The Indianapolis Colts just kicked off OTAs and are now in preparation mode in the lead-up to the opening game.
During this time the coaching staff won’t only be getting their players ready for the season but the front office is still evaluating the roster and deciding on if they want to bring on a veteran to add some depth and competition.
Per OverTheCap, the Colts are sitting with $16.2 million in effective cap space so they have enough room to make some additions. But Chris Ballard will also have to factor in the potential extensions for running back Jonathan Taylor, wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., and possibly other players that entering their final year of the contract.
There are a good number of notable veteran free agents available on the market but for Indianapolis, they have to consider where they are at as a state of a franchise.
With the team entering a rebuilding year and the development of Anthony Richardson, this season might not make much sense for them to spend money as if they are going after a Super Bowl. The focus should be on getting the younger players on the roster to get the snaps for their development for 2024 and beyond.
That doesn’t mean Ballard shouldn’t go sign some veterans to compete with this roster, there are some spots on the depth chart I believe could use some depth so here are some players that could help out the Colts this season:
G Dalton Risner
The Colts currently have Will Fries penciled in as the starting right guard for the season opener. While Fries did show he is capable of handling starting duties towards the end of the 2022 season, it is still a surprise that Chris Ballard hasn’t brought in a veteran to compete for the starting spot yet.
One player that is available on the market has starting experience and will only be 28 years old by the start of the season is Dalton Risner. He’s started all 62 games that he’s played in and does offer position versatility. He played on all five spots of the offensive line during his college career.
Risner could be seeking a multi-year deal which could shy away the Colts since they already have plenty of cap space investing into the offensive line but if they can get him on a friendly deal then he can help bolster up the starting offensive unit.
G Gabe Jackson
Chris Ballard doesn’t need to go out to find a starting right guard but adding a veteran makes sense not only for creating a competition for the gig but also giving the roster some depth if injuries do occur. One of the available guards that offer plenty of experience and could help the development of Will Fries is Jackson.
He will be 32 years old by the start of the season and has started in 130 of the 131 games that he has appeared in during his nine-year career. Jackson’s play isn’t at the level that it was in the past but he still is capable of winning a starting job and can give that veteran voice in the locker room.
WR DeAndre Hopkins
Do I believe that DeAndre Hopkins could end up signing with the Colts? No, I don’t see it happening from both sides. Hopkins has been outspoken about wanting to play with a proven quarterback and on a team that can compete for a Super Bowl. With Anthony Richardson entering Year 1, I’m not sure Hopkins would want to be patient with a rookie quarterback.
From the Colts’ perspective, they have the potential Micheal Pittman Jr. extension to consider, plus the development of Alec Pierce and Josh Downs. But while the front office and coaching staff could understand this is a rebuild and developmental year for the team, in the back of their minds, they always want to compete for a championship regardless.
They could possibly talk themselves into seeing what it would take to acquire Hopkins and it would’ve been a disservice to leave the best free agent on the market off a list of players that can help the Colts in 2023.
LB Jaylon Smith
Linebacker has been a strength during the Chris Ballard era but for the first time since he took over as general manager, it doesn’t seem to be as deep as it once was. The Colts starting group with Shaquille Leonard, Zaire Franklin, and E.J. Speed forms one of the best across the NFL but the depth behind them has some question marks. Not to mention, the health of Leonard is still up in the air
JoJo Domann, Grant Stuard, and Cameron McGrone have a combined zero starts in their career so if their number was called then we have yet to see if they are capable of handling starting duties. There are some linebackers on the market that have experience and one of them is Jaylon Smith.
The veteran linebacker has had a bumpy road over the past few seasons but he did start in 11 of 13 games last year for the New York Giants. He finished with 88 tackles (46 solo), three tackles for loss, a sack, and two QB hits.
LB Rashaan Evans
Another linebacker available with starting experience that happens to be a fellow 2018 draft classmate of Shaquille Leonard is Evans. The former first-round pick of the Tennesee Titans is 27 years old and is coming off the best season of his career in his lone season with the Atlanta Falcons.
Starting in all 17 games, he finished with 159 tackles (86 solo), six TFLs, two sacks, three QB hits, and a forced fumble. Evans could be seeking a potential starting role but if would accept a backup role then he would make a great quality add for the Colts defense.
LB Kwon Alexander
One last linebacker that can help give the Colts depth in the linebacker room is Kwon Alexander. The eight-year veteran is coming off his best season since 2017. He started in 12 of 17 games with the New York Jets in 2022. He finished with 69 tackles (42 solo), six TFLs, a half a sack, two QB hits, a pass deflection, and a forced fumble.
CB Marcus Peters
The Colts should and want to see what they have in their young cornerbacks but they are betting on an inexperienced group of players to be their boundary corners. Isaiah Rodgers Sr. has the most starting experience with 10 starts and Dallis Flowers got his first career start in the final game of his rookie season in 2022.
The rest is the trio of first-year cornerbacks with Julius Brents, Darius Rush, and Jaylon Jones. If at any point the coaching staff feels like they can’t trust their young corners in the starting unit then they have some options that are available on the market.
If they want a ballhawk then they could bring in Marcus Peters. The veteran corner has started in 103 of 104 games in his seven-year career and has a total of 32 interceptions.
CB Ronald Darby
Another quality veteran corner that is available is Ronald Darby. He’s started in 88 of 89 games during his eight years as a pro but has only played in a full season just once in his career. Darby is coming off a torn ACL, which he suffered last season when the Colts played the Denver Broncos. If his health checks out, Darby could be brought in on a team-friendly deal.
CB Casey Hayward
The most logical veteran corner that makes sense for the Colts to potentially bring on is Casey Hayward. Prior to joining the Atlanta Falcons last year, he spent his previous five seasons playing under Gus Bradley with the Los Angeles Chargers and Las Vegas Raiders.
His one-year stint with the Falcons lasted just six games after suffering a shoulder injury that ended his season. Outside of his experience in the defensive scheme, Hayward brings versatility because he is capable of playing outside or inside as a nickel.
S Adrian Amos
The Colts seem to like what they have in their safety group with Julian Blackmon, Rodney Thomas II, Nick Cross, and Daniel Scott. It’s a young group that they are betting on after seeing Rodney McLeod sign with the Cleveland Browns. If Chris Ballard ends up deciding to add a veteran to the group or an injury forces his hands then there is Adrian Amos available on the market.
The eight-year pro has started in 122 of 126 games and is coming off the best season of his career. In his final year with the Green Bay Packers, he finished with 102 tackles (73), seven TFLs, a sack, two QB hits, five pass deflections, an interception, and a fumble recovery.
Amos is likely seeking a potential starting job but if one ends up becoming available due to an injury then this signing could make sense for both sides.