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Shutdown Corner Offseason Blueprints: Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luck
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Andrew Luck

After the Seattle Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII, all 32 teams officially entered the offseason and started plotting how they could position themselves for a shot at Super Bowl XLIX. Shutdown Corner will look at the offseason blueprint for each of the 32 NFL teams, presenting one team a day (using the 2014 draft order, starting with the Houston Texans and finishing with the Seahawks), leading you right up to the start of free agency on March 11.

INDIANAPOLIS COLTS 2013 record: 11-5

Projected current salary-cap space (according to OverTheCap.com): $40.9 million under the cap

[Be sure to check out Shutdown Corner's NFL free-agent rankings. Click here for the list of offensive players, and click here for the list of defensive and special teams players]

Key free agents: S Antoine Bethea, PK Adam Vinatieri, P Pat McAfee, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, CB Vontae Davis, RB Donald Brown, RB Ahmad Bradshaw, OG Mike McGlynn.

Possible salary-cap casualties: CB Greg Toler, C Samson Satele.

Draft situation: The Colts traded the 26th pick in the first round to the Cleveland Browns in the Trent Richardson trade. The Colts traded their fourth-round pick to the Browns for their 2013 fifth-round pick. The Colts have the Baltimore Ravens’ seventh-round pick from the A.Q. Shipley trade. The Colts traded their original seventh-round pick to the St. Louis Rams for Josh Gordy.

Revisiting 2013: The Colts were pretty steady winners in 2013, never losing back-to-back games but also never stringing together more than three victories in a row. But looking back, it was a bizarre season when you peel back the onion a bit. The team earned statement victories over the Seattle Seahawks, Denver Broncos and (in the playoffs) Kansas City Chiefs at home, plus big road victories over the San Francisco 49ers and Chiefs. No other team in football can claim to have beaten three of the four eventual conference championship teams, plus twice beating an 11-win club in Kansas City. But they also suffered losses to three non-playoff teams (including a 30-point destruction in Indy to the Rams), and four of their five losses were by double digits. Andrew Luck was terrific in his second season, leading the team to the divisional round of the playoffs, but injuries — especially to skill-position players, including Reggie Wayne — stripped him of key playmakers.

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Reggie Wayne (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)

Reasons for optimism: Without elite personnel, the defense played about as well as you could have hoped, allowing 19 or fewer points in eight games, and it’s a unit that could get better with a few holes plugged. The Colts are flush with salary-cap space and appear ready to spend on free-agent help. Luck is a superstar in the making, and he gets back Wayne, tight end Dwayne Allen and a few emerging targets. The division is down right now, and Luck and the Colts have a great shot at repeating as AFC South champs again.

Glaring hole to fill: The offensive line has been patched with too many spare parts. It’s time for the team to invest more heavily in this area. Gosder Cherilus and Donald Thomas were fine signings a year ago, and they have former first-round left tackle Anthony Castonzo in place, but none of them are elite. Left guard Hugh Thornton was a letdown as a rookie, and Satele leaves you wanting more. The Colts could try to go for one of the big-name centers on the market to give Luck a great pivot to work with, and that would mean cutting Satele. Thomas is coming back from injury, too, so the depth could use a refurbishment.

Toughest decision: Can the Colts afford to re-sign both Davis and Bethea, by far their two best defensive backs, and still add other free-agent parts? The thinking is yes, but how deep will they go for them after spending fairly heavily on injury-prone safety LaRon Landry a year ago and knowing that the money on Davis could get quite expensive. Delano Howell isn’t a known quantity yet, but there are few who think he’s ready to take on the iron man Bethea’s role. And the depth at corner isn’t great after Toler, Gordy and Darius Butler; after trading a second-round pick last year to land Davis, it would be a shame to see him walk in free agency this year.

Best-case offseason scenario: The Colts are able to retain the core of their own free agents, including the DBs and the special-teamers, and add two or three other sizeable parts in free agency. You’d like to see them add one offensive lineman, one linebacker and another running back (if Brown and Bradshaw are not back) to push and/or complement Richardson, who is coming into a pivotal offseason. He needs to prove he can hit the hole harder and make more decisive runs. The Colts can wait for a receiver until the draft, which is extremely deep at the position, even with as few picks as they have. Unless the market is shockingly wintry for a player such as Eric Decker, adding that much money at that position, even with Wayne’s injury status unclear coming off an ACL, just appears unwise.

Previous Blueprints: 32. Houston Texans; 31. Washington Redskins; 30. Jacksonville Jaguars; 29. Cleveland Browns; 28. Oakland Raiders; 27. Atlanta Falcons; 26. Tampa Bay Buccaneers; 25. Minnesota Vikings; 24. Buffalo Bills; 23. Detroit Lions; 22. Tennessee Titans; 21. New York Giants; 20. St. Louis Rams; 19. Chicago Bears; 18. Pittsburgh Steelers; 17. Dallas Cowboys; 16. Baltimore Ravens; 15. New York Jets; 14. Miami Dolphins; 13. Arizona Cardinals; 12. Green Bay Packers; 11. Philadelphia Eagles; 10. Kansas City Chiefs; 9. Cincinnati Bengals; 8. San Diego Chargers

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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