NFL DRAFT NEEDS: AFC SOUTH Texans | Jaguars | Titans OVERVIEW
The Colts' mission from now until Peyton Manning's retirement is simple: win the Super Bowl. The team will be contenders as long as Manning's at the helm, and anything less than a championship will be considered failure. Last season they fell just short of that goal, losing to the NFC Champion Saints in the title game, 31-17. After a runner-up finish, Team President Bill Polian is looking to get the Colts ready for another Super Bowl run.
Following the 2010 Super Bowl loss, Polian publicly ripped the offensive line. "Our offensive line, by our standards, did not have a good game," Polian said. "They were outplayed by the Saints' defensive line...Therein lies the result. It had nothing to do with strategy or preparedness or toughness or effort." The offensive line was built to protect Manning and did a fantastic job of it in 2009 as they allowed league-lows with 13 sacks and 44 quarterback hits in the regular season. To put it into perspective, that's less than a sack per game. Offensive line coach Howard Mudd liked what got out of his front five, but he retired in the offseason.
Indy's rushing attack ranked dead-last as they could only muster 80.9 yards per game on the ground. For that reason, Polian's top priority this offseason is getting bigger up front. He already released starting left guard Ryan Lilja and signed two mammoths in Andy Alleman and Adam Terry. One area of concern the Colts could opt to address very early in the draft is left tackle. Charlie Johnson was the starter last season and his play was decent, but can be upgraded. He was tendered at the second-round level but has yet to sign his offer sheet. Tony Ugoh isn't the player the Colts were expecting when they drafted him in the second-round a few years back, but he could be in the mix for a starting job at tackle or guard. Elsewhere on the line, the team could use depth at guard and center. Mike Pollack was beaten out at right guard by Kyle DeVan, a former Arena League 2 player. Pollack, a second-round pick in 2008, hasn't lived up to his draft position yet. Jeff Saturday has been a great center for years, but he'll be 35 in June. Indy is very tight lipped about who they bring in for pre-draft visits, but chances are they will look to get bigger up front sooner rather than later by selecting the best available player. They may opt to grab a big tackle if one is still available, but expect the team to take a long, hard look at Florida center Maurkice Pouncey is he's still around at 31.
Switching to the defensive side of the ball, Indy needs depth on along their front four as well. Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis are two of the best pass-rushers in the league. However, Freeney has missed games with injuries over the past three seasons and there is little depth behind the two starters after Raheem Brock was released in the offseason. The Colts should grab another pass-rusher at some point in the draft.
The rest of the Colts' draft should be focused on adding depth. At linebacker, Phillip Wheeler stepped in for Tyjuan Hagler when he went down with a torn biceps and was decent. The Colts let Hagler and Freddy Keiaho walk in free agency, so they could look at add another linebacker. They also need to add a fourth cornerback behind Kevin Haden, Jerrod Powers and Jacob Lacey after letting go of Marlin Jackson, Tim Jennings and T.J. Rushing.
Polian and the Colts will have eight selections this week with choices coming in every round except for the sixth. They currently hold picks No. 31, 63, 94, 129, 162, 238, 240 and 246.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: LB Gary Brackett (re-signed for five-years at $33M), K Matt Stover (not re-signed)
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: WR Hank Baskett (not tendered), S Antoine Bethea (received first-round tender at 2.521M), S Melvin Bullitt (received second-round tender at 1.684M and signed), T Dan Federkeil (not tendered), FS Aaron Francisco (not tendered), LB Tyjuan Hagler (not tendered), CB Marlin Jackson (not tendered), CB Tim Jennings (not tendered), DT Antonio Johnson (received seond-round tender at $1.684M and signed), T Charlie Johnson (received second-round tender at $1.759), LB Freddy Keiaho (not tendered), DT Dan Muir (received second-round tender at $1.684M and signed), CB T.J. Rushing (not tendered)
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: T Michael Toudouze (not tendered)
PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: LB Gary Brackett, S Melvin Bullitt, DT Antonio Johnson, T Charlie Johnson, DT Dan Muir
PLAYERS ACQUIRED: G Andy Alleman, G Adam Terry
PLAYERS LOST: RB Chad Simpson, DE Raheem Brock, QB Jim Sorgi (signed with New York Giants), G Ryan Lilja (signed with Kansas City), WR Hank Baskett (signed with Philadelphia), T Dan Federkeil, CB Aaron Francisco (signed with Carolina), LB Tyjuan Hagler, CB Marlin Jackson (signed with Philadelphia), CB Tim Jennings (signed with Chicago), LB Freddy Keiaho, K Matt Stover, CB T.J. Rushing, T Michael Toudouze
LEFT TACKLE -- Starting left tackle Charlie Johnson has performed well but can be improved on. Tony Ugoh hasn't been able to hold on to a starting job after being selected in the second round a few years ago. Indy could look to upgrade on the left side very early.
INTERIOR OFFENSIVE LINE -- Starting left guard Ryan Lilja was released in the offseason and Kyle DeVan can be upgraded at the other guard spot. Jeff Saturday has been one of the league's better centers for some time but will turn 35 in June. The Colts want to get bigger along the interior and could address the need early if a player like Florida's Maurkice Pouncey, who can play center or guard, is still available when they pick in the first round.
DEFENSIVE END -- Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis form one of the best tandems of pass-rushers in the game. However, Raheem Brock was released in the offseason and there is very little depth behind the two starters. Indy needs to find a third defensive end that can get to the passer, especially considering Freeney's injury problems.
OUTSIDE LINEBACKER -- The only need here is for more depth. Phillip Wheeler was decent when he filled in for the injured Tyjuan Hagler, but Hagler and Freddy Keiaho were let go in free agency, leaving the Colts with little behind the starters.
CORNERBACK -- Like linebacker, Indy needs to find another solid reserve behind their first three corners. Kelvin Hayden and Jerraud Powers will be the starters and Jacob Lacey should be the nickel. But the team let three cornerbacks walk in free agency and needs to find a fourth.