The NFL opened up the 2016 league year on Wednesday and in the Ryan Grigson era we have seen the Colts back up the truck and dump lots of money at players in free agency; many of which could be considered questionable at best. This year the Colts seemed unusually quiet and are so far choosing to go the conservative route.
The team agreed to terms with K Adam Vinatieri for $6 million over two years and also kept TE Dwayne Allen for $30 million over the next four years. Vinatieri was a no-brainer as witnessed by last year’s spectacular performance as well as the previous year performing at a perfect level until missing a kick in the final game of the 2014 regular season. The negotiations primarily focused on length, Vinatieri wanting three, but the Colts wanting to only offer two to the 43 year old, and oldest player in the in the NFL, kicking legend. This deal will also make Vinatieri’s time with the Colts longer than his time with the New England Patriots, where he started his illustrious career.
My take: It’s hard to argue that the deal isn’t good for both the team and the player. Vinny has been the model of consistency since coming to Indy and has been “Money” as former coach Tony Dungy referred to him. Although Vinatieri will be 45 when the deal expires he has shown no real sign of regression in either distance nor accuracy. The Colts don’t have to worry about this position for two more years and that is one of the most important factors for a team looking to get to the next level.
Many fans speculated what the team would do at the tight end position. It appeared many thought Coby Fleener would be the one retained and Dwayne Allen might be testing free agent waters, but as witnessed by Wednesday’s signings, Allen will be a Colt and Fleener will be catching passes in the New Orleans from Drew Brees.
My Take: I was slightly surprised that Allen was the man signed here. I have always liked the physicality and completeness that Allen brought to the position, yet always was (and still am) concerned about the injuries that seem to follow him. Fleener has ties with Andrew Luck going back to his days as Stanford teammates and had a solid year last year. I have always seen the potential in Fleener, but never fully witnessed those play out on the field with any consistency. Allen has shown that he has all the skills to be one of the top tight ends in the league, but he also seems to have bitten by the injury bug way too often in his 4 year professional career. Allen is clearly the better blocker and red zone threat. Offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski seems to think Allen fits his playbook better going forward. Chud has worked well with tight ends and perhaps it is just best to decide which guy is going to better for his plans for the next few seasons.
Departures: The team lost SS Dwight Lowery to San Diego, officially cut WR Andre Johnson, didn’t put a tender offer to Daniel Herron, Bjoern Werner was released, and Matt Hasselbeck officially hung up his cleats and will join his brother on ESPN as an analyst. Lowery will be missed on what will be a reshaped secondary with the likely exit of CB Greg Toler leaving. Vontae Davis and Mike Adams will be the only starters returning in the unit with Clayton Geathers likely to get the nod to start opposite Adams. The #2 corner spot could either be filled by D’Joun Smith, a free agent, or through the draft. It is very up in the air at the moment as to what will be done here.
Take Away: So far the Colts have been relatively slow and deliberate in shaping their team for the 2016 season. Not much was expected to happen on the first day and was made even more apparent by Grigson, Chuck Pagano, and new defensive coordinator Ted Monachino all that the Alabama Pro-Day yesterday. As I stated earlier, this is a huge departure from the typical first day of free agency for the Colts since Ryan Grigson came to power. Last year saw a bunch of money thrown around, but not much resulted from it. Sure we think Frank Gore still has some gas left in the tank, but Andre Johnson is done as a Colt, Trent Cole took a pay cut to stay with the team, Dwight Lowery left for greener pastures, and Kendall Langford has panned out thus far. That’s not a ringing endorsement for free agent activity, but it seems at least the team is learning from their mistakes and looking to take a more deliberate role. The team will have to add some players, especially in the categories of quarterback, cornerback, and safety to name a few. The Colts seem to be trying to take a different approach and hopefully it pays off this season.