Andrew Luck should improve in 2013 (USA Today Sports Images)
Over the next few weeks, "Shutdown Corner" will pay homage to "Office Space" (TPS reports) as we take a quick look back at each team's 2012 season and a look at what lies ahead for the 2013 offseason. We continue our spin around the AFC South with the Indianapolis Colts.
2012 record: 11-5
What went wrong: The Colts' conversion to a 3-4 was not a smooth transition. Indianapolis ranked 26th in total defense, including 29th against the run, had the league's 21st-ranked scoring defense and were one of the league's least-effective pass rushes, reaching opposing quarterbacks 32 times. Ten of those 32 sacks came in three games against the Jacksonville Jaguars (five over two games) and Green Bay Packers (five), who were two of the three NFL teams that allowed 50+ sacks in 2012. Football Outsiders' advanced metrics, which adjust for opponents, had the Colts ranked 31st in defensive DVOA and 32nd against the run. The Colts offensive line remains a work in progress, ranking 26th in Football Outsiders' "Adjusted Line Yards" metric as the Colts averaged less than four yards (3.8) per rushing attempt. The Colts line also allowed 41 sacks in the regular season and three more in the playoff loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
What went right: "The Kid's Are Alright". The Colts transition from Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck appears to be a success as Indianapolis won 11 games and returned to the postseason after a forgettable 2011 season. Luck did not miss a snap as a rookie, completing 339-of-627 pass attempts for 4,374 yards – a new NFL single-season record for a rookie - with 23 touchdowns through the air and a team-high five touchdowns on the ground (Manning didn't score his fifth rushing touchdown until his fourth season in the league). Luck wasn't the most efficient quarterback in the league, or even among an outstanding crop of rookies, completing just 54.1 percent of his passes with 18 interceptions, but with his former college coordinator joining the coaching staff, Luck should increase his completion percentage and decrease his interceptions as the team moves to a West Coast system similar to the one he ran at Stanford. In addition to Luck, the Colts' 2012 draft class of wide receiver T.Y. Hilton (50 receptions for 861 yards plus a team-high seven touchdown receptions), tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, and fifth-round running back Vick Ballard give the team a nice, young nucleus of talent to build around. On defense, inside linebacker Jerrell Freeman, signed as a street free agent out of CFL, started 16 games, played 98.67 percent of the defensive snaps and led the team with 145 tackles while adding a four-yard interception return for a touchdown in his NFL debut.
Coaching/front office changes: The Colts lost offensive coordinator Bruce Arians, who did a tremendous job filling as interim head coach while Chuck Pagano underwent treatment for leukemia. To replace Arians, Pagano went to Palo Alto, California and plucked Pep Hamilton, Luck's offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach at Stanford, to take over the Colts offense. The front office lost vice president of football operations Tom Telesco, who was named general manager of the San Diego Chargers. Telesco beat out Chargers director of player personnel Jimmy Raye, who took Telesco's old job with the Colts.
Estimated 2013 cap space: $43.79 million
Possible cap casualties: In his first season at the helm of the Colts, general manager Ryan Grigson made the decision to part ways with several veterans, many of whom had recently signed multi-year extensions. As a result, the Colts had around $40 million in "dead" money on last year's cap.
With over $40 million in available space in 2013, the Colts won't have to make similar cuts. However, if Grigson really wants some additional space, a quick way to do that would be to convert Robert Mathis' $3 million roster bonus, which is due on March 14, into a signing bonus. By prorating that amount over the three years that remain on Mathis' current contract, the Colts would gain an additional $2 million in cap space in 2013, but would add $1 million to his 2014 and 2015 cap numbers. With this much cap space, though, there's no reason to push cap dollars into future seasons.
Unrestricted free agents
Donnie Avery, WR
Darius Butler, CB
Austin Collie, WR
Moise Fokou, LB
Dwight Freeney, LB
Tony Hills, OT
Antonio Johnson, NT
Winston Justice, OT
Pat McAfee, P
Fili Moala, DL
Mewelde Moore, RB
Jerraud Powers, CB
Drew Stanton, QB
Jamaal Westerman, LB
Restricted free agents
A.J. Edds, LB
Jeff Linkenbach, G/T
Seth Olsen, G
Cassius Vaughn, CB
RFA tender amounts in 2013 are:
• $1.323 million for right of first refusal and/or original draft round compensation
• $2.023 for right of first refusal and second round draft selection
• $2.879 for right of first refusal and first round draft selection
Franchise Tag candidates: After using the franchise tag on Peyton Manning in 2011 and Robert Mathis in 2012, the Colts could complete the franchise tag hat trick on…a punter? Well, to be fair, Pat McAfee, who averaged a career-high 40.3 yards per punt (net) in 2012, isn't just a punter, who we are led to believe "are people, too".
McAfee also handles kickoff duties for the Colts and, since the league moved the kickoff point up by five yards in 2011, has 86 touchbacks, a rate of 60.5 percent. Franchising a punter is not ideal, but it's not unprecedented. The 2011 Super Bowl champion New York Giants did it last offseason with Steve Weatherford before quickly reaching a five-year, $12.5 million extension and five teams franchised their kicker in 2012, three of whom would ultimately sign multi-year extensions. To franchise McAfee would cost the Colts $2.931 million, based on a projected league-wide cap number of $121.1 million in 2013, while they continue to negotiate a long-term deal.
Why not franchise Dwight Freeney? Well, to place the tag on the club's all-time leader in sacks (107.5) would cost the Colts $22.842 million, a figure that represents 120 percent of Freeney's $19.035 million cap number from 2012. Freeney, who turns 33 during the franchise tag window (Feb. 18 – March 4), had five sacks in just under 700 defensive snaps in a primarily 3-4 defense.
Previous installments of the "Offseason TPS Reports" series:
AFC East: New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills
AFC North: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns
AFC South: Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans
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