Colts Should Look to Add Draft Picks, Dump Some Salary
By Matt Danely
The Indianapolis Colts have had a pretty eventful first 48 hours of free agency kicking off the beginning of the 2015 NFL league year. The recent signings of Trent Cole, Todd Herremans, Frank Gore and Andre Johnson have given the Colts a real veteran presence and some much needed boosts in key areas of the roster. The recent departure of Cory Redding has also been mitigated by the signing of Kendall Langford. Obviously there is more work to be done in free agency before the NFL Draft, including tying up some loose ends in a couple spots.
There are a lot of opinions about what Ryan Grigson and the Colts’ front office should do to essentially cut dead weight. Trent Richardson was waived by the team Thursday and Donald Thomas may not be far behind him. Some see Erik Walden in that conversation as well — I on the other hand, do not. However, there are some additional options as far as possible moves in order to better the team for the short, and long term as well. Here are a couple moves that I, were I making the decisions, would at least consider.
It’s been strongly noted that Gosder Cherilus had a disappointing season in 2014. Depending on if you trust every grade you see or not, you may have differing opinions on this matter. Cherilus was largely durable in his first five seasons in Detroit, and has played in 29 games in his first two seasons in Indianapolis as well. The “right now” issue, however, is that he did miss six games last season (including the playoffs) from injury, he’ll be 31 in June and his cap hits over the next three seasons are awful.
Nov 10, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Indianapolis Colts tackle Gosder Cherilus (78) during the game against the St. Louis Rams at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Rams won 38-8. Mandatory Credit: Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports
Numbers like $6.9 million (2015), $9.9 million (2016) and $10.4 million (2017) are going to be major issues in their respective years when attempting to re-sign some important contracts. The 2012 draft class will be in-line for a big offseason pay day from the Colts — and there will undoubtedly be some moves made in order to ensure the bulk of that draft is re-signed. So, why not start now? Cherilus allowed pressure or a hit on Luck 48 times last season and often looked pretty bad run blocking as well.
Moving Cherilus to an organization with right tackle needs, for little compensation, makes sense now. Possibly, receiving a sixth or seventh round pick would nearly clear their obligations to him financially, and could allow the Colts to concentrate even more on the draft. It could also give the Colts a bit of leverage should they attempt to move up in the draft for better talent in areas of need. If Cherilus had a better season and could have stayed healthy, I would suggest they chance his age as the Colts have offensive line issues of their own. The reality is that $27.2 million over the next three seasons is not going to work. Cherilus will only become less durable and dependable as he continues to age.
Close your eyes if you love Coby Fleener, because you’re not going to like this. Even though the recent additions of a running back and receiver don’t directly change Fleener’ spot on the depth chart, they do have a residual affect on his significance within the offense. In the current era, there has always been a love affair with controlling the clock, utilizing the run — and in some cases over-utilizing it. Johnson however only adds to the intentions of a “possession” offensive attack.
Jan 11, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Indianapolis Colts tight end Coby Fleener (80) against the Denver Broncos in the 2014 AFC Divisional playoff football game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. The Colts defeated the Broncos 24-13. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Rob Chudzinski and Pep Hamilton both have strong desires for a dominant “ground and pound” mentality, and scheme, for this offense. Even casual observation can tell you that schematically, Fleener doesn’t fit that mold. Dwayne Allen and Jack Doyle are far better blockers and have proven to be more consistent pass catchers as well. Yes, Fleener has the speed factor but there is no doubt that that is a distant secondary to efficiency.
Fleener did have a better 2014 in terms of touchdown catches (8), but struggled to catch the ball (55.4%) consistently throughout the season. Fleener, as mentioned above, possibly also brings a hefty price tag estimated around $7 million per year as a re-signing after next season. Fleener’ value right now, may never be higher in order for the Colts to capitalize on — and for my money they absolutely should. Fleener could possibly net a third-round pick for the Colts if discussed with the right teams and at worst, a late fourth or early fifth-rounder.
Now, does that put the Colts in need of another tight end? Maybe, and if they choose to, there are a couple of really intriguing options in this years draft that could fill the void and be more in line with the Colts’ offensive scheme. Nick O’Leary (6’3″- 252 lbs) out of Florida State is being projected between the second and fourth rounds and would be an interesting addition.
Thoughts of Dallas Clark (6’3″- 257 lbs in 2003) come to mind as they sport nearly identical frames coming into their respective drafts. O’Leary is also one of the hardest workers at his position which, anyone will tell you, often negates any speed deficiencies one might have at the tight end position. O’Leary ran a 4.93 40-yard dash which, isn’t slow, but isn’t quite what Clark ran (4.65) — however, his exceptional route running and catching ability would logically mitigate that.
Another possibility would be Ben Koyack (6’5″-255 lbs) out of Notre Dame who is projected between the third, and fifth rounds. Koyack has more of the typical frame the coaching staff would be looking for and would also fall in the reasonable return area as a result of a Fleener trade. Koyack is a hands catcher who would be versatile in most packages, and is also an excellent run blocker. Basically, he has “Dwayne Allen” possibilities and is just a bit quicker.
There are other possibilities as well, but these two are the most logical and could both be in play come draft day. The Colts may only gain one draft pick between the two of these moves, but they could take in the neighborhood of $17 milllion off the cap in 2016. Another upside would be to consider that these draftees won’t need to be re-negotiated until 2018, leaving that extra cap money to the franchise quarterback in the contract that we all know is coming.
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