Colts to pick No. 18 in draft; opponents set for 2016

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Jan. 4, 2016) – While everyone digests and debates the Indianapolis Colts’ season of unfulfilled promise, it’s wise to keep one thing in mind: time marches on.

The 2016 season will be here before you know it.

With that in mind, here are a few items to store away for future use:

The April 28-30 NFL draft: The Colts’ 8-8 record brings the 18th overall pick. Despite general manager Ryan Grigson’s wheelin’ and dealin’ ways, they have their full allotment of seven picks.

If anyone in the Colts’ scouting department is paying attention, the team’s primary needs are to – finally – fix the offensive line and find a legitimate pass rusher. A young running back wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

The schedule: Visiting Lucas Oil Stadium next season are AFC South rivals Houston, Tennessee and Jacksonville along with Kansas City, San Diego, Chicago, Detroit and Pittsburgh. Away games are against the AFC South, Denver, Oakland, Green Bay, Minnesota and the New York Jets.

The dates and kickoff times will be announced by the league in April, but the Colts know they’ll meet Jacksonville Oct. 2 in London.

Personnel: We’re expecting significant roster moves. That in mind, prominent unrestricted free agents include placekicker Adam Vinatieri, linebacker Jerrell Freeman, tight ends Coby Fleener and Dwayne Allen, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and cornerback Greg Toler.

The team also might look to rid itself of a few veterans under contract for performance/salary cap reasons. Keep an eye on wide receiver Andre Johnson and linebackers Trent Cole and Bjoern Werner.

Big payday for Luck: Owner Jim Irsay’s No. 1 objective in the offseason is making Andrew Luck the NFL’s highest-paid player. That will come in the form of a multi-year contract worth at least $20 million per season. Luck is under contract for 2016 with a base salary of $16.155 million, but it’s in the best interest of everybody to wrap him up for the long term.

Without a new contract, Luck faces the prospect of being hit with the franchise tag for the 2017 season.

You can follow Mike Chappell on Twitter at @mchappell51

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