The Indianapolis Colts entered the 2017 NFL Free Agency period with a long list of needs. Newly appointed GM, Chris Ballard, was directly under the spotlight with fans begging for big name players such as Dontari Poe or Dont’a Hightower. Ballard decided to go a different route by signing a multitude of players for much less money.
Jeff Locke – Punter
The Colts first move of free agency was replacing superstar punter Pat McAfee. Locke signed a two year $3.75 million contract which is a typical deal for an NFL punter. Filling McAfee’s shoes in the Indianapolis area is a near impossible feat, but Locke is an extremely talented punter. He currently holds the Minnesota Vikings record for highest career net punt average with 38.9 yards. Locke was also a 5th round pick in the NFL draft, making him the Vikings’ highest ever pick for a punter.
John Simon – OLB
The next move for the Colts was signing John Simon from the division rival, Houston Texans. Simon was a 4th round pick from Ohio State University. His three year $13.5 million deal is considered to be one of the best bargains in this years free agency. Known as a run stopper in the beginning of his career, Simon emerged as a pass rusher last season with 3.5 sacks in only 11 games.
Jabaal Sheard – OLB
The most notable move by the Colts so far this offseason was signing Jabaal Sheard. He signed a three year deal for $25.5 million making him the Colts highest paid 2017 free agent signee. Sheard won a Super Bowl with the Patriots last year giving the team much needed experience on the defensive side of the ball. With 36 career sacks and 8 forced fumble in the past 2 seasons, he gives the Colts a playmaker with superstar potential. Potentially the best part about signing Sheard is that he is only 27 years old. He could be a standout player for the Colts for years to come.
Barkevious Mingo – OLB
Barkevious Mingo signed with the Colts for one year $2 million and immediately emerged as the best name on the Colts roster. I can only dream that the league let him put Barkevious on his jersey instead of Mingo. Many experts describe Mingo as an athletic freak which is why he was drafted 6th overall in the 2011 draft. He hasn’t quite lived up to that draft spot, but that doesn’t mean won’t reach his ceiling. The Colts only signed him for one year making him a low risk, high reward type of player. On a rebounding Colts defense, Mingo will be joined by his old Super Bowl winning teammate: Jabaal Sheard.
Margus Hunt – DE
The Colts stole a player from the Cincinnati Bengals Margus Hunt. Hunt is known for his role on special teams after blocking 3 field goals in 2016. This accomplishment is no fluke considering he holds the single season record for blocked field goals at his alma mater SMU. If he blocks at least 3 more kicks next year, then his two year $4.1 million is well worth it for the Colts. Hunt is from Estonia where he competed in the World Junior Olympics in discus, shotput, and hammer throwing. He will have to battle to make the defensive rotation but he should be a strong addition on special teams.
Brian Schwenke – G
The first offensive move the Colts have made in free agency this year was signing Brian Schwenke. Schwenke was given a modest one year deal worth $1.3 million. During his career in Tennessee he played Indianapolis 8 times losing all 8 matchups. The Hawaiian native will be given the chance to battle for a starting spot next season. If he does not crack the starting lineup he will be an experienced backup that is capable of playing guard or center.
Al Woods – NT
The third player the Colts stole from the Tennessee Titans was nose tackle, Al Woods. The Colts gave Woods a two year deal worth $5 million. Signing Woods creates a position battle at nose tackle between him and David Parry. Woods could join a long list of nose tackles who have started for Chuck Pagano including: David Parry, Josh Chapman, Montori Hughes, Aubrayo Franklin, Antonio Johnson, and Martin Tevaseu. Woods is known for his ability to absorb blockers opening up the line for linebackers to make tackles.
Sean Spence – MLB
Sean Spence signed with the Colts for one year $3 million and could be a starter from day 1. The inside linebacker position has become a revolving door for the Colts the past few seasons:
- Jerrell Freeman: Signed with the Bears last season
- Nate Irving: Cut before season after expecting to start
- Sio Moore: Cut 4 games into the season
- D’Qwell Jackson: Suspended for illegal PED’s and then cut after the season
- Josh McNary: Left as free agent
- Edwin Jackson (undrafted free agent) and Antonio Morrison (2016 4th round pick) were left as the starters.
Spence will not have much competition for a starting spot but he will still need to earn it over Jackson and Morrison. He started 6 games in Tennessee posting 37 tackles and 3 sacks.
Kamar Aiken – WR
The second offensive player the Colts have signed this offseason is Kamar Aiken. The details of the deal have not yet been released but it is expected to be a one year deal. Kamar Aiken became a forgotten man in Baltimore last season after posting career highs only two seasons ago. In 2015, Aiken had 75 catches, 944 yards, and 5 touchdowns as the Ravens leading receiver. The addition of Aiken is a smart move by the Colts because they do not have a consistent wide receiver after TY Hilton and Donte Moncrief.
Ballard inherited a completely broken defense that he could have improved using many different tactics. The old Colts ran by Ryan Grigson would have thrown an outrageous amount of money at mediocre players in hopes they could save the team (Gosder Cherilus or Laron Landry) or traded away top draft picks (Trent Richardson trade).
The new Colts have decided to sign a horde of unproven players for small and short contracts. These deals give the Colts the flexibility to release the players that do not produce with next to no consequences. If the players do produce then you can give them a long term deal.
Ballard continues to make moves that look good for the Colts but next up is the biggest test of them all, the NFL Draft. Experts have projected the Colts taking a variety of players with the 15th pick and it may be the biggest decision of Ballard’s career. I can only beg he does not take a wide receiver. (No offense Phillip Dorsett)
Photo via Josh Hallett