The 2022 season has just ended, and as of March 13, the 2023 campaign will open its doors. DNA of Sports therefore takes the opportunity to offer you an overview of the different franchises during the off-season. Which players to keep and cut? Which free agent to extend? Which rookies to watch? Here are some ideas, franchise by franchise. In the spotlight today, the Indianapolis Colts.
It’s a long time ago when Payton Manning chained MVP titles and playoff campaigns. It is a long time ago when Andrew Luck shone and appeared as the star of the new generation of pitchers. Season after season, Indianapolis sinks further into the league’s slums, unable even to compete in the NFL’s weakest division. Entering this offseason a new cycle, the Colts must rebuild by finally considering the most important position in football, the one that once made them shine.
1. Jonathan Taylor (RB)
2. Shaq Leonard (LB)
3. DeForest Buckner (DT)
4. Quenton Nelson (L)
If he did not know in 2022 the half of the season he had the previous year, Jonathan Taylor remains the number one asset of the Colts. Main (and only) offensive engine, the runner was above all hampered by physical glitches and slowed down by a demobilized offensive line. It remains the cornerstone on which to rest. An ideal support to take the pressure off a young quarterback.
Absent most of the season, Shaq Leonard was sorely missed in the heart of the defense. Quadruple All Pro, as good against the run as the pass, he has been the mainstay of the Colts for 5 years. His return will be preponderant for his squad. Another defensive leader, DeForest Buckner continues to shine on the defensive line.
2022 may have been his worst season since joining the league, but Quenton Nelson is still the best at guard. Extended at great expense last September, it is an unparalleled protector and breach facilitator for its runner. The basic man of the offensive line.
– Matt Ryan (QB)
– Stefon Gilmore (CB)
– Nick Foles (QB)
At 38, the 2016 MVP carries more and more the weight of the years and has not found in Indiana the ground conducive to an end to his career in apotheosis. Ryan was even sidelined in favor of the young and inexperienced Sam Elhinger, yet very far from having the level of an NFL holder. With an estimated weight of more than $38 million in 2023, the former Falcons frontman is the perfect candidate for an early departure. A premature end to his contract would release 17 million in the salary cap. An economic concern which could also push former defender of the year 2019, Stefon Gilmore towards the exit. If he is no longer stratospheric as in those years in New England, the 32-year-old still remains a solid cornerback. Nearly 11 million could be released in the event of a cut. A significant godsend when you want to rebuild with the approach of free agency.
The summer man
The future head coach
Still in the audition period for suitors, the Colts will soon name the one who will hold the reins of the team for the next season and (perhaps) beyond. After 4 and a half years under the leadership of Frank Reich and half a season with the inexperienced Jeff Saturday, the franchise has slowly but surely declined. The first mission of the new coach will be to remobilize troops marked by the disillusionment of the 2021 season and the bankruptcy of 2022. He will also have to play the role of mentor for the quarterback who will lead the attack. And given the situation of the franchise in this position since the end of Luck’s career, it is of course on this that he will be judged, and probably that his success or failure will be based.
The main free agents
1. Yannick Ngakoue (Edge)
2. Bobby Okereke (LB)
3. Parris Campbell (WR)
4. Brandon Facyson (CB)
5. Chase McLaughlin (K)
The others: Ben Banogu (DE), Tyquan Lewis (DE), Rodney McLeod (S), Armani Watts (S), Dennis Kelly (OT), Ashton Dulin (WR), Matt Pryor (OL), Matt Hack (P)
Having become a globe trotter in the league, with 5 teams in 4 years, Yannick Ngakoue may wish to continue his tour. Still, he fit in well on the Indy line. He is one of the few satisfactions of the season with 9.5 sacks in particular. He will be one of the most coveted in his position and keeping him will require a tidy sum. The means are there, the ball is in Chris Ballard’s court.
Tackle machine, Bobby Okereke is solid on the second curtain. Associated with Leonard, the duo even looks great. If the player does not find what he is looking for on the market, the temptation to stack again could be mutual. One season and then goes for Brandon Facyson? This is the most likely option for the team to renew the position and gain talent.
For his first full career season, Parris Campbell showed great qualities as a possession receiver. His fragility during his early years will surely push the franchise to offer him a short one-season contract to confirm. A deal that would not necessarily be a bad idea for the player.
Top 5 Needs
3. Pass Rusher
5. Defensive tackle
Only one being is missing, and everything is depopulated. This is a saying that suits the Colts perfectly for 4 years now and the retirement of Andrew Luck. Four seasons synonymous with four failed bets. It’s time for Chris Ballard to abandon his strategy which has repeatedly failed. The quarterback must be the center of the new project and mark the beginning of a new era. 27th on the number of yards, 30th on points, the attack is a vast project. If Michael Pittman has shown himself to be a reliable solution, he is far too alone. Indy will therefore also have to widely consider targets to give to its future pitcher.
In defense, if the spine is solid and talented, the rest around needs to be greatly improved. In the forefront of which the far too limited cornerback position. On the pass rush, Yannick Ngakoue’s situation will depend on the importance of the need. Kwiti Paye could feel very lonely, especially since the doubles are also at the end of their contract. For the former first round to continue its development, it needs an effective counterpart to its opposite. Finally at the heart of the line, reinforcing the rotation behind Buckner and Stewart and in particular a solid profile against the run would also be wise.
Byron Murphy (BC)
General manager Chris Ballard is not known to be expensive in the market. And while James Bradberry might be the number one attraction at cornerback, it would be surprising to see Indy position themselves on such a fish. The house policy would rather be to try to find an advantage holder under the radar and therefore at a reasonable price. Current Arizona player Byron Murphy could tick the boxes on the list. Former 1st choice of the 2nd round of the 2019 draft, the former Washington Huskies student had his ups and downs in Glendale. He failed to catch the stature of his predecessor Patrick Peterson, but when would he have been with better coaching? In a largely understaffed position, reinforcements are more than necessary. Murphy could start the answer.
The new blood
Will Levis (QB)
With the 4th pick, the Colts are in a good position to select their new quarterback. But to ensure the premiere, they will have to go up. And the franchise could surprise by opting for Kentucky pitcher Will Levis.
Ideal morphology, powerful arm, and mobility, Levis has many assets that appeal to league recruiters. If he is far from being the most polite of the vintage and his decision-making raises questions, he could reach his full potential in the right environment and with the right staff. Protected by this line and supported by Taylor, the equation could be perfect, even if it takes a little time.
Other choices: CJ Stroud (QB), Bryce Young (QB)