INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (January 6, 2016) – We’ve moved into a time of accountability as the Indianapolis Colts sift through their recent 8-8 handiwork.
Owner Jim Irsay decided continuity at the top was warranted, so Coach Chuck Pagano and General Manager Ryan Grigson were given extensions that tie them to the team through 2019.
Elsewhere? Nervous times, and it’s only the beginning.
Already, a handful of assistant coaches – most notably defensive coordinator Greg Manusky – have been fired, according to NFL Network. More might follow.
The reshaping of the roster figures to be next, and Irsay made it clear getting younger is a priority.
The Colts have more than a dozen players whose contracts expire March 9, the start of the new league year. Pagano and Grigson must determine which are worth attempting to re-sign, and which have played their final game for the franchise.
Grigson has turned down repeated requests to discuss his roster and other issues, so we’ll offer some unsolicited advice regarding a few of the more prominent free agents-to-be:
PK Adam Vinatieri: The easiest call. Bring him back with a two-year contract in the $5-6 million range. He’s the NFL’s oldest player at 43, but has anybody detected any slippage? Neither have we. The last two seasons he’s a league-best 55-of-58 (.948), including 7-of-8 on field-goal attempts of at least 50 yards.
QB Matt Hasselbeck: One of the toughest calls. First, does a 40-year-old who put his body through the ringer in this, his 17th season, want to do it again? He’s given us the impression the fire still burns in his belly, but also indicated he’ll take time before making a decision. But do the Colts want him back even though Hasselbeck kept their season afloat with a 5-3 record as Andrew Luck dealt with shoulder and kidney injuries? They might want a younger backup in ’16. Josh Freeman and Ryan Lindley are under contract for ’16, so look for them to challenge for that No. 2 spot.
TE Coby Fleener: We’ve always believed the Colts would retain either Fleener or Dwayne Allen, but not both. We haven’t changed our mind. Fleener lacks Allen’s blocking prowess and seldom breaks tackles for extra yardage after a catch, but the 6-6, 251-pounder is a legitimate matchup headache. Exhibit A: his 57-yard touchdown against the Titans where he beat safety Michael Griffin on a deep post. If you need a statistical comparison to validate Fleener, consider how his first four seasons stack up with Dallas Clark’s. Fleener has 183 receptions, 2,154 yards and 17 touchdowns. Clark had 121 receptions, 1,618 yards and 14 TDs.
TE Dwayne Allen: It seems there’s a better chance for Fleener to return, and that might be Allen’s preference as well. He might believe a change of scenery will result in an expanded role in the offense. We believe he’d look great in an Arizona Cardinals uniform and be better used by Bruce Arians. In ’15, shoddy play by the offense line resulted in Allen being used more as a blocker than a receiving option. He was targeted just 29 times, and Allen was surprised it was that many. Also, he’s had issues staying on the field and finished the season on injured reserve with a calf issue.
LB Jerrell Freeman: This one’s dicey. He flashed his promise against the Titans by returning an interception for a touchdown and added two sacks and two tackles for loss. Teams don’t mind paying market value for an inside linebacker if he makes plays that make a difference. Considering Freeman is paired inside with 32-year-old D’Qwell Jackson, the Colts probably will attempt to retain him. If the price is right.
CB Greg Toler: Another easy decision. Adios, Greg. He’s been too inconsistent and dealt with too many injuries. He’s missed 14 of a possible 48 regular-season games.
S Dwight Lowery: He was a great short-term fix after signing a one-year, $870,000 contract in April. And he’s worth bringing back. Lowery was one of five defensive players to start all 16 games and finished with four interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown.
RB Ahmad Bradshaw: He’s one of our favorites – good quote and a beast on the field – but enough is enough. For a third consecutive year, Bradshaw suffered a season-ending injury, this time with a broken wrist. The team needs to find a younger, more durable backup for Frank Gore.
TE Jack Doyle: We all laughed when Pagano said last year a team can’t have enough Jack Doyles on its team. He was exaggerating – of course you can – but he was making a point. Doyle does the dirty work, whether it’s lining up as a blocking tight end or at fullback, or being on most of the special teams units. The former Cathedral H.S. standout is a keeper.
The rest: G Lance Louis, DL Billy Winn, S Colt Anderson, RB Boom Herron, LB Andy Studebaker, QB Charlie Whitehurst, S Akeem Davis.