After a satisfying and exciting draft for the Colts, fans can start to tentatively look towards Training Camp, Preseason and whisper it; the return of competitive football. But before we get there, we must remember that Free Agency isn’t finished just yet. Chris Ballard made a point of reminding the media of this after the draft. Whilst around the NFL, the Ravens and Texans reminded us after the draft that Free Agency isn’t done by signing Rock Ya-Sin and Shaquill Griffin respectively. But which remaining free agents could the Colts still be interested in?
Just before the draft, Rock Ya-Sin would likely have been at the top of my Free Agency wish list, followed not too far behind by Griffin. Cornerback appeared to be a major weakness for Indianapolis, with Stephon Gilmore’s departure to Dallas leaving a unit badly short of numbers and starting experience. As a former Colt who looked good in his final year in Indianapolis before his trade to Las Vegas (for Yannick Ngakoue), Ya-Sin seemed like a natural fit.
Rock with it ‼️
We have signed cornerback Rock Ya-Sin‼️ pic.twitter.com/VwVCzE06Ss
— Baltimore Ravens (@Ravens) May 3, 2023
However, Chris Ballard drafted Julius Brents, Darius Rush, and Jaylon Jones in the 2nd, 5th, and 7th rounds respectively. While these three rookies clearly won’t add experience to the room, they will fill out some roster spots. Given the Colts’ likely expectations for this season, it makes sense to let these rookies get some game time and develop that experience rather than bringing in a veteran.
The big need the Colts had going into the draft that wasn’t addressed was Right Guard. The Colts’ Offensive Line was far worse last year than it should have been, yet it hasn’t been overhauled this offseason. In many ways this is understandable, Indianapolis has the talent on their O-Line to have one of the best in the league. Any line with Nelson, Smith, and Kelly should be one of the best in the league, and they’re certainly paid like one of the best units. The key is getting those three veterans to once again play to their potential, whilst helping Raimann continue to develop at LT. If they can do that, an influx of new talent won’t be necessary.
However, that final spot on the line of Right Guard does look like the spot that needs improvement and where a change could most easily be made. Will Fries is likely the current starter at present but looks more like a good depth player rather than a starter. I think the long-term future at the position will come from drafting an RG with a fairly high draft pick in the years to come. This would prevent the long-term cost of the Colts O-Line from ballooning any further.
God’s plan is GREATER pic.twitter.com/oLViJRagHQ
— Dalton Risner (@Dalton_Risner66) May 16, 2023
In the meantime, a veteran Right Guard on a one- or two-year deal would make sense. There aren’t many obvious candidates left on the market, but Dalton Risner would be the obvious choice, providing an agreement on his contract could be reached. There is recent precedence for Chris Ballard signing starting Offensive Linemen in free agency after the draft. He signed Eric Fisher at Left Tackle in 2021, although in hindsight signing Charles Leno at the position instead would have been a better decision.
Speaking of Tackle, there are a few players still on the market Indianapolis could target to improve their swing Tackle depth. These include Isaiah Wynn, George Fant and Donavan Smith. However, having just drafted Blake Freeland as a Swing Tackle, the Colts may put their trust in him to provide their depth at the position. They certainly seem to have a lot of faith in his talent. However, Indianapolis have been burnt by poor Tackle depth multiple times in recent years, so may not be willing to risk it again this season.
— NFL (@NFL) March 15, 2023
Another position Indianapolis might want to strengthen its depth in free agency is edge rusher. Kwity Paye is a clear starter on one side of the Defensive Line, with Dayo Odeyingbo or Samson Ebukam likely battling out for the other starting spot. Both Odeyingbo and Tyquan Lewis can play inside as well as on the edge. Chris Ballard always emphasizes the importance of having depth on the Defensive Line. With a few notable veterans still available Ballard might look to sign.
Yannick Ngakoue is still a free agent, but likely will want to be a starter, not a backup, and likely on a team that hasn’t just let him walk. More senior options like Leonard Floyd, Frank Clark, Justin Houston, and Melvin Ingram might be more willing to be veteran, rotating edge rusher. Their suitability for the Colts will largely depend on their salary demands and the role they’re willing to play on the team. But the right option could add experience to the room, improve the roster’s depth and help mentor Paye and Odeyingbo.
Despite what some Colts fans hoped would be a radical shift in free agency philosophy from Chris Ballard this year, a team in the Colts’ position was never going to be splashing the cash in free agency. Big spending is even less likely now on this side of the draft. That being said, Chris Ballard could still pursue a player mentioned here to fill a roster need. We also shouldn’t be surprised if Indianapolis executes a trade involving late draft picks to fill a specific need. As they did when they traded for special teamer Grant Stuard from Tampa Bay last year.
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Check out our most recent article which ponders upon the various theories of who will be the most impactful rookie: HERE