The Indianapolis Colts will enter the 2018 offseason with over $80 million in projected room to help fill a whole heap of holes in the roster. With free agency occurring before April’s draft, it is an essential step for the Colts and GM Chris Ballard to fortify the roster. Let’s examine some of the ample options available for the offensive side of the ball.
Jerick McKinnon, RB, Vikings. Age: 25
The Colts will have several big decisions to make this offseason regarding the running back position. While Frank Gore has shown interest in returning and his production has been favorable during his Indianapolis tenure, he may not fit with the team’s future plans. If Josh McDaniels is indeed the Colts’ new head coach, his offense heavily utilizes running backs in the receiving game. The last time Gore topped 50 receptions in a season came way back in 2009. His top mark in Indianapolis is just 38, coming in 2016.
At just 25-years old, McKinnon is entering free agency in his prime. Even better, Spotrac.com estimates his 2018 market value at just $4 million per year. That’s a considerably lower mark than the contracts signed by Devonta Freeman or Doug Martin.
Jarvis Landry, WR, Dolphins. Age: 25
Wide receiver is an interesting position for Indianapolis. After years of stability with the likes of Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison, the Colts have never been able to find a constant running mate for T.Y. Hilton. The team has Chester Rogers, who’s shown flashes of breaking out but doesn’t seem ready to be elevated into the second receiver slot. Donte Moncrief will become a free agent this offseason and has shown the inability to stay healthy along with a drops problem. That leaves Indianapolis with a big hole in the passing game.
Jarvis Landry is almost universally rated as the top free agent at the receiver position this year– and for good reason. Landry finished with a PFF grade of 82.0 in 2017, good enough to rank 19th among receivers. While that all sounds great, there are some big issues with going after Landry.
The first and biggest issue is his size. Standing at just 5’11” Landry is another small, quick wideout. Hilton himself is only 5’9″, meaning Indianapolis would have their top two receivers being speedsters with a lack of a red zone threat. Also a key deterrent, Landry reportedly wants an average salary over $14 million per year. Coupled with Hilton that’s over $27 million per year on two small receivers.
Allen Robinson, WR, Jaguars. Age: 24
Allen Robinson seems to be a much better option for Indianapolis if they choose to go shopping for a receiver this offseason. While his PFF grade came in lower than Landry at 71.7, he was playing with Blake Bortles. Robinson is also a year younger than the aforementioned Landry.
While his market value is likely to be north of $13 million per year, he takes care of two needs for Indianapolis. Not only does he slide nicely into the second receiver slot, he also gives Andrew Luck a reliable red zone threat to keep defenses honest. Robinson stands at 6’3″, and when paired with Hilton would give the Colts a scary combination.
Zach Fulton, G, Chiefs. Age: 26
The Colts’ offensive line struggles have been well documented through the past several seasons. One look at the laundry list of signal callers who have suffered injuries behind the unit is more than adequate to tell the tale.
Fulton is a versatile option that Ballard should be at least somewhat familiar with. Originally coming into the league as a guard, the Kansas City Chiefs and head coach Andy Reid decided to give Fulton some reps at center during training camp. After a season-ending injury to the Chiefs’ starting center, Fulton took over and performed exceptionally well.
Finishing with an overall grade of 68.8 from PFF, Fulton ranked as the 15th-best center in the league. Interestingly enough, he was the second-highest rated center in the passing game but only ranked 22nd in the run.
Fulton’s versatility is key here. While the Colts need to fortify their guard positions, Ryan Kelly has shown early issues with injuries. The signing of Fulton would help shore up both positions.
Cameron Fleming, OT, Patriots. Age: 25
Fleming makes the list for a few simple reasons. He has the obvious connection with McDaniels and his play was solid for New England in 2017. Likely a cheap addition, Fleming finished with a PFF grade of 78.1.
Not sold on adding the 25-year-old tackle? Quick, name the starting tackle opposite of Anthony Castonzo.
Ja’Wuan James, OT, Dolphins. Age: 25
While Fleming would provide a great depth player to a rejuvenated offensive line unit, James is a near shoe-in to start at right tackle. The Dolphins reportedly want to move on with a new look on the offensive line, and James grades out very well for Ballard and the Colts. James finished with an overall grade of 80.0 and a pass block grade of 85.3. The bad news is his low run block grade of 48.6.
Andrew Norwell, G, Panthers. Age: 26
Andrew Norwell comes in near the top of every fan’s free agency wishlist. If Ballard could swing the signing of Norwell it would instantly increase the validity of the Colts’ offensive line. PFF gave Norwell marks of 83.4 in run blocking, 90.9 in pass blocking and 88.8 overall. He won’t come cheap, however. Spotrac.com estimates his 2018 market value at $11.7 million per year.
If the Colts decide to make a splash this offseason and sign a few of these heavy hitters on offense, the salary cap math works surprisingly well. If Indianapolis brought in McKinnon, Robinson and Norwell for their estimated market values, they would still have roughly $50 million in cap space before signing their own free agents, addressing the defense or signing draft picks.