Moves the Indianapolis Colts Will Regret Not Making This Offseason
While the draft has yet to occur, we already have some idea of the Indianapolis Colts' offseason haul. The team was less active in free agency than some predicted, choosing to focus on re-signing several of their own free agents.
Returning players include stellar cornerback Vontae Davis, veteran specialists Pat McAfee and Adam Vinatieri and running back Ahmad Bradshaw.
Despite it being a solid offseason overall for GM Ryan Grigson and the Colts, there are a few potential missed opportunities the team may be kicking itself over in the future.
Sign a Real Starting Center
Nothing against Phil Costa, but there's a reason the Cowboys panicked and drafted Travis Frederick in the first round of the 2013 draft. Costa is a decent depth player, but he's not somebody that you want as your starting center. Meanwhile, the team still has Khaled Holmes, a fourth-round pick in 2013, waiting in the wings.
The team seems at peace with those two battling it out for the starting position, opting not to go after one of the free-agent starters available on the market.
It's an odd choice, given the value on the market this offseason. Cleveland's Alex Mack was the headliner, but Evan Dietrich-Smith and Brian de la Puente were both reliable starters as well.
Dietrich-Smith finished 2013 with a plus-12.1 grade from Pro Football Focus and signed a four-year, $14 million contract with virtually no risk. De la Puente has PFF's fifth-highest combined grade over the last three years, but was signed by Chicago on a (presumably cheap) one-year deal.
Holmes could end up being the future for Indianapolis, but considering the value available with Dietrich-Smith and De la Puente, some insurance would have been a smart move this offseason.
Fix the Run Defense
Passing is king in the NFL, but running the ball is still a part of the game. The Colts know this better than anybody, having lost to the New England Patriots in the divisional round of the playoffs largely due to their sieve-like run defense.
But it wasn't just the playoffs where the poor run defense reared it's head. The Colts finished 13th in Football Outsider's DVOA allowed against the pass, but 22nd against the run.
The problem last season was the lack of playmakers, especially from the linebacker position, in run defense. The defensive line was more than adequate at holding its ground, but the team didn't have a "hammer" linebacker to attack the line and get defensive stops.
That position wasn't addressed in free agency, as the Colts chose to sign D'Qwell Jackson, a player who is adequate in coverage but who struggles against the run. It's hard to imagine him positively affecting the run defense next season. Arthur Jones is a nice piece on the defensive line who will allow the Colts to run some different looks (especially in pass rush), but he doesn't fix the linebacker problem.
Find a Veteran Safety
Similar to center, the Colts chose to stand pat at safety during free agency, although they did recently bring in veteran Kurt Coleman, according to Aaron Wilson of National Football Post.
Like center, the odd thing about the inaction is the value available on the open market, especially considering the different options. The Colts seem to want a strong safety to pair with LaRon Landry. If that's the case, there's none better than T.J. Ward. Ward signed a four-year, $23 million contract with Denver, a steal considering the deals signed by Antoine Bethea and Donte Whitner.
Other options included free safety Chris Clemons, a solid coverage guy who could have allowed Indianapolis to move LaRon Landry. For a two-year deal worth just $2.7 million, Clemons would have given the Colts numerous options in the defensive backfield for very little cost.
Now, the Colts have painted themselves into a corner where they either need to take a safety early in the draft or allow Delano Howell to start. Howell is a smart player whom I like, but he's best suited for a depth role.
Revamping Offensive Philosophy
Every time Chuck Pagano reaffirms his commitment to the run, I die a little inside.
It's not that I hate running the ball.
It's that I hate watching the Colts try to force runs when they have one of the greatest young talents in the league under center.
The NFL, as mentioned previously, is a passing league. While running the ball has its place, passing the ball (and stopping the pass) is the key. With Andrew Luck throwing to targets like T.Y. Hilton, Reggie Wayne and Hakeem Nicks, the Colts have the potential to be an explosive, dangerous offense. The offense shouldn't "start" with the run, it should use the run to keep defenses honest.
The biggest thing that I see holding the team back in the near future is the inability to let go of that run-first mentality. They'll be successful either way with Luck, but they won't reach their full potential unless Luck reaches his.
Prediction: Drafting a Receiver Early
This hasn't happened yet, but my biggest fear in this draft is that the Colts will pass up on some extraordinary receiving talent to fill a different hole. This draft is loaded with receiving talent; starting talent could be found even late in the second or third round.
With the Colts still needing a long-term replacement for Reggie Wayne, there are multiple options that could be had early in the draft.
No team should ever pigeon-hole one position for the draft. That's how reaching, and bad drafting, happens. But there projects to be some very good talent available late at wide receiver, and if there is, the Colts would be tempting fate by passing it up.