but upgrading their offensive line to support the likes of Jack Mewhort, who performed admirably this season after an early experiment at right tackle, is a key starting point for Indianapolis this offseason. Weakening a division opponent is an oft-used tactic in free agency, and the Colts could look south to bolster their guard position while weakening the current division champions. Right guard Brandon Brooks didn’t have the contract year he might’ve hoped for in Houston, but his strong all-around displays in 2013 and 2014 show the caliber of player he is. Even after a down year as a run-blocker, Brooks was strong in pass protection, an area that incumbent right guard Hugh Thornton has struggled with throughout his three-year career.
CB Trumaine Johnson
On the defensive side, the Colts have a pressing need to keep up with physical wide receivers in their division, with Allen Robinson and DeAndre Hopkins exploding onto the scene in 2015. Vontae Davis can hold up one side very well, but a glaring weakness opposite him undermines that. An emerging corner who may just shake free from Los Angeles is Trumaine Johnson, who produced some exceptional performances in the final year of his rookie deal with the Rams. If the Rams put more resources into retaining the services of Janoris Jenkins, then Johnson could easily shake free and offer a significant upgrade for the Colts without having to shell out big money on Sean Smith or Josh Norman, should either somehow, unexpectedly, hit the open market.
Ben Stockwell | Director of Analysis
Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.