In what may be the most important offseason since 2012, the Indianapolis Colts are faced with the annual task of deciding which players entering free agency should be re-signed, and which they should allow to hit the open market.
No one will argue with the fact that GM Ryan Grigson has his work cut out for him in constructing a roster that can win a Super Bowl. Having a healthy Andrew Luck almost guarantees a playoff berth, but after last year’s injury-riddled campaign, it’s obvious this roster has to be more than just Luck.
While players comment on their futures in Indy, let’s debate on if some of these key, 2016 free agents deserve to be kept.
Dwayne Allen, TE-Age 25
Allen’s disappearance from the offense is one of the biggest head scratchers of the season. When he and Coby Fleener arrived in 2012 they were supposed to become one of the most lethal tight end combinations in the NFL.
While each has shown flashes, it’s been Allen who has been the bigger disappointment to date. We’ll get to Fleener, but Allen’s inability to stay healthy has been a major concern.
Since missing almost all of the 2013 season, Allen has played in 26 games, producing just 504 total yards and nine touchdowns (395 yards and eight touchdowns in 2014).
Allen has been on the record as wanting to stay in Indy, but if he’s not willing to come at a discount to reestablish himself, he may have to be shown the door.
Matt Hasslebeck, QB-Age 40
What Hasslebeck did for the Colts in Luck’s absence was truly remarkable for someone his age and in his position. His four-game win streak, seven touchdowns and 255.7 yards per game over that stretch was so good that people wondered if he should remain the starter (Luck’s horrendous play aided the discussion).
Alas age and attrition caught up to the 17-year vet and his play and health declined as a result. I say all that to face reality: He’s not coming back and he shouldn’t. Not that the Colts aren’t grateful for his contribution—it’s just time for him to call it a career.
The signing of Ryan Lindley and Josh Freeman also indicates the Colts have found more serviceable options at the No. 2 spot.
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Coby Fleener, TE-Age 27
Fleener’s production in 2015 can be attributed to more of system failures than injury problems. In fact, as Kevin Bowen of Colts.com points out, Fleener is the “only non-specialist to have not missed a game in the last three seasons.”
While his targets and catches were actually pretty standard (he caught more balls this season than in 2014), his yards and touchdowns were far below his 2014 numbers, another indication to the offense being the issue.
My issue with Fleener lies in boneheaded and inexplicable drops by a receiving target as talented as he is. Drops aside, his chemistry with Luck and overall talent supersede any perceived shortcomings for the fourth-year player.
Not signing Fleener to a long-term deal would be devastating to the Colts offensive potential.
Jerrell Freeman, ILB-Age 29
Freeman had a down year by his measures, but still put together a very fine season in just 13 games. 112 tackles, three sacks and an interception returned for a touchdown is pretty good for a guy who went undrafted. I’ve already said my peace about upgrading this defense, but considering Freeman’s production, age and cap hit, it’s difficult to argue against keeping him.
Even if the Colts signed a player of Luke Kuechly’s talent, Freeman is a player you can afford to have on your team but not having him would be costly. With depth being one of major concern, Freeman has to be resigned while looking for a possible upgrade.
Adam Vinatieri, K- Age 43
The man ages like fine wine—call him Vino-tieri. Netting 25-of-27 field goals seems like clockwork for him. That is until you realize he’s made four-of-five from 50-plus when he’s damn near 50-plus himself. He wants to continue playing. Resign him. He’s worth every penny.
That is all.
Of course these aren’t the only players scheduled for free agency, but of all the free agent decisions that have to be made in-house, these are by far the most important at the moment.