While head coach Chuck Pagano was not just retained, but given a four-year extension this offseason (general manager Ryan Grigson was given a similarly surprising three-year extension as well in early January), his coaching staff did undergo significant turnover.
Out is defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, along with his safeties coach and secondary coach. Taking over the defense is Ted Monachino (Greg Williams is the new defensive backs coach).
Among the notable changes on the offensive side of the ball is former Dolphins head coach Joe Philbin added on as the offensive line coach and assistant to the head coach, while Brian Schottenheimer was hired as quarterbacks coach.
Gone is 2015 breakout ILB Jerrell Freeman, as well as tight end Coby Fleener. With so little action in free agency—outside of the addition of CB Patrick Robinson from the Chargers—the Colts in 2016 will be reliant on immediate help from the rookie class, in particular their first-round pick, center Ryan Kelly.
While the return of franchise QB Andrew Luck from injury should help (as long as he reverts to the form he showed prior to last season), with so little turnover on a roster that went 8-8 a year ago, it’s tough to envision significant improvement in 2016.
Below is a compilation of the Colts’ 2016 offseason transactions to date, including free-agency moves and draft selections.
Overall Grade: C
New Arrivals: CB Patrick Robinson (Chargers), WR Josh Boyce (Patriots), WR Brian Tyms (Patriots), WR Danny Anthrop, WR Marcus Leak, WR Mekale McKay, WR Chester Rogers, WR Mekale McKay, OT Kevin Graf, OG Isiah Cage, OG Adam Redmond, OG Jeremy Vujnovich, TE Darion Griswold, TE Michael Miller, QB Scott Tolzien (Packers), QB Stephen Morris, QB Josh Woodrum, RB Robert Turbin (Cowboys), RB Jordan Todman, RB Josh Ferguson, DE Delvon Simmons, DT Ricky Lumpkins, DT Kelcy Quarles, DT Sterling Bailey, OLB Ron Thompson, OLB Curt Maggitt, CB Tevin Mitchell, CB Daniel Davie, CB Chris Milton, CB Winston Rose, CB Darius White, CB Frankie Williams
Retentions: TE Dwayne Allen, K Adam Vinatieri, TE Jack Doyle
Departures: LB Jerrell Freeman (Bears), TE Coby Fleener (Saints), WR Andre Johnson (UFA), WR Griff Whalen (Dolphins), OC Khaled Holmes (UFA), OG Lance Louis (UFA), OG Todd Herremans (UFA), QB Matt Hasselbeck (retired), QB Charlie Whitehurst (UFA), QB Josh Freeman (UFA), QB Ryan Lindley (UFA), RB Ahmad Bradshaw (UFA), RB Dan Herron (UFA), RB Josh D. Robinson, RB Zurlon Tipton (UFA), DE Billy Winn (UFA), OLB Jonathan Newsome (UFA), OLB Bjoern Werner (Jaguars), S Dwight Lowery (Chargers), CB Greg Toler (Redskins), CB Josh Thomas (Cowboys), CB Sheldon Price, S Colt Anderson (Bills)
While he is the only key acquisition in Indianapolis through free agency this offseason, if Robinson can match last year’s output in San Diego, the Colts will have one of the top CB-tandems in the league. Robinson’s NFL QB rating of 74.0 on throws into his coverage was 13th-best in the league last season, and his 8.9 yards per catch allowed was tops in the NFL among CBs with at least 40 targets against.
There is also something to be said for addition-by-subtraction, as a number of failed draft picks and free-agent acquisitions from past years are no longer on the roster. This list is headlined by Andre Johnson (our 43rd-highest-graded receiver from 2015), Khaled Holmes (our 31st-ranked pass-blocker at center last year), Greg Toler (our 111th-graded CB last year) and former first-round pick OLB Bjoern Werner, who after ranking 38th and 41st on pass rushes during his first two seasons, only managed four total pressures in 2015, and was often a healthy scratch.
While jettisoning underperforming and aging veterans was a much-needed step towards rebuilding a disappointing roster, the Colts are now saddled with a number of razor-thin position groups. Donte Moncrief is the only receiver over 6-feet tall with more than 200 NFL snaps to his name, Scott Tolzien is now Luck’s understudy, and the defensive back-seven will likely ask two rookies outside of our top 200 prospects from this year’s draft to see significant playing time, possibly even as starters.
The decision to re-sign TE Dwayne Allen was somewhat surprising, considering that he has been little more than a tease after his promising rookie season. Since posting our top TE grade in 2012, Allen has struggled through a multitude of injuries, bottoming out as the fifth-lowest-graded run-blocker at the position last year. If he ever plays an entire year healthy, he has certainly shown flashes of being one of the most complete players at his position, but after three-straight years of disappointment, it’s difficult to continue to have high expectations for him.
Dwayne Allen’s career grades
*Allen played just 30 snaps in the 2013 season.
2016 NFL draft
- Round 1 (pick No. 18) Ryan Kelly, C, Alabama
- Round 2 (pick No. 57) (from Green Bay) T.J. Green, S, Clemson
- Round 3 (pick No. 82) Le’Raven Clark, OT, Texas Tech
- Round 4 (pick No. 116) Hassan Ridgeway, DT, Texas
- Round 4 (pick No. 125) (from Green Bay) Antonio Morrison, OLB, Florida
- Round 5 (pick No. 155) Joe Haeg, North Dakota State
- Round 7 (pick No. 239) Trevor Bates, OLB, Maine
- Round 7 (pick No. 248) (from Green Bay) Austin Blythe, C, Iowa
The draft began well for Indianapolis, as it filled one of the most glaring holes on the roster with the top-ranked center on our Colts' draft board, a player that should be a day-one starter. Things got weird in round two, however, as they reached badly for safety T.J. Green, a converted wide receiver that showed significantly better in postseason workouts than he ever did on the field at Clemson.
It remains to be seen whether (and when) third-round pick Le’Raven Clark will stay at tackle or transition inside to guard for the Colts, but in the fourth round, Indianapolis found tremendous value with Texas DT Hassan Ridgeway. He’ll contribute immediately as a pass-rusher, adding value to an already formidable defensive line, by far the deepest unit on the squad.
The Colts used their other fourth-round pick to select Florida linebacker Antonio Morrison, who is expected to compete for playing time at inside linebacker with Nate Irving and Sio Moore. Morrison is an active, athletic defender who left far too many plays on the field in Gainesville last year (his 18 missed tackles in 2015 were the third-most among drafted linebackers).
As is often the case around the NFL, the success of the Colts in 2016 will be heavily reliant on health and the development of youth. The WR corps will need 2015 first-round pick Phillip Dorsett to make a significant contribution, and there is little to be excited about behind Frank Gore, who played the third-most snaps at RB in 2015—and recently turned 33. This is likely to be (on paper) the best offensive line of Andrew Luck’s career, but injury to any of the five starters will mean dependence on a mid-to-late-round rookie or a veteran that has graded negatively in past seasons.
The defensive side of the ball looks to be more of the same, most notably in the back seven. The underwhelming trio of Irving, Moore, and Morrison fighting for one starting inside linebacker job means veteran D’Qwell Jackson must overcome his 35 missed tackles since coming to the Colts in 2014, and be a steadying force at the other inside spot. With Green, Mike Adams, and Clayton Geathers vying for the two safety spots, it’s paramount to the success of the secondary that CBs Robinson and Vontae Davis perform as they did in 2015.
The Colts are currently $16.1 million under the salary cap, a figure likely to be altered by Andrew Luck’s extension, which is expected to be finished before the start of the season. This being said, there are a number of free agents still available that could add significantly to the current roster. Once the new Luck deal is inked, the Colts would do well to sign a veteran safety like Donte Whitner or Antrel Rolle, and should also considering signing RB Joique Bell to lessen the burden on Gore.