QB Matt Hasselbeck, FB Stanley Havili, WR Darrius Heyward-bey, OT Gosder Cherilus, G Donald Thomas, DE/DT Ricky Jean-Francois, NT Aubrayo Franklin, DE/OLB Erik Walden, ILB Kelvin Sheppard, CB Greg TOler, S LaRon Landry.
Early Draft Picks:
DE/OLB Bjoern Werner, G Hugh Thornton, C Khaled Holmes, NT Montori Hughes. Colts Rookie Forecast Offseason Losses:
QB Drew Stanton, WR Donnie Avery, WR Austin Collie, OT Winston Justice, G Seth Olsen, C A.Q. Shipley, DE Clifton Geathers, DT Antonio Johnson, DE/OLB Dwight Freeney, DE/OLB Jerry Hughes, ILB Moise Fokou, CB Jerraud Powers, S Tom Zbikowski.
2013 Indianapolis Colts Offense:
Moving on from Peyton Manning was an extremely difficult choice for owner Jim Irsay. He wouldn't have done it if there wasn't a sure-fire franchise quarterback available in the 2012 NFL Draft. Though he was overshadowed by Robert Griffin at times, Andrew Luck lived up to the hype. The turnovers were high - 18 interceptions and five lost fumbles - but he made up for it with 28 touchdowns (23 passing, five rushing) and clutch fourth-quarter comebacks. Luck finished his rookie campaign with 4,374 yards, though his completion percentage of 54.1 definitely needs to improve.
Luck will progress as long as his supporting cast improves as well. That's bound to happen because three of the players he relied upon heavily - wideout T.Y. Hilton and tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener - were all rookies in 2012. Hilton caught 50 balls for 861 yards and seven touchdowns in his first NFL campaign despite not doing anything in his first two weeks. He's a speedy receiver who will continue to open things up underneath for the two tight ends. Allen was the better of the two last season - he's a tremendous blocker in addition to being a solid pass-catcher - but there's reason to believe that Fleener will see the greatest progression, given that new offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton served in the same role at Stanford.
Of course, the Colts' receiving corps can't be discussed without mentioning Reggie Wayne. The veteran wideout had numerous heroic efforts in 2012, including a 13-catch, 212-yard performance the week after it was announced head coach Chuck Pagano was battling Leukemia. Wayne finished the year with 106 receptions, 1,355 yards and five scores. Unfortunately, he'll turn 35 in November, so he is in for some serious regression in the near future.
The running game isn't as much of a question mark. Vick Ballard was expected to be the lead back, just as he was toward the end of the season. Ballard's overall numbers were mediocre (814 rushing yards, 2 TDs, 3.9 YPC), but he averaged 4.5 yards per carry or better in five of his final eight contests, which included a 22-attempt, 91-yard outing against eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore in a playoff loss. However, Ahmad Bradshaw was signed to be the No. 1 back. He'll be especially helpful on third downs.
The most prominent area of uncertainty on Indianapolis' offense looks to be the line. Right tackle Gosder Cherilus was added this offseason to displace the injury-prone Winston Justice. Cherilus had a solid 2012 campaign, but he's been very inconsistent throughout his disappointing NFL career. The two guard spots are also big problem areas. Donald Thomas, also acquired this offseason, has just eight career starts. He played well in New England last season, but there have been many Patriot players who have left that team and struggled elsewhere. The other guard, Mike McGlynn, is one of the worst starting blockers in the NFL. The coaching staff will be hoping that third-round rookie Hugh Thornton can win the right guard job.
Another rookie who may start is fourth-rounder Khaled Holmes. He'll be competing with Samson Satele at center, who's not very good. The best player up front is left tackle Anthony Castonzo. The 2011 first-round selection surrendered nine sacks this past season, but only three after Week 8.
2013 Indianapolis Colts Defense:
The fact that Andrew Luck led the Colts to an 11-5 record is pretty amazing considering how poor the defense was at times. The "stop" unit couldn't handle the rush, struggled to get to the quarterback and allowed more than 24 points per game. The front office tried to make a number of moves this offseason to upgrade this side of the ball, but Indianapolis may not see any sort of improvements because it overpaid for pedestrian players.
The most glaring error was giving Erik Walden four years, $16 million. Walden was so bad in Green Bay that Packer fans wanted him cut. He applies zero pressure on the quarterback and will likely be a backup behind Robert Mathis and Bjoern Werner. Mathis turned 32 this offseason, but still got the job done in 2012, collecting eight sacks despite playing the 3-4 for the first time in his career. And speaking of transitioning to a new scheme, Werner may have some trouble in the Colts' alignment. Werner should have been a left end in a 4-3, so it was a bit perplexing that Indianapolis decided to draft him in the first round.
Two free agents were added on the defensive line: Aubrayo Franklin and Ricky Jean-Francois. Franklin was a cheap addition, but that's because he didn't see the field much in 12 games with the Chargers last year. He was still decent at stopping the run, but at 33, his best days are way behind him. He'll start until either Josh Chapman or Montori Hughes (both mid-round selections in each of the previous two drafts) are ready. Jean-Francois was more expensive, commanding a 4-year, $22 million deal - an absurd amount, considering that he was just a rotational player on San Francisco's defensive line. Jean-Francois and Cory Redding will be the two ends up front for the Colts; Redding was bothered by various injuries all year and consequently didn't do much.
Indianapolis likely won't generate much pressure on the quarterback, which will put lots of stress on a secondary that includes two more free-agent additions. Cornerback Greg Toler and safety LaRon Landry were brought over from the Cardinals and Jets, respectively. Toler, who signed a 3-year, $15 million contract, is just a decent, but very injury-prone reserve corner. He'll be asked to start, as will Landry, who performed well for the Jets in 2012. However, like Toler, Landry is constantly hobbled.
The star in the secondary is cornerback Vontae Davis, who was acquired for a second-round pick last spring. Davis was heavily penalized (eight infractions), but he made up for it with great coverage most of the time. Safety Antoine Bethea is also a decent player. He's entering his contract season as a 29-year-old.
One new player who wasn't obtained via free agency was inside linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, who was acquired in a trade with Buffalo for bust pass-rusher Jerry Hughes. He'll play behind Jerrell Freeman and Pat Angerer. Freeman was a pleasant surprise last season, performing well on all three downs despite being out of the league for four years. Angerer, meanwhile, didn't have much of a chance; he broke his foot during the preseason. He tried to come back late in the 2012 campaign, but was pretty ineffective.
2013 Indianapolis Colts Schedule and Intangibles:
It's too early to tell if Andrew Luck will develop the sort of strong, dome, homefield advantage that Matt Ryan has enjoyed in Atlanta, but it looks as though that'll be the case. The Colts were 7-1 as hosts in 2012. Strangely, their sole loss at home was to the Jaguars.
Adam Vinatieri is still getting the job done. He was 26-of-33 in 2012, which includes 9-of-10 from 40-49 and 4-of-7 from 50-plus. He's turning 41 right after Christmas, however, so a sharp decline is bound to happen sooner or later.
Punter Pat McAfee is pretty mediocre. He was in the middle of the pack both in terms of net average and attempts placed inside the 20.
The Colts aren't very good at stopping returns, but they made up for it by scoring twice in 2012. T.Y. Hilton and Deji Karim each found the end zone.
Indianapolis has a pretty balanced schedule, with three of its first four opponents being Oakland, Miami (both at home) and Jacksonville. However, the Colts have six battles against teams that made the playoffs in 2012 (49ers, Seahawks, Broncos, Bengals, Texans twice).
2013 Indianapolis Colts Rookies:
Go here for the Colts Rookie Forecast, a page with predictions like which rookie will bust and which rookie will become a solid starter.
2013 Indianapolis Colts Positional Rankings (1-5 stars):
2013 Indianapolis Colts Analysis: Many expect the Colts to regress this season because they were really lucky at times last year, pulling victories out of nowhere and riding the Chuck Pagano-related wave. However, Andrew Luck could just as easily take a huge step forward and lead his team to the playoffs again. Luck doesn't have the talent to take Indianapolis deep into the playoffs just yet, but the team will definitely contend for a postseason spot.
Please note that the overall grade is not an average of all the individual grades. Other things are taken into account like team needs and goals.
Goals Entering the 2013 NFL Draft: Giving Andrew Luck some protection and weapons to work with is definitely a priority. Fixing the front seven is something the Colts need to do as well. With a decent amount of needs, Indianapolis can probably take the top player available each time.
2013 NFL Draft Accomplishments: The Colts completed all of the goals that were required of them in the 2013 NFL Draft, but they made some odd choices while filling their needs.
It started in the first round with Bjoern Werner. The Florida State product was regarded as a pure 4-3 left end, so it'll be interesting to see how he transitions into the 3-4. Remember that Indianapolis let Dwight Freeney walk because he struggled in his move from the 4-3 to the 3-4, so I don't know why the front office believes Werner will be more successful in his attempt to do so.
As for bolstering Andrew Luck's protection, I'm fine with the selection of Hugh Thornton, but the Khaled Holmes pick is puzzling. Holmes was barely functional last season, and many thought he'd go undrafted. Picking him early on Day 3 was very questionable.
I had no issues with any of Indianapolis' other choices. They could have been better, but also could have been worse. That pretty much sums up the Colts' draft class as a whole.
2013 NFL Draft Individual Grades:
24. Bjoern Werner, DE/OLB, Florida State: C+ Grade
Many see Bjoern Werner as a 4-3 left end, but the Colts apparently don't agree with that. I have to wonder about this scheme fit, but there's no denying that Bjoern Werner is one of the top players available. It'll be interesting to see how Werner fits into this defense.
86. Hugh Thornton, G, Illinois: B Grade
Solid pick. The Colts had a big need at guard because Mike McGlynn is a sieve. Hugh Thornton should have been taken in this range, so this selection deserves a good grade.
121. Khaled Holmes, C, USC: D Grade
Khaled Holmes probably shouldn't have been drafted. He couldn't block anyone last year, and he also has injury concerns. Plus, he doesn't fill a need. I don't like this pick at all.
139. Montori Hughes, NT, Tennessee-Martin: B Grade
I thought Montori Hughes should have gone a bit earlier than this. He'll challenge last year's fifth-round pick, Josh Chapman, to be the long-term starter at nose tackle. One of those guys should pan out.
192. John Boyett, S, Oregon: B Grade
John Boyett is a solid pick near the end of the sixth round. The Colts hadn't addressed the secondary yet, which is something they definitely had to do.
230. Kerwynn Williams, RB, Utah State: B Grade
Donald Brown won't be around much longer, so the Colts needed a running back to pair with Vick Ballard. Kerwynn Williams was pegged to go in this range.
254. Justice Cunningham, TE, South Carolina: B- Grade
Justice Hamilton Cunningham is yet another tight end on Indianapolis' roster. I'm not sure how he fits in, but this is the last pick of the 2013 NFL Draft, so it's not worth questioning the pick.
The Colts went from two to 11 wins, but their 2012 campaign was more than just a nine-win improvement you'll see occasionally. The team fought hard for head coach Chuck Pagano, who was diagnosed with Leukemia in early October. The Colts achieved several inspirational victories, culminating with a win over the rival Texans in Week 17. Though their inexperienced showed with multiple red-zone blunders at Baltimore in the opening round of the playoffs, this past season has to be considered a highly successful one for Indianapolis.
Colts sign RB Ahmad Bradshaw
Chargers sign DE Dwight Freeney
Ravens acquire C A.Q. Shipley from Colts for a conditional 2014 pick
Bills acquire DE/OLB Jerry Hughes from Colts for ILB Kelvin Sheppard
Colts sign WR Darrius Heyward-Bey
Colts acquire FB Stanley Havili from Eagles for DE Clifton Geathers
Bears sign S Tom Zbikowski
Colts sign NT Aubrayo Franklin
Vikings sign G Seth Olsen
Colts sign QB Matt Hasselbeck
Colts cut S Tom Zbikowski
Colts sign DE/DT Ricky Jean-Francois
Colts sign S LaRon Landry
Titans sign ILB Moise Fokou
Cardinals sign CB Jerraud Powers
Cardinals sign QB Drew Stanton
Chiefs sign WR Donnie Avery
Colts sign G Donald Thomas
Colts sign CB Greg Toler
Colts sign OT Gosder Cherilus
Colts sign DE/OLB Lawrence Sidbury
Colts sign DE/OLB Erik Walden
Colts re-sign CB Darius Butler
Colts re-sign DT Fili Moala
Colts franchise P Pat McAfee
Right Tackle: The Colts have to upgrade Andrew Luck's protection. Winston Justice, a free agent, was constantly on and off the field because of various injuries last year. Signed Gosder Cherilus
Cornerback: Indianapolis has multiple cornerbacks set to hit free agency. All of them struggled across from Vontae Davis. Signed Greg Toler; re-signed Darius Butler
Nose Tackle: Antonio Johnson's contract is up, but he was playing out of position anyway. Indianapolis will have to consider Johnathan Jenkins at No. 24 overall this April. Signed Aubrayo Franklin; drafted Montori Hughes
Rush Linebacker: Dwight Freeney will be hitting the free-agent market, but he didn't exactly transition comfortably into the 3-4. Jerry Hughes, meanwhile, has yet to prove that he's nothing more than a marginal talent. Luckily, this upcoming draft class is deep at the rush linebacker position. Drafted Bjoern Werner; signed Erik Walden and Lawrence Sidbury
Two Guards: Here's more help up front. Starting guards Mike McGlynn and Jeff Linkenbach were both brutal last year. Signed Donald Thomas; tendered Jeff Linkenbach; drafted Hugh Thornton
Defensive End: Indianapolis has to make another upgrade on its defensive line. Signed Ricky Jean-Francois; re-signed Fili Moala
Free Safety: Tom Zbikowski isn't very good. Joe Lefeged did OK in relief late in the year, but I'm not sure he has what it takes to be a starter. Signed LaRon Landry
Wide Receiver: Donnie Avery is a free agent, but the Colts already needed a more reliable tertiary receiver to complement Reggie Wayne and TY Hilton. Signed Darrius Heyward-Bey
Running Back: Vick Ballard ran pretty well to close out the season, but some competition and depth should still be added at the position. Signed Ahmad Bradshaw
Punter: Pat McAfee is a free agent. Franchised Pat McAfee
2013 NFL Free Agent Signings:
LaRon Landry, S, Jets. Age: 28. Signed with Colts (4 years)
No one wanted LaRon Landry last offseason. He was considered an injury waiting to happen. Well, he proved everyone wrong with a solid 2012 campaign. He should still be considered fragile, but he has definitely earned himself a nice contract.
Ahmad Bradshaw, RB, Giants. Age: 27. Signed with Colts (1 year)
It seems like Ahmad Bradshaw has been around forever, but he'll be just 27 in March. Bradshaw has averaged at least 4.5 yards per carry in all but one season in his career thus far. He's also terrific on third downs as a receiver and pass-protector. The one negative is his durability; he always seems to be bothered by a foot injury. He's had so many surgeries on his feet that he may not be able to hold up much longer.
Donald Thomas, G, Patriots. Age: 27. Signed with Colts
Donald Thomas didn't get to play very much behind Logan Mankins and Dan Connolly, but when he did, he definitely made the most of it. He could be a starter on many teams.
Greg Toler, CB, Cardinals. Age: 28. Signed with Colts
Greg Toler is a solid reserve cornerback who can start occasionally without killing a team. He played well at the end of the 2012 season.
Gosder Cherilus, OT, Lions. Age: 29. Signed with Colts
One of Matt Millen's busts, Gosder Cherilus is actually coming off one of his better seasons, though that still involved approaching double-digit penalties. Cherilus was OK as a blocker.
Ricky Jean-Francois, DE/DT, 49ers. Age: 26. Signed with Colts (4 years, $22 million)
Ricky Jean-Francois handled himself well when inserted into the lineup in the wake of Justin Smith's injury. He's not much of a pass-rusher, but he contained the run well.
Aubrayo Franklin, NT, Chargers. Age: 33. Signed with Colts
Aubrayo Franklin will be 33 in August, but he can still get the job done as a run-stuffer.
Darrius Heyward-Bey, WR, Raiders. Age: 26. Signed with Colts (1 year)
Darrius Heyward-Bey caught 64 balls for 975 yards in 2011, but he's not a very good receiver. He has terrible hands and run awful routes. He does have upside though with his size and speed, so maybe some great coaching could get the most out of him.
Matt Hasselbeck, QB, Titans. Age: 38. Signed with Colts (2 years)
Matt Hasselbeck's days as a starter are long gone, but he proved that he can still be a very capable backup. He threw seven touchdowns to five interceptions in eight games last season.
Erik Walden, DE/OLB, Packers. Age: 28. -- Signed with Colts
Lawrence Sidbury, DE, Falcons. Age: 27. -- Signed with Colts
Indianapolis Colts Free Agents:
Salary Cap: TBA.
Dwight Freeney, DE, Colts. Age: 33. Signed with Chargers
Dwight Freeney didn't have a good 2012 campaign because he was bothered by an ankle injury and had to transition into a 3-4 for the first time in his career. He should be better on a team with a 4-3 defense next year.
Pat McAfee, P, Colts. Age: 26. Franchised by Colts
Pat McAfee ranked in the middle of the pack this season in terms of net punting.
Jerraud Powers, CB, Colts. Age: 26. Signed with Cardinals
Jerraud Powers is young and has potential, but he's inconsistent and injury-prone. He hasn't played more than 12 games in any season.
Winston Justice, OT, Colts. Age: 28.
Winston Justice surprisingly was a decent blocker for the Colts at times this past season, but he was constantly in and out of the lineup because of various injuries.
Darius Butler, CB, Colts. Age: 27. -- Re-signed with Colts
Tom Zbikowski, S, Colts. Age: 28. -- Signed with Bears (1 year)
Antonio Johnson, DT, Colts. Age: 28.
Donnie Avery, WR, Colts. Age: 29. -- Signed with Chiefs
Jeff Linkenbach (RFA), G, Colts. Age: 26. -- Tendered by Colts (original)
Moise Fokou, ILB, Colts. Age: 28. -- Signed with Titans