Tis the season for rumors, signings, coaching changes etc, etc. In this off-season, much like the last, the Colts have a good deal of money to use to continue “Building the Monster”. It’s a little early to start signing free agents and so on, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to talk about. One key issue appears to have already been resolved, and that is that Pep Hamilton will be around next season as opposed to taking the Vanderbilt job. Which story you believe on how that came to be is irrelevant. What we do know is Andrew Luck will not be under his 3rd Offensive Coordinator in as many years, and that in itself is a good thing. A lot of guys that were on IR will be coming back next season to fill some important holes that were left behind this year-just the same, a lot of guys may be gone from this roster as well.
With only a small handful of picks in May’s Draft, this off-season as a whole will likely be Ryan Grigson’s biggest challenge, and most important of his short tenure in Indianapolis. What key free agents to keep from the current roster, which UFA’s to sign coming from other team’s, which UDFA’s do they aggressively go after post-draft and so on, and so forth. He’s got his work cut out for him, and it will be interesting to see his method of operation in the coming months. The one area I’m most intrigued about between now and the Draft is, will there be a real “shocker”. You know, that one move in an off-season that literally makes every jaw from the fan base hit the floor in unison. How about the Colts trying to retrieve a high round pick for one of it’s current key players? Who could they unload for that type of pick in return? Does the front office panic and feel the need to let one go, in order to build for the future with younger talent? Here are a couple of those scenarios that I think would certainly leave all of Colts Nation with sore chins.
Colts trade Robert Mathis for early/mid 2nd round pick:
With Mathis coming off of his best season and leading the NFL in sacks, now would be the last chance to get some serious “return” on a trade with Robert involved. He is 32, and under contract through 2015 so is there a team near the bottom of their division that needs a “Mathis” to take the next step? I think there is a couple in Oakland and Tampa Bay, both of which are in the top 7 picks in the upcoming draft. Minnesota and Atlanta could also be possible suitors. While Mathis’ cap hit next season isn’t something the Colts would feel they needed to unload, it would give them a high pick close to what they lost on the Richardson trade, allow them to get considerably younger addressing the position either in free agency or the draft, in an OLB deep field from my perspective, and give them even more money to work with in the coming months. No Colts fan wants to see Mathis go, but does the organization attempt to get some value for him while they can unlike what they did by just letting Peyton Manning walk? Eww, that’s got Irsay hate mail written all over it.
Colts trade Coby Fleener for mid 2nd round pick:
After Fleener’s rookie season in Indy, he was one more bad season away from being labeled a bust. After this season, he was highly regarded as Luck’s security blanket and most sure handed target. With Dwayne Allen coming back from injury next season, who caught the ball extremely well in his rookie campaign-and is a far superior blocking tight end, do the Colts try to get something in return for him? There is little argument that with another year to implement the “run first” mentality, the off-season will be spent attempting to build the roster with the personnel to better execute that gameplan. You’re kidding yourself if you think otherwise. So who will be the potential suitors for this type of transaction? The Falcons, Bills, Chiefs, and Jets, and maybe the Packers would be those that I feel would be the first to jump on a proven pass catching tight end that is only going to be in his third year. Fleener’s contract is miniscule compared to alot of free agents as well, which would be both enticing to other teams, and force the Colts to get the highest possible pick they could for Fleener in return. Interesting and scary thought all wrapped up into one, huh?
Colts trade Reggie Wayne for early/mid 2nd round pick:
This one would be possibly the most devastating to all Colts fans. The guy who stayed on and took less money to help groom the then rookie phenom in Andrew Luck only to get dumped in a trade for a draft pick after a season ending injury. Yeah, that would not be a popular move. That doesn’t mean it would be a stupid one. Like Mathis, Reggie is getting “up there” in age by NFL standards, and if the Colts were going to do anything other than let him retire a Colt, again- now would be the time that they could get the best value out of him. Yes, he is coming off of the knee injury, but that would not stop any team in need from taking him off of our hands for the right pick/price. The Colts have a lot of off-season needs to address, and the need for a receiver is primarily due to trying to fill the hole that will be left as Reggie’s talent wanes, or his retirement. Teams that may be highly attracted to this type of deal would be the Jets, Raiders, Lions, Panthers, Rams, and 49ers. Although as I said above, I think all 31 other teams would with out a doubt listen to scenarios involving Wayne. Of this cluster, I think the Rams, Jets, and Lions would be there with the biggest push.
In reality, I don’t see any of these moves happening- especially with Wayne and Mathis being so beloved by the fanbase, and important to the franchise going forward. Although Fleener has had a great second season in Indy, he would be the best and most expendable “trade bait” for the Colts, should there arise any real shocker in the near future. We as fans allow ourselves to fall for the players that are either the most important, the most tenured, best community members or all of the above. We are emotionally vested in our team which would make us all terrible owners. Sometimes these decisions need to be made for a long haul approach and are not popular but could be very beneficial to the organization’s long term success, but they can also backfire- which brings their level of importance to such a pinnacle. This is the time of year when nobody knows what is to come, and is likely the most stressful for the organizations and fan bases alike. Only time will tell what holes will need filled by players that are released or not re-signed, and what we will have to look forward to with incoming free agents and another draft class. I’m excited to see how it all shapes up. GO HORSE!
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Matt Danely @The_Blue_Shoe