Exploring the Colts’ biggest offseason needs in 2023

The Indianapolis Colts face an offseason of uncertainty following a disastrous campaign. Re-evaluating the roster and its needs will be among the top priorities for the 2023 offseason.

Some of the needs are easy to see. Others may take some creative work to figure out while others may not even be addressed this offseason. Then, as every season comes and goes, the Colts will wind up having a new position pop up on the list.

Unlike recent offseasons, the Colts don’t have an abundance of salary-cap space. They can make some moves to free up some money, which would include trading and/or cutting some big names from the roster.

The Colts also have eight picks in the 2023 NFL draft, starting with the No. 4 overall selection. But if they want to trade up to No. 1 overall, they will need to add in some extra picks and possibly a player to go to Chicago.

Before the new league year arrives and we dig into specific players to target, let’s take a look at the biggest offseason needs for the Colts entering 2023:

Quarterback

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Once again, the most obvious need for the Colts comes at the game’s most important position. The Matt Ryan experiment failed miserably, and there’s a good chance the Colts simply cut bait. It will be incredibly difficult to find a trade partner so the Colts will need to release Ryan. It will cost $18 million against the salary cap, but it will save an additional $17.2 million.

The same applies for veteran Nick Foles. He arrived to work with Frank Reich, who is no longer with the team. Foles doesn’t carry much dead cap, which means the Colts can get out of the contract without much fuss.

Drafting a quarterback seems to be the only option on the table. The Colts simply cannot go with another retread option even if the likes of Derek Carr or Daniel Jones become available.

It’s time for Chris Ballard to make a move for the prospect he likes the most and hope the team can develop him into the future of the franchise.

Offensive Line

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The 2022 season was an utter disaster for the Colts offensive line. A unit that was supposed to be the rock of the offense fell flat on its face. They made some improvements down the stretch of the regular season, but it was far too late by that time.

We should expect Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith to return without hesitation. Their contracts will be difficult to get out of and replacing them will likely cause more issues. Center Ryan Kelly is a bit of a wild card. The team could part ways and save a considerable chunk of cap space. But, again, finding a viable replacement will be difficult even with Kelly regressing in 2023.

Going into his second season, left tackle Bernhard Raimann should be the favorite to start, but it would be wise for the Colts to add actual competition. Then, the right guard position will be one the Colts will need to add to either through free agency or the draft.

Defensive End

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The Colts have a pretty intriguing duo when it comes to edge rushers Kwity Paye and Dayo Odeyingbo. Outside of them, though, there are some major question marks.

Yannick Ngakoue will be a free agent, and it’s unclear if the Colts will want to re-sign him even after recording 9.5 sacks. Additionally, Ben Banogu will hit the market after failing to make any impact at all since being drafted in the second round of the 2019 NFL draft.

We shouldn’t expect the Colts to go into free agency looking to spend big on a pass rusher, but they should be actively looking to add some depth to that area behind Paye and Odeyingbo.

Wide Receiver

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Despite all of the preseason talk about the lack of wide receiver depth, the Colts got some decent production. Michael Pittman Jr. nearly had 100 receptions and 1,000 yards while rookie Alec Pierce showed flashes during his first season.

We finally got a full season out of Parris Campbell, and he posted career-bests with 63 receptions for 623 yards and three touchdowns. However, he and Ashton Dulin will be unrestricted free agents this offseason so the room will be pretty bare if they both leave.

Looking to free agency isn’t really an option for the Colts. There are maybe two or three options worthy of taking a shot on if both Dulin and Campbell don’t return.

Regardless, finding some depth behind Pittman Jr. and Pierce will be vital for the new quarterback.

Cornerback

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This will be an interesting room to watch this offseason. Technically, the Colts have their three starting cornerbacks under contract for the 2023 season, but two of them could easily be moved due to cap restraints.

The Colts can trade Kenny Moore II without taking on any dead-cap while saving $7.5 million. Meanwhile, Stephon Gilmore has a $12.9 million cap hit but just $2 million in dead cap. Both players are on the final year of their contracts.

The Colts need to add depth to this room regardless. Going into the season with Dallis Flowers, who has shown promise, as the No. 4 cornerback is a risky move.

Tight End

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While rookie Jelani Woods and second-year player Kylen Granson flashed potential during the 2022 season, it was a massively disappointing campaign for Mo Alie-Cox.

Signed as the starter to a three-year deal, Alie-Cox regressed in almost every facet. He wasn’t the difference-making blocker we’ve been accustomed to seeing, and he never found a groove with any of the three quarterbacks who started for the Colts this season—an issue in its own right.

It wouldn’t be a surprise if the Colts tried to move out of Alie-Cox’s contract, but they need to find a more stable option at the Y position.

Defensive Tackle

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This position isn’t a massive need. The Colts have an outstanding duo with Grover Stewart and DeForest Buckner, both of which had Pro-Bowl caliber seasons even though they weren’t voted in.

Still, they can’t do it all. The Colts could use some additional depth on the interior, especially behind Stewart at the one-technique. Rookie Eric Johnson II is an intriguing project, and Dayo Odeyingbo kicks inside to the three-technique on obvious passing downs.

But it still wouldn’t hurt to add some depth to the unit.

Safety

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The Colts have some intriguing pieces in the secondary, especially with the emergence of rookie Rodney Thomas II. However, there’s a good chance Rodney McLeod doesn’t return, and Julian Blackmon is entering the final year of his rookie contract.

Meanwhile, rookie third-round pick Nick Cross failed to make an impact at all during his first season. We shouldn’t give up on him just yet. He’s still just 21 years old and has sky-high potential—some of which we’ve already seen. But it would be unwise to count on him as a bonafide impact player for 2023.

A trio of Thomas, Blackmon and Cross could certainly get the job done if they develop, but adding some veteran depth would be a wise move.

Linebacker

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The linebacker position could wind up being higher on this list, but we don’t the status of Shaquille Leonard. Assuming Leonard will be good to go, they have a solid duo with him and Zaire Franklin.

Bobby Okereke is a pending free agent and as vital as he’s been to the middle of the defense, it’s difficult to see the Colts spending another large contract at the position, especially when he can likely find a better deal elsewhere.

E.J. Speed is also set to be a free agent so the depth in the room could use some work if he doesn’t return.

Running Back

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Even with Jonathan Taylor’s injury-riddled season, the Colts are in fine shape in the backfield. Taylor should be good to go for 2023, barring a setback with his ankle injury. On top of that, we saw some encouraging flashes from Zack Moss and Deon Jackson as depth options.

Story originally appeared on Colts Wire