The Indianapolis Colts and new general manager Chris Ballard have made a lot of noise while bringing in a ton of new faces to the roster. Ballard has done a good job of bolstering the defensive line and adding some depth to the linebacker corps. His draft addressed need areas as well as aiming toward a best player available approach.
In the process of doing this Ballard has given each and every player currently on the 90-man roster the belief that if they are the best player on the field in camp and through the preseason, they will find a place on this roster. With all of that in mind some holes currently still exist. Filling just one of those could round out an excellent offseason and possibly set the Colts up for long-term success.
Is it possible that one of these positions of interest could compel Ballard to make a move as opposed to simply waiting for the waiver wire to fill up as teams take part in the first massive cut to drop their rosters to 53? While the likelihood of any of these moves may not be great, they’re all interesting to think about and could be impactful if they come to fruition. Let’s discuss.
Robert Quinn, DE|OLB, L.A. Rams
Quinn has been a mixed bag in his time with the Rams. He burst onto the scene racking up 45 sacks through his first four seasons, including a 19-sack season in 2013. He has missed 15 games and tallied only nine sacks over these last two seasons. Quinn is an elite athlete when healthy and would add significant depth to either the 5-technique or outside linebacker positions, possibly both.
The Colts do look much better along the defensive line, but he’s still a massive upgrade to anyone currently on the roster with the possible exception of Henry Anderson. There’s a real lack of depth at outside linebacker behind Jabaal Sheard and John Simon with just Akeem Ayers and rookie Tarell Basham in the mix. After them, it’s very, very bleak.
The Rams are seriously cap-strapped and Quinn carries a nearly $11 million cap hit for the 2017 season. This would be a lot for the Colts to take on, but they would have the room – especially with some contract adjustments – and would be able to add another possible playmaker well under the 30-year-old barrier (27). Giving up a reasonable draft pick and player would be within reason for what Quinn could immediately add to the roster.
Mychal Kendricks, LB, Philadelphia Eagles
Kendricks was being shopped earlier in the offseason, but nothing came to a head with any interested teams. Kendricks’ playing time diminished considerably last season under Jim Schwartz. Their plans for him are uncertain.
Kendricks is still young as well (26), and if the Colts wanted to take on his $6.6 million cap hit this year it wouldn’t sting much. With Jon Bostic and Sean Spence joining a very inexperienced inside group, Kendricks would add more young talent to a position the Colts have really struggled at in recent years.
Antonio Morrison is intriguing the Colts’ staff, and Edwin Jackson was pretty good as well last year, but if getting better at every position and creating competition are paramount, the addition of Kendricks would do all of that. Additionally, Kendricks’ contract is team-friendly after the 2017 season if things did not work out. The team could move on with little cost.
Jamar Taylor, CB, Cleveland Browns
Taylor is a guy most may not know much about, but as he has gradually gotten more playing time, he has continued to offer more production. Before last season Taylor had started only nine games in his career, but racked up 57 total tackles and three interceptions in 2016 as a primary starter.
We know how the Browns love to acquire draft picks, and the Colts could easily absorb his cap hit. Who knows if the Browns would be interested in striking a deal for Taylor, but they’ve never backed down from a deal in the past. Maybe they love the rookie Howard Wilson and feel Taylor is expendable. They’d really have to be passionate about Wilson or another corner to come off Taylor.
The Colts do have immediate depth with Rashaan Melvin and Quincy Wilson battling to take over the left cornerback role, but after that it’s pretty thin. Darryl Morris is the current favorite to take the nickel role, but finding quality coverage is not something the Colts should wait on, as witnessed over the last several seasons with Greg Toler and Patrick Robinson.
Get the talent, then worry about where players will play.
Austin Howard, OT, Oakland Raiders
To be clear, I am not in the “they MUST add another lineman” camp that is going crazy. I am very hopeful for the current group of young guys and their futures. On the other hand, one thing the Colts don’t have is a real backup for Anthony Castonzo, who has been insanely durable since being drafted.
The Colts’ right side of the line is still somewhat suspect until it proves otherwise, and Jack Mewhort’s injury needs to keep the front office and coaching staff on its toes. Bringing in an experienced tackle of Howard’s status would upgrade the line as a unit. It would eliminate the need to bring a “reach” player onto the 53-man roster along the line, and it would help with the development of some of the younger players at the position.
Howard is 30 – yes, I know Ballard has tried to stay away from aging veterans – but has started 71 of a possible 80 games over the past five seasons. Howard’s contract also doesn’t present much risk following the 2017 season. With the Raiders adding Marshall Newhouse in free agency as well as two new tackles through the draft, Howard would likely be willing to restructure the last two years of his deal and become significantly cheaper at a new destination.
It still may be too expensive to give up something for Howard with the Colts’ line showing signs of improvement.
In closing, these positions could all be addressed whether through a trade or otherwise. Maybe some of these players will be worth grabbing (if available) when rosters shrink to 53 players. One way or the other, the Colts can’t afford their current lack of quality depth at a couple of these positions if they truly intend to compete in 2017.
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