Snow covers Indiana as the football season for the Indianapolis Colts fades into distant memories, and the Indiana Pacers take center stage in the basketball state. Peyton Manning helped make this state a football ground, and Andrew Luck is continuing that tradition as he has led his team to two consecutive playoff appearances in his first two seasons. While many Colts fans will shift their attention to the NBA as the Pacers set out to win a title for the first time, Colts personal will be locking their selves into their offices until wee hours of the morning studying film.
The Colts will head into this off season will huge questions to answer. They have some key free agents that need to be dealt with, and while it is always a tough time to deal with fans might not be seeing some of the same players they have been accustomed to in years past. With that said, lets dive into the key free agent issues the Colts need to address on their own roster come this off season.
Issue 1- Key Free Agents
The Colts have some key role players whose contracts are now up and will be able to hit the market come March. Big decisions could affect how well this team can improve going forward for the next few years. For the sake of this article I will not include Pat McAfee, who I believe will be back next year, as he has shown that he can be a top five punter in this league.
Pro Bowl Safety Antoine Bathea, who besides defensive player of the year candidate Robert Mathis, was the most consistent player on the defensive side of the ball. Bethea had another solid year in 2013, and totaled 110 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 interceptions. He has been a veteran leader for this club for the last several years. He will be 30 years old next year, and is on the wrong side of his prime but will need to be retained for the Colts to provide consistent leadership and dependability in a week secondary unit.
Linebacker Pat Angerer who battled injuries this past season and still massed 63 tackles and an interception. Pat has not played a full season since 2011, and that was the only year he has in his short stint in the NFL. He is only 26 years old, and was selected to be the centerpiece of this linebacking core for the next several years. Inconsistency has been the cornerstone of his career, and the Colts will need to determine if he can stay healthy and be the right mike linebacker for the next several years.
Cornerback Vontae Davis, whom in 2012 the Colts traded the Miami Dolphins a second round pick. The Colts were hoping to finally add that number 1 lockdown corner on their roster, and at times Davis has shown the flashes that he is and why he is a former first round selection. Since his time with the Colts, he has four interceptions, but at times has been completely dominated by opposing top wideouts. The question for Indy here is whether or not Davis will command top corner money in the open market. If that happens look for Davis to be playing in another city come next season.
Running Back Donald Brown, who by the end of the year took over the starting job from Trent Richardson. Brown finally looked like the player the Colts took out of UConn in the first round back in 2009. Brown had career highs in yards per attempt, rushing touchdowns, receptions, receiving yards, and receiving touchdowns. The problem the Colts run into now is how much can they be willing to pay Brown, and how will this affect the Richardson situation going forward? Although he has his best year statistically, Brown cannot expect to receive top money for a starting role, and with Vick Ballard coming back next year there might not be enough room in the backfield for him.
Issue 2 Hit and Miss Free Agents
The next level players might not be so lucky to stay in Indianapolis come next year.
Wide Reciever Darrius Heyward-Bey was brought in to help take pressure off of Reggie Wayne and TY Hilton. A former top 10 pic, there was hope that he would finally live up to his potential with his size and speed. Well the year is over and the experiment did not workout, time to move on.
Offensive Tackle Jeff Linkenback started only 5 games this year, and his starts have decreased the last two years. Do not expect this struggling tackle to be back in Indy next season plain and simple.
Defensive Tackle Aubrayo Franklin was brought in this past off season for his leadership, and was able to start in 15 games. At 33 years old, Franklin might be on the wrong side of his career and looks to be on his way out.
Mr Clutch Adam Vinateri is now 41 years old, and is losing his kicking power by the year. How much can the Colts rely on the veteran kicker next year? If they do bring him back I do not see it for more than two years. I believe the Colts have the option to use punter McAfee in both positions going forward as he did the same thing in college at West Virginia.
While there are several other players that have expiring contracts like Mike McGlynn and Fili Moala, I think the ones set before are the main ones the Colts will need to address come March.
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