Justin Simmons: Safety, Denver Broncos
Simmons is one of my favorite players who will most likely be a free agent this year. Watching tape on him before the Denver game, I pointed out that Simmons and Kareem Jackson were by far the best safety duo in the NFL.
Both have incredible tackle ability, both have natural football skills, and they both break on the ball with incredible accuracy. But what makes Simmons so interesting is his age. At just 26 he’s in the prime of his career and with carrying a big cap hit, the Broncos may allow him to walk.
There are, however, teams who need safeties more than the Colts, who do have Hooker. The Bengals, Dolphins, Raiders, and Texans come to mind with other teams such as the Colts, Jacksonville, and Saints who could look to upgrade at that position. However, of those teams, the Colts, Dolphins, and Broncos have the most cap room with an average of $150 million in spending money.
Simmons had a great season this year boasting a 2nd best opposing passer rating against him with a 32.1, only trailing Earl Thomas III at a 31.0. He also has the third-best safety rating in the league with a 90.8 rating, trailing only A.J Moore (94.7) and Sherrick McManis (93.8).
He was also durable, playing over 1,000 snaps with 639 in pass coverage and 411 in run defense. Simmons led the NFL in pass breakups with 11 and had 80 single tackles with 14 assists, and 4 interceptions. Most impressive to me, though, is the 9.6 yards per reception when targeting him and a 53% completion percentage and 239 yards given up. Simmons would be an excellent addition to the Colts secondary with young talent.
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Yannick Ngakoue: Defensive End, Jacksonville Jaguars
The Colts have lacked a pure pass-rushing defensive end since they (stupidly) switched from a 4-3 to a 3-4 under Chuck Pagano. They switched back to the 4-3 after realizing they didn’t have the players to run such a scheme. They tried to fill that role with Justin Houston by signing him to a good deal for both the team and for Houston.
Jacksonville is in cap-space hell right now after signing Blake Bortles to a monster deal and then letting him walk out the door. They also have multiple players with large-cap hits such as Marcell Dareus at $22.5 million, Calais Campbell at $17.5 million, and A.J. Bouye at $15.5 million. Jacksonville is heading into the 2020 season nearly $1 million in negative cap space and will start to make tough decisions regarding said cap room.
Ngakoue signed his rookie deal in 2016 at only $3.96 million and about $850,000 in signing bonuses and incentives. However, after seasons of 8, 14, 10, and 8 sacks respectively, he’s going to want to get paid some serious cash and go to a team who wants to win, not on who’s letting their star players walk off the team.
Players in his statistical area are averaging $18.72 million a year, something the Jaguars won’t be willing to pay seemingly. This is where the Colts $150 million cap-room will come into handy. At only 24 years old, he’s in the prime of his career and the Colts could use another young pass-rusher to develop into something elite.
Byron Jones: Cornerback, Dallas Cowboys
The Colts need to add depth to their secondary, specifically at the cornerback position. If it’s one thing that’s true, the Colts secondary was lacking all season long. Rookie corner, Rock Ya-Sin, had a tough start against the Broncos as he came out and got a few bad pass interference calls against him giving the Broncos some much-needed help on offense. However, a young player on the Cowboys could help the Colts correct this situation.
Jones excels in single coverage and has had a nearly top 10 coverage rating (11th) over the past two seasons. One downside is he hasn’t intercepted a pass in the past three seasons. More important is he’s played safety for his first few years in the league and can help in dime packages if needed too.
One of the best all-around athletes in the NFL right now, Jones will command a big contract as him and Stephon Gilmore were the top coverage corners this year. Jones ranks in the top 10 free agents on Pro Football Focus’ free-agent list.
Another downside is he’s been in a Cover-1/Cover-3 scheme his whole career and transitioning to a Cover-2 may be hard for him, but a Cover-2 cornerback isn’t asked to do as much as the previous scheme. Not to mention, he’s tall, lengthy, has long arms, and can press even the best wide receivers.
Being that the cornerback market is slim in 2020, Jones will require a large contract. Being, also, he’s 27, he’s willing to sign a long term deal but Chris Ballard likes to build through the draft and take chances on those he sees have athletic ability.
Jones is a perfect fit for athletic ability, but it comes with a price tag. Corners of his ability usually make around $14-$17 million a year and sign 3-5 year deals with roughly $8-$10 million in guaranteed money. However, a 27-year-old corner in his prime with pure athletic ability north of 6’0″, how can you pass that up?