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Every NFL franchise has needs going into an offseason. Based on team philosophies, how they fill those needs can vary from team to team.
Indianapolis Colts fans know that Chris Ballard likes to fill his major needs through the draft while spending little money in free agency. This 2021 offseason could be the most important one Ballard will have to face as a general manager with needs at quarterback, left tackle, edge rusher, wide receiver and tight end.
How Indianapolis looks to fill these needs will be interesting to watch, as quarterback, left tackle and edge are arguably the toughest positions in football to hit on. Luckily, there are solid options in both free agency, the draft and through trade.
Let’s look at the best options to fill the Colts’ top position needs:
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Whether trading for a current NFL quarterback (Carson Wentz, Marcus Mariota) or trading up in the draft (Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields), both will require trading a lot of draft picks in 2021 and future years. In free agency, unless they're wanting to break the bank on the small chance Dak Prescott becomes available, their best options would be Jacoby Brissett, Mitchell Trubisky, James Winston, or journeyman QBs. The best option for Indianapolis is to trade up in the draft some way, even though it will cost them draft capital. The Colts would get a QB on a cheap deal, and if they're trading up to get him, it's a clear indicator that they believe in that guy.
With the sudden retirement of Anthony Castonzo in January, left tackle is one of the more important positions fills on this roster going into 2021. There are a few options for Indianapolis. Free agency has a few solid options, while older, they could step in right away. Guys like Trent Williams, Russell Okung, or Jason Peters will be options, but rather expensive. Another deep left-field option is to trade for stud tackle Orlando Brown from the Baltimore Ravens. He's young, still on his rookie deal, but will cost a lot of draft capital. He would also likely require an extension upon being traded for. The best option is to go in the draft. A lot of skill position players will be taken early, allowing the top LT options to fall to the Colts at pick 21.
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The tight end position is quietly an important need for Indianapolis going into the off-season. Jack Doyle is currently the only tight end on the roster, and the Colts need to get younger at that position and provide more explosiveness. The draft does provide interesting prospects, but Indianapolis would have to spend an early pick on one. Brevin Jordan, Pat Freiermuth, or Kyle Pitts would be options for the Colts. Spending a first-rounder on a TE, when there are bigger needs seems very unlikely. There are some TEs in free agency the Colts could pursue. Hunter Henry, Gerald Everett, and Jonnu Smith are very good options that Indianapolis should pursue in the off-season. They will all be fairly conservative contracts that won't eat up a lot of the cap space.
The Colts have some young, talented players at the defensive end spot, but lacked the pass rush needed in the playoffs to advance into late-January. It shouldn't come as a surprise if Indianapolis makes a significant move at the edge spot this spring. The draft does include a few interesting prospects, Kwity Paye, Gregory Rousseau, and Quincy Roche. But, there's no guarantee they will be available at pick 21 for the Colts, and no guarantee they become instant impact players. If Indianapolis were to make a move, free agency seems like the best option, even though it will be more costly. Yannick Ngakoue, Carl Lawson, and Soloman Thomas. Lawson and Ngakoue will be expensive free agents, but they will provide instant impact the Colts defense needs.
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There are some big names hitting the free-agent market like Allen Robinson and Chris Godwin. Whether the Colts will be in the running for either of them is a big question mark right now. There are also some options in the draft the Colts could consider like Rashod Bateman or Rondale Moore as an early pick. But they have said constantly how much they like the wide receiver room so it remains to be seen if there will be major additions to the group. But if they do add a wide receiver this offseason, their best bet might be through free agency to find a complement to Michael Pittman Jr. and Parris Campbell.