Colts Should Pump Brakes on Skill Positions, Target ‘Big Uglies’ in Free Agency


The Indianapolis Colts have left no questions about the fact that they’ll be very active and aggressive in free agency this offseason.  The Colts have been linked to many high-priced skill position players, as having interest in their services for both 2015 and beyond.

Oct 9, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Texans receiver Andre Johnson (80) makes a catch against Indianapolis Colts cornerback Vontae Davis (21) during the fourth quarter at NRG Stadium. The Colts defeated the Texans 33-28. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve heard Andre Johnson and Brandon Marshall, as well as DeMarco Murray and Adrian Peterson just to name a few. These acquisitions would be great and all but, they are all going to cost a pretty penny and definitely on the ‘back-nine’ of their careers.

The offense has proven that marginal talents can succeed within the Colts current scheme. Daniel Herron and Ahmad Bradshaw were more productive than the ‘big-time acquisition’ Trent Richardson — and as a result, proved that the right fit is far more important than the big name. Similarly, Donte Moncrief has shown nice productivity as a third option behind T.Y. Hilton and Reggie Wayne, and will likely battle newly acquired receiver Duron Carter for the secondary option in training camp.

Re-signing Hakeem Nicks should be a realistic option as he improved later in the season last year and would already be familiar with the offense and affordable. There are also additional less-pricey options at receiver with Cecil Shorts, Harry Douglas, and Eddie Royal among others being available.  The running back and wide receiver depth in this draft is something the Colts simply cannot shrug off when filling holes moving forward.

One area that should be heavily targeted in free agency however, is the offensive line.  The Colts currently have a solid base, but it remains incomplete. Anthony Castonzo, Jack Mewhort and Khaled Holmes are a very effective starting point, yet the right side of the offensive line needs a lot of work. Donald Thomas has been virtually just a bag of lost money. Gosder Cherilus struggled mightily and shouldn’t be trusted to improve moving forward. With that, here are some lineman that the Colts should strongly consider.

Bryan Bulaga | Right Tackle:

Oct 26, 2014; New Orleans, LA, USA; Green Bay Packers tackle Bryan Bulaga (75) celebrates with quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) following a touchdown pass against the New Orleans Saints during the first quarter of a game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Bulaga is still young even after playing five seasons in the league. At 25, he gave up four sacks and played in all but two games in 2014, amassing nearly 1,100 snaps at right tackle. Bulaga is solid in the running game as well, effectively getting his hands on his initial key and sealing off the linebackers at the second level. Much of  the success of Eddie Lacy‘s ability to bounce outside and pick up additional yards can be heavily attributed to the consistent play of Bulaga.

Aside from missing the 2013 season, he has played in an average of 13 games per season for the Green Bay Packers, making him pretty durable for the position — which has one of the highest injury rates in the game. Bulaga won’t break the bank either as he had an average yearly salary of nearly $2.7 million (per Spotrac) and would likely cost somewhere in the range of $6- $7 million per year. He would go a long way in helping the Colts running game and would be huge in keeping Andrew Luck‘ jersey clean, which should be the coaching staff and every Colts fan’s biggest priority.

Mike Iupati | Left Guard:

December 20, 2014; Santa Clara, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers guard Mike Iupati (77) during the fourth quarter against the San Diego Chargers at Levi

Don’t get caught up in which side of the line Iupati typically works on. Mewhort has proven that he can play at virtually any position along the line, which would allow Iupati to assume the role at left guard. Iupati is not quite as young, being 27, but he still has plenty in the tank. He is extremely durable as well, playing in 75 games (15 per year) over the past five seasons so that certainly isn’t an issue. Iupati did give up seven sacks in 2014 but hadn’t given up more than four in a season previous to that.

Seeing as the culture in San Francisco last season was such a mess, and the troubles with the offensive line itself — I’ll take that  with a grain of salt.  Iupati would be in a similar range in terms of contract, likely costing the Colts around $5 – $6 million per season. Just to compare these numbers, Donald Thomas average salary is $3.5 million, and he’s played in two games in as many years with the team. The truly impressive stat with Iupati is that he’s only allowing his quarterback to be pressured, sacked or hit on less than three percent (3%) of his snaps. Again, if you don’t like Luck on his back, Iupati would be a fantastic addition to the offensive line’s ‘backside’.

In closing, the Colts would be far better served targeting the less sexy positions in free agency, as the big name free agent at any certain skill position often times just do not work out.  Go get them ‘big uglies’, win in the trenches, and protect the franchise.