Colts’ updated needs after early free agency moves
The Indianapolis Colts have gotten through the first week of the legal tampering period and opening wave of free agency.
In a mildly surprising turn, the Colts were pretty active during the first week. While they saw two of their more important free agents leave for other teams, general manager Chris Ballard and the front office made some big moves early.
Keep up to date with the latest news, signings and rumors through our free agency tracker for the Colts.
With those big moves out of the way, and before others come in, here is an updated look at the team’s needs following the early free agency transactions:
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Bringing in Gardner Minshew on a one-year deal was the ideal move to make for the Colts, and they did that. They also saved a good chunk of money against the salary cap with the release of Matt Ryan. Still, the biggest need on the roster is the quarterback. Hopefully, the Colts can select the prospect they want in the 2023 NFL draft. Until that happens, the quarterback position remains the biggest need.
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If we’re going off pure need, the cornerback position arguably could top this list. But the value of the quarterback position trumps that. Even so, the cornerback position is in a dire need of additions both in free agency and the 2023 NFL draft. Trading away Stephon Gilmore for a fifth-round pick cleared some cap space but it also left the Colts without a bonafide boundary starter. With Isaiah Rodgers Sr. and Kenny Moore II both in contract years, the cornerback position is a major question mark right now.
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Having Michael Pittman Jr. and Alec Pierce on the outside and atop the depth chart is a strong duo. But there needs to be more depth here. Parris Campbell signed with the New York Giants and while Ashton Dulin is back, the Colts need a true slot option and more depth in the room. They should double-dip with a free-agent rental and a draft pick this offseason. Whether they will remains to be seen. But more talent needs to be added for the rookie quarterback coming in.
Interior Offensive Line
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This is mostly due to the fact that the Colts are without a starting right guard. There’s also a chance center Ryan Kelly is moved this offseason, which would only make this need even bigger. It will be interesting to see how this position is addressed by Chris Ballard, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if the Colts prioritized a free-agent signing over a prominent draft pick.
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It seems like the Colts are going to roll with Bernhard Raimann at right tackle and Braden Smith at left tackle. It’s a fine duo with upside, but there needs to be more depth and better competition in the room behind them. Giving Raimann the keys to the starting role without viable competition shouldn’t be a mistake the Colts make so we’ll see what kind of depth is added. But there need to be more additions to this group.
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The tight end position for the Colts is in limbo of sorts. Starter Mo Alie-Cox is coming off a down season after signing a three-year deal last offseason and reportedly could be traded. Meanwhile, second-year tight end Jelani Woods flashed immense upside as a receiver, and Kylen Granson is a solid H-back to have. Also, we should see the return of Andrew Ogletree, who tore his ACL in training camp during his rookie season. Still, it’s a group that needs to be better at run blocking so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Colts bring that type of player in.
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This looks to be a solid room for the Colts, especially after the addition of Samson Ebukam on a three-year deal. He fits perfectly into the LEO role that Yannick Ngakoue vacated but brings more production against the run. With Kwity Paye, Dayo Odeyingbo and Tyquan Lewis all returning, this appears to be a versatile and dependable group. But a team can never have too many edge rushers so we shouldn’t expect the Colts to be completely passive here.
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Losing Bobby Okereke to the New York Giants is a big loss, but the Colts have a solid trio after re-signing E.J. Speed to a two-year deal. Maybe they add some more depth to the room for special teams purposes, but this room is probably set, assuming Shaquille Leonard’s medicals are progressing.
Interior Defensive Line
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DeForest Buckner and Grover Stewart make up one of the best starting defensive tackle duos in the NFL. The Colts added Taven Bryan on a prove-it deal at the three-technique while Eric Johnson II enters his second season fighting for the backup spot at the one-technique. Maybe they add a run-stuffing veteran after the draft, but there’s so much versatility with Dayo Odeyingbo and Tyquan Lewis that this position is hardly a priority.
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We should expect the Colts to add a veteran to the group as they’ve done in the past with Mike Mitchell and most recently Rodney McLeod. If McLeod returned, that would be huge. However, there’s a good chance that doesn’t happen. Hopefully, Nick Cross will get some more run as he continues developing, but the duo of Rodney Thomas II and Julian Blackmon is a solid one. So while a veteran should be brought in, the position isn’t a major need.
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As long as Jonathan Taylor is here in his prime, this won’t be a priority. We saw some intriguing flashes from Zack Moss and Deon Jackson as depth options late in the season as well. Maybe they bring in some UDFA competition, but the running back position is mostly set.