Indianapolis Colts 2015 NFL Off-Season Preview

Positions of Need

Running Back

The Colts thought they were set at running back when they traded a 2014 1st round pick for Trent Richardson, who went 3rd overall in 2012. That pick ended up being 26th overall and you could argue the Colts were buying low on Richardson at the time, but it turns out Cleveland sold them a dud. Richardson has rushed for 977 yards and 6 touchdowns on 316 carries (3.09 YPC) in his 2 years with the Colts. He also has had issues with the coaching staff, which got him suspended for their playoff game against New England and the first week of next season. The Colts will try to get out of his fully guaranteed contract for 2015, but even if they don’t, I expect them to just let him go and eat the money. They don’t see Richardson as being worth their 53 man roster. Ahmad Bradshaw led the Colts in total yards per game by a running back last year and was a fantastic overall player. He rushed for 425 yards and 2 touchdowns on 90 carries (4.72 YPC) and added 38 catches for 300 yards and 6 more touchdowns through the air. However, he went down for the season with a season ending injury once again. Bradshaw has had injury problems his whole career, missing 25 games in the last 4 seasons combined. He’s also a free agent going into his age 29 season. They can’t trust he’ll be their lead back again 2015. Boom Herron rushed for 4.50 YPC on 78 regular season carries, but saw that figure dip to 3.78 YPC on 45 post-season carries. He also fumbled 4 times on 166 touches in the regular and post-season combined. He’s best as a complementary #2 back behind another back they add this off-season. They’ve been linked to Frank Gore, DeMarco Murray, and a reunion with Ahmad Bradshaw. It’s also a deep running back draft.

Center

AQ Shipley began the season as the starting center and, even though Pro Football Focus gave him positive marks, he was benched for undrafted rookie Jonotthan Harrison. Shipley is expected to be non-tendered as a restricted free agent this off-season. Harrison played about as you’d expect from an undrafted rookie, grading out 35th out of 41 eligible. Khaled Holmes was drafted in the 4th round in 2013 to be the center of the future, but he’s struggled on 193 snaps thus far in his career. Help is needed at the position.

Guard

Jack Mewhort did a solid job as a rookie, grading out about average in 14 starts, 13 at left guard and one at right tackle. He should be locked in as the starter at left guard going into 2015. However, right guard is a huge hole. Lance Louis and Hugh Thornton split time there last season and, despite limited action, graded out 62nd and 48th respectively out of 78 eligible guards on Pro Football Focus. Louis has struggled throughout his career, never grading out above average in any season since entering the league in 2009, was out of the league entirely in 2013, and now is going into his age 30 season. Thornton, meanwhile, has shown nothing since the Colts drafted him in the 3rd round in 2013, struggling last year and grading out 69th out of 81 eligible on 889 snaps as a rookie. Neither one is a long-term starting option and the same is true of Donald Thomas, who has played 2 games over the last 2 seasons thanks to injury and could be a cap casualty this off-season. They need to find a long-term starter this off-season.

Outside Linebacker

Robert Mathis had a strong 2013 season, but he missed all of 2014 with a torn Achilles and he’ll be in his age 34 season in 2015. It’s very possible he’s near the end of the line. The Colts predictably didn’t get any pass rush in his absence, as Bjoern Werner was inconsistent in his 2nd season in the league, after being drafted in the first round in 2013, and Erik Walden also struggled. Both players graded out below average. Edge rush is a need. The connection between Chuck Pagano, former Ravens’ offensive coordinator, and Pernell McPhee, a top free agent edge rusher formerly of the Ravens, is obvious.

Cornerback

Vontae Davis and Greg Toler seem locked in as the Colts’ starting cornerbacks for 2015, even though the latter graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 99th ranked cornerback out of 108 eligible in 2014. However, they need to add depth at the position and competition for Toler as #3 cornerback Darius Butler is a free agent this off-season and might not be back. He’s graded out below average in each of the last 2 seasons, so maybe they should bring in an upgrade in his place.

Defensive End

Arthur Jones had a rough first year in Indianapolis, after signing a 5-year, 33 million dollar deal in free agency last off-season. Jones missed 7 games with injury and struggled when on the field, grading out 40th out of 47 eligible 3-4 defensive ends on just 371 snaps. He could bounce back in his 2nd season with the Colts in 2015, but Cory Redding, arguably their best defensive lineman, is a free agent going into his age 35 season this off-season. If he retires or leaves as a free agent, they’ll need to replenish depth. Adding more depth isn’t a bad idea either way.

Wide Receiver

TY Hilton is arguably one of the best receivers in the game and Donte Moncrief is a promising 2014 3rd round pick who will have a bigger role in his 2nd year in the league after flashing as a rookie, but the Colts need depth at the position. Hakeem Nicks and Reggie Wayne are both coming off of awful seasons in which they graded out 105th and 106th respectively out of 110 eligible wide receivers. Both are free agents and I don’t expect either one to be back. They’ve already said that they won’t be bringing Wayne back. That will leave them devoid of wide receivers with any sort of experience after Hilton.

Safety

La’Ron Landry was a starter for the Colts at safety going into last season, but he was suspended for 4 games due to performance enhancing drugs and didn’t regain his starting job upon return. He graded out slightly above average on 417 snaps, but he was below average on 799 snaps in the first year of his 4-year, 24 million dollar deal in 2013. He’s a cap casualty candidate, while Mike Adams and Sergio Brown, who finished the season as the starters, are both free agents this off-season, Adams going into his age 34 season. Depending on what happens at this position this off-season, this could be somewhere they need to add.

Offensive Tackle

Gosder Cherilus will be back in 2015 in the 3rd year of a 5-year, 34.5 million dollar deal he signed two off-seasons ago. The Colts would take a 1.8 million dollar cap hit by letting him go. However, Cherilus graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 70th ranked offensive tackle out of 84 eligible on the right side this season and finished the season on IR with a groin and shoulder injury and had off-season knee surgery. Cherilus is going into his age 31 season and the Colts need competition for the injury prone player who struggled in 2014.

Key Free Agents

S Mike Adams

Mike Adams has been in the league for 11 years, since 2004, but last season was arguably the best of his career, as he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 7th ranked safety and made the first Pro-Bowl of his career. This is the same guy whose career looked like it could have been over until the Colts signed him in June of last off-season. He’s going into his age 34 season and anyone who signs him this off-season can’t expect him to repeat the best season of his career again, but he was a solid starter in 2011, 2012, and 2013, grading out above average in 2011 and 2012 and only slightly below average in 2013. He should still be considered a starting caliber safety for 2015. There’s reportedly a lot of mutual interest between Adams and the Colts in a reunion.

RB Ahmad Bradshaw

Bradshaw’s 4.60 career YPC is very impressive and he’s also very useful on passing downs, both as a pass catcher and a pass blocker. However, injuries have been a serious problem for him. He’s always dealt with nagging injuries throughout his career, only playing all 16 games once in 8 seasons, but over the past 4 seasons they’ve especially cost him, as he’s missed 25 games combined in that time period. Last season, he was off to a great start to his season, rushing for 425 yards and 2 touchdowns on 90 carries (4.72 YPC) and added 38 catches for 300 yards and 6 more touchdowns through the air. However, he broke his ankle and missed the final 6 games of the season. Despite just 391 snaps, he was Pro Football Focus’ 11th ranked running back overall. Going into his age 29 season, Bradshaw is a serious injury risk, but he could be a solid buy low candidate on a buyer’s market for running backs.

DE Cory Redding

Redding was arguably the best defensive lineman the Colts had last season, at least he was in terms of Pro Football Focus grade. He finished the season as their 18th ranked 3-4 defensive end, struggling against the run (just like the rest of the front 7), but getting good pass rush. The problem is he’s going into his age 35 season so it’s hard to trust him going forward. The 12-year veteran also had a strong season in 2013, grading out 11th at his position, but he ranked 27th out of 34 eligible in 2012 and could regress to that level in 2015 given his age. Still, he’s graded out above average in 3 of the last 4 seasons and he won’t break anyone’s bank so he’ll be a solid, cheap signing for a team with a need on the defensive line. There’s mutual interest between him and the Colts in a reunion. A reunion with his former team the Baltimore Ravens, who have a depth need on the defensive line, is another option.

S Sergio Brown

Sergio Brown was an undrafted free agent out of Notre Dame in 2010 and flashed on 94 snaps as a rookie with the Patriots. As a result he was given a starting job in 2011, but quickly lost it for poor performance and went on to play just 61 snaps over the next 2 seasons, both with Indianapolis. However, Brown got another chance at a starting job in 2014 when Laron Landry got suspended and made the most of it, playing well and keeping the job after Landry’s return. All in all, he made 8 starts and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 24th ranked safety. He might get some looks as a starter on the open market this off-season, but any team that signs him needs to remember his history prior to 2014 isn’t great.

CB Darius Butler

Butler was a 2nd round bust of the Patriots in 2009 and bounced around from the Patriots to the Panthers to the Colts by 2012. Butler graded out below average in 2 of his first 3 seasons in the league, but had the best season of his career in 2012 with the Colts, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 31st ranked cornerback on 380 snaps, earning a 2-year deal worth 4 million that off-season. Butler remained inconsistent though, grading out below average in each of the last 2 seasons. Butler has never played more than 704 snaps in a season, averages 501 snaps a season, and has graded out below average in 4 of 6 seasons in the NFL. He’s a purely a depth cornerback and should come cheap this off-season.

WR Hakeem Nicks

Nicks is only going into his age 27 season, but he’s had a swift fall from grace thanks to leg injuries and will have a hard time finding work this off-season. Nicks, a 2009 1st round pick, looked like one of the best young receivers in the NFL from 2009-2011. He averaged 2.30 yards per route run in 2009 on 344 routes run, 2.32 yards per route run in 2010 on 453 routes run, and 2.08 yards per route run in 2011 on 572 routes run. However, those averages fell to 1.74 yards per route run on 398 routes run in 2012 and 1.70 yards per route run on 527 routes run in 2013. He was forced to settle for a 1-year, prove it deal with the Colts last off-season, worth 3.6 million, and he didn’t even come close to being worth that in easily the worst season of his career. Nicks was Pro Football Focus’ 105th ranked wide receiver out of 110 eligible. He caught 38 passes for 405 yards and 4 touchdowns on 68 attempts (55.9%) and 425 routes run (0.95 yards per route run). He was benched down the stretch for rookie Donte Moncrief and saw just 17 snaps in the AFC Championship. Injuries have completely sapped his explosiveness. He’ll have to settle for another one-year deal this off-season and won’t come close to getting 3.6 million.

WR Reggie Wayne

Reggie Wayne has had a fantastic career could be bound for the Hall-of-Fame, but when he suffered a torn ACL in the middle of his age 35 season in 2013, it was a death sentence for his career. Even the average top-20 receiver (in terms of yardage all-time) has his last 1000 yard season at age 34-35, averages 48 catches for 594 yards and 3 touchdowns for 2 more seasons after age 34-35, and is done playing by age 36-37. It looks like Wayne’s last 1000 yard season will be 2012, looking back at his career. His 2013 and 2014 seasons were the two lowest yardage totals of his career since 2003. It was understandable in 2013, as he only played 7 games, but in 2014 he played 13 and just did not even resemble himself. He caught 64 passes for 779 yards and 2 touchdowns on 110 attempts (58.2%) and 570 routes run (1.37 yards per route run) and graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 106th ranked wide receiver out of 110 eligible. Going into his age 37 season, Wayne has already been told by the Colts that he will not be back in 2015. He reportedly wants to keep playing, but the call might never come.

Cap Casualty Candidates

RB Trent Richardson

Trent Richardson’s tenure with the Colts went about as bad as it could have. After they acquired him mid-season in 2013 for what turned out to be the 26th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, Richardson rushed for 977 yards and 6 touchdowns on 316 carries (3.09 YPC) in his 2 years with the Colts. He also has had issues with the coaching staff, which got him suspended for their playoff game against New England and the first week of next season. The Colts will try to get out of his fully guaranteed contract for 2015, but even if they don’t, I expect them to just let him go and eat the money. They don’t see Richardson as being worth their 53 man roster.

OLB Shaun Phillips

The Titans signed Phillips to a 2-year, 4.5 million dollar deal last off-season, but ended up waiving him mid-season after he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 43rd ranked 3-4 outside linebacker out of 46 eligible on 362 snaps. No one played fewer snaps and graded out worse at his position. The Colts claimed him on waivers, but he played 98 nondescript snaps for the Colts. He’s not worth the 2.65 million non-guaranteed he’s owed next season and the Colts can save that entire amount on the cap by letting him go.

G Donald Thomas

The Colts signed Thomas to a 4-year, 14 million dollar deal two off-seasons ago, which looked like a good idea at the time as Thomas graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 21st ranked guard in 2012 in 7 starts with the Patriots and looked like a budding starter. However, Thomas played just 72 snaps in 2 seasons with the Colts, missing 30 games with injury. The Colts can save 3.25 million on the cap and 3.5 million in cash this off-season by letting him go.

S LaRon Landry

The Colts signed Landry to a 4-year, 24 million dollar deal two off-season, but Landry graded out below average in 2013 on 799 snaps (he missed 4 games with injury). He entered 2014 as the starter, but lost his starting job after he got suspended for 4 games for performance enhancing drugs. He overall graded out above average on 417 snaps in 2014 and Mike Adams and Sergio Brown, who ended the season as the starters, are both free agents, and the Colts aren’t in dire need of cap space, but they could still cut Landry to save 2.25 million in cap space and 4 million in cash this off-season. He’ll also be off their cap entirely next off-season if they do that, which could help them extend Andrew Luck long-term. He’s going into his age 31 season in 2015 anyway.

OLB Robert Mathis

Robert Mathis graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd ranked 3-4 outside linebacker in 2013, as he led the NFL in sacks with 19, but he missed all of 2014 with a torn Achilles and is now going into his age 34 season. The Colts gave him a 1-year, 4 million dollar extension mid-season to keep him from being a free agent this off-season, but it was really more of an option for them because it didn’t give him any guaranteed money. The Colts could cut Mathis this off-season and save 4 million in cash and cap space. They probably won’t do that, but he reportedly had a setback with his recovery (no surprise given his age) and there’s a chance they could pull the trigger at some point.

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