NEPD Staff Writer CJ Sousa
Welcome to a new segment here at NEPD that will be running throughout the off-season. Throughout the elongated off-season process, I’m going to pick an opposing AFC or elite NFC team to highlight their off-season outlook, and how it affects New England. As for the first time since 2004 the New England Patriots are looking down on the rest of the league.
What better team to start with then the team the Patriots beat (killed, crushed, destroyed, emasculated, ect) in the conference championship, the Indianapolis Colts.
Let me start by saying this – Andrew Luck is a baller, point blank. In terms of ‘most important to his team’, I believe Luck is at the top of the list. His greatness hides so many flaws and holes on his team.
The Patriots were a solid rushing team this year, but certainly wasn’t one of the NFL’s best. They had a full house in the back field for sure. Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, Jonas Gray, Brandon Bolden (7 yards vs BAL) and LeGarrette Blount all lead the team in rushing for an individual game this season, playoffs included.
In games not vs the Indianapolis Colts, the Patriots had a rusher eclipse the 100 yard mark twice. Stevan Ridley did so both vs Minnesota and Cincinnati, good enough for a 2-17 effort.
In games vs the Indianapolis Colts, the Patriots were – You Betcha’ – 2-2 in rushers hitting the 100 yard mark. Jonas Gray of-course in his now in-famous 4 touchdown 200+ yard performance, and LeGarrette Blount running wild in the playoffs.
Sergio Brown – for crying out loud – started multiple games for the Colts defense this year. (Not really related to the run defense, but I couldn’t write an article about the Colts without bringing that fact to light).
My ‘The Colts would be 3-13 without Andrew Luck rant” isn’t over just yet.
Go ahead and watch their offensive line throughout the year. My goodness. They played admirably in Denver during the divisional round, yes, but for the most part this position grouping needs major improvement.
A position group that needs to improve even more so then the offensive line are the running backs. I will admit, I liked the Trent Richardson trade at the time. I figured the YPC average in Cleveland was associated with TRich just, you know, being a Cleveland Brown. However it is now clear, Richardson has been a bust leaving the running back position wide open in Indy.
Alright. I’ll pause “The Colts would be 3-13 without Andrew Luck rant” for now, and dive into their off-season outlook and how it could potentially affect the defending champs.
The Colts are expected to be big spenders this off-season. After all, they have 12 impending free agents and may look to only bring back 2 or 3. Mike Adams was arguably the defense’s MVP last season, but there are quite a bite of safeties on the open market including a certain former Rutgers star, but more on that later. Darius Butler could be back, along with Cory Redding. I would expect former New York Giants Hakeem Nicks and Ahmad Bradshaw to not be back in Indy for 2015, with Bradshaw having the better shot at staying put. Sergio Brown, Joe Reitz, Andy Studebaker, Colt Anderson, Josh Gordy and Fili Moala all will probably be looking for work elsewhere as well next year.
According to Over The Cap the Colts will have about $39M in cap space in 2015. When you look at the formula of immense cap space, multiple available roster spots, and a GM who will spend money faster then a teenage girl in a Forever 21, it is expected the Colts will be at the forefront of the Free Agency Mayhem. Let’s see where all of that cash can go.
As for what I can see, defensive line is the biggest need on the team. Where better to start this conversation then with arguably the biggest name on the market, Ndamukong Suh. Suh fits essentially any scheme, and can wreak havoc for an entire game. A complete no-brainer why a team would be interested in him, and I see Indy as real players in the Suh market due to the simple fact that they are one of the few contenders in the league who can actually afford him.
In a move that would make a huge impact on the defensive line as well would be adding former Carolina Panthers’ star defensive end Greg Hardy. Hardy, of course, has had his off the field issues. Yet he is still only 26 years old and most likely has a massive chip on his shoulder after only playing one game last year before being suspended.
If Suh or Hardy isn’t available, what about Terrance Pot Roast Knighton or even Suh’s Detroit teammate, C.J. Mosley to sure up the middle. A lower cost option who could prove big dividends, as Patriots fans know, could be Alan Branch.
As previously stated in my Landscape of the Patriots piece earlier in the off-season, I think Devin McCourty will be back in New England when the dust settles. That being said, teams will undoubtedly be able to outbid New England for McCourty, and one of those teams are the rival Colts. McCourty is easily the top safety on the open market. Particularly if the Colts decide to not bring back Mike Adams , I expect the Colts to empty the savings, mortgage the house, and sell their kids’ baseball card collection to try and attain the services of McCourty.
Running back, as previously mentioned, is a need area for the Colts. I feel pretty good about saying this : If DeMarco Murray isn’t wearing a ‘Star’ on his helmet next year in Dallas, there’s a good bet he will be in Indianapolis. Why? Perfect fit. Big flashy name for an owner that likes big and flashy things. Murray is great to-and-through the hole, and is a great run finisher. Something the Colts have lacked recently. Indianapolis has been aggressive at this position before, and I expect them to be at it again.
Some other names I would consider if I was in the front office in Indianapolis would be Mark Ingram, Frank Gore and DeAngelo Williams. Particularly, I think Gore would be a great low cost veteran option and would thrive with Andrew Luck.
It will be poor money spent on running backs if the Colts don’t go out and improve their offensive line, however. Dan Connolly could be a nice fit if he is not back in New England. I think Willie Colon could also be a nice piece to the puzzle to improve the front. The big name I would watch here from a Colts perspective is Bryan Bulaga, especially if the Colts strike out with the Suh, McCourty, and Murray’s of the world.
Lastly on offense, we have the wide receivers. Honestly, I don’t see this as a huge need even though others will animatedly disagree with me. Hakeem Nicks will be shown the door. Ultimately, I think one of the greatest receivers I’ve ever seen- Reggie Wayne – will not be back as well [Update: according to Adam Schefter, the Colts will not be resigning Reggie Wayne]. I really like the young duo the Colts have right now with T.Y. Hilton and Donte Moncrief. Moncrief may have come out of nowhere to some, but anybody that saw an Ole Miss game in the last few years couldn’t have been all that surprised by Moncrief’s success. I believe this 21 year old will build on his 32 catch season last year and explode onto the national stage in years to come. Also, former CFL star and son of legendary wide receiver Cris Carter, Duron Carter, was signed and could be a solid player in the coming years.
When you look at how deep this draft is at wide receiver, it doesn’t make much sense for me to throw big money at a receiver if your the Colts. If they did go the free agency route, Harry Douglas and Brian Hartline make some sense here.
I highlighted the Free Agency part first, because well..that comes first in the off-season process. It is so tough to predict draft needs in February and March because how Free Agency plays out will completely change the approach of many teams heading into draft day.
The Colts own the 29th pick in the 2015 NFL draft. I expect their big money to be consumed elsewhere, so offensive line must be on the agenda here, at least once in the first few rounds.
At pick 29, the Colts could be looking at a Cameron Erving, D.J. Humphries or T.J. Clemmings. Of course defensive line could also be the play, especially if a talent like Eddie Goldman falls down the board a bit. I expect this pick to be in the trenches, but it wouldn’t really be a Colts draft if an early round pick didn’t make you shake your head once or twice.
As mentioned above, running back is a big need for the Colts. This is a good draft to be in need of a running back. The middle rounds will be littered with quality guys who can come in and help right away. In the 3-4 round area, how solid of a pick would Jeremy Langford, David Cobb, or T.J. Yeldon be? Very solid. Cameron Artis-Payne and Mike Davis are also intriguing options here.
And I don’t think I need to remind people anymore, but I am still President and C.E.O. of the Josh Robinson fan club. T-shirts will be printed soon.
At wide receiver some nice mid-round options could include Phillip Dorsett, Justin Hardy, or Vince Mayle. There are so many talented pass catchers in this years class, so I think taking one in the middle rounds to compliment T.Y. , Moncrief, and Carter would be a solid option.
I expect the Colts to be an improved team next year, and will contend with Pittsburgh and Baltimore to be the greatest threat to the Patriots. The Colts have vast needs at the moment, but with that seemingly endless pot of gold in salary cap space the opportunities will arise to fill needs.
Patriots fans should really pay close attention to what the Colts do this year. If Devin McCourty isn’t re-signed, there would be a good chance he could end up in Indy. Granted, if the Colts win the Suh Sweepstakes, this probably becomes less possible.
I already mentioned Patriots’ free agents Alan Branch and Dan Connolly as nice potential fits, but what about Stevan Ridley? The man has something to prove, and won’t command any big time contract to say the least. He would fit in nicely with a vast set of attributes complimenting the passing game as well as a legitimate 1,000 yard rusher. Personally, I’m a fan of Ridley and think if he is fully recovered could be a productive back in the league for the next few years.
As you can see, the Colts will be a contender in the near future and may vulture some Patriots free agents in the process. The next segment of ‘Eyes on the Competition’ will highlight Rex Ryan’s new stomping grounds, the Buffalo Bills.