2017 NFL Draft Reset: Colts on youth movement

With the hiring of Chris Ballard as the Indianapolis Colts’ new
general manager, there is a new focus on retooling the team’s
overall roster to get younger on both sides of the football.

Eight players 29 years old or older retired, were released or were
not re-signed. Seven of those were defensive players.

Ballard opted not to re-sign several of the team’s veteran free
agents, preferring to concentrate on signing younger available
veteran free agents from other teams while also taking direct aim
on the upcoming draft.

Of the Colts’ nine unrestricted free agents, only tight end Jack
Doyle, cornerback turned safety Darius Butler and running back
Robert Turbin were given new contracts.

Both restricted free agents, offensive lineman Jonotthan Harrison
and defensive lineman Zach Kerr, will be back. Exclusive rights
free agent tight end Erik Swoope is being counted on to be big part
of the Colts’ offensive game plan.

As for roster additions, Ballard has been busy.

The Colts brought in linebackers Jabaal Sheard (New England), John
Simon (Houston), Sean Spence and Barkevious Mingo (New England);
nose tackle Al Woods (Tennessee); defensive end Margus Hunt
(Cincinnati); offensive lineman Brian Schwenke (Tennessee); punter
Jeff Locke (Minnesota); wide receiver Kamar Aiken (Baltimore); and
tight end Brandon Williams (Seattle).

Additional personnel moves are probable. In fact, don’t be
surprised if Indianapolis decides to trade down from the 15th pick
in the first round in an attempt to add more draft picks.

Here is a closer look at where the Colts are, how they got here and
a shot at what they should do with their first pick in the draft,
No.15 overall.

THE BREAKDOWN

2016 finish: 3rd AFC South (8-8)

STATISTICS

TOTAL OFFENSE: 364.4 (10th)

RUSHING: 101.8 (23rd)

PASSING: 262.6 (T5th)

TOTAL DEFENSE: 382.9 (30th)

RUSHING: 120.4 (25th)

PASSING: 262.5 (27th)

TEAM NEEDS

–1. Edge rusher/linebacker: Still the top need for a Colts defense
that is currently in remodel mode. Indianapolis lost franchise sack
leader Robert Mathis to retirement and did not re-sign UFA Erik
Walden. Finding a young outside rush linebacker in the first round
would be a plus.

–2. Cornerback: The Colts released 2016 veteran free-agent signee
Patrick Robinson, who has since been added to the Philadelphia
roster. Veteran Pro Bowl performer Vontae Davis returned, but he
has been bothered by injury and inconsistency issues. Adding an
athletic, play-making cornerback somewhere in the first three
rounds is the plan for now.

–3. Running back: Veterans Frank Gore and Robert Turbin will be
back for 2017. Indianapolis would like to find the eventual heir
apparent to Gore in this year’s draft. The Colts, though, are not
expected to address the running back situation until the middle to
later rounds. That plan could change if the right running back
drops into their laps earlier in the draft.

KEY PERSONNEL TRACKER (As of April 3)

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED

–S/CB Darius Butler: UFA; $3M/1 yr, $1.5M SB/$2.5M guaranteed.

–TE Jack Doyle: Potential UFA; $18.9M/3 yrs, $7.5M guaranteed.

–RB Robert Turbin: UFA; $2.7M/2 yrs, $500K guaranteed.

PLAYERS ACQUIRED

–WR Kamar Aiken: UFA Ravens; 1 yr, terms unknown.

–LB Margus Hunt: UFA Bengals; $4.1M/2 yrs, $500K guaranteed.

–P Jeff Locke: UFA Vikings; $3.45M/2 yrs, $1.25M guaranteed.

–LB Barkevious Mingo: UFA Patriots; $2M/1 yr, $500K SB.

–C/G Brian Schwenke: UFA Titans; $1.3M/1 yr, $300K SB.

–DE Jabaal Sheard: UFA Patriots; $25.5M/3 yrs, $12.75M guaranteed,
$7M injury only at time of signing.

–LB John Simon: UFA Texans; $17M/3 yrs.

–LB Sean Spence: UFA Titans; $2.5M/1 yr, $750 SB.

–TE Brandon Williams: UFA Seahawks; $855K/1 yr, $80K SB.

–DT Al Woods: FA Titans; $5M/2 yrs.

PLAYERS LOST

–S Mike Adams: UFA Panthers; $4.2M/2 yrs, $650K SB/$1.15M
guaranteed.

–TE Dwayne Allen (traded Patriots).

–LB Chris Carter: UFA Redskins; $855K/1 yr, $80K SB.

–C/G Jonotthan Harrison: Not tendered as RFA/Jets; terms unknown.

–LB D’Qwell Jackson (released).

–DT Arthur Jones (released).

–DT Zach Kerr: Not tendered as RFA/Broncos; $3.25M/2 yrs, $500K
SB/$1.5M guaranteed.

–OLB Robert Mathis (retired).

–P Pat McAfee (retired).

–LB Josh McNary: Not tendered as ERFA/Jaguars; terms unknown.

–T/G Joe Reitz (retired).

–CB Patrick Robinson (released).

–G Hugh Thornton: UFA Falcons; $690K/1 yr.

*NFLDraftScout.com analysts suggest (No. 15 overall).

Rob Rang (April 3 mock draft):

–Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford. Sure, adding a defender would
appear to make the most sense, but injecting the speed and
playmaking ability of McCaffrey into a backfield currently built
around steady (but slow) veterans Frank Gore and Robert Turbin
could be precisely what the Colts need to spark a return to the
playoffs.

Dane Brugler (April 3 mock draft):

–Haason Reddick, LB, Temple. Coming from Kansas City, new Colts
general manager Chris Ballard understands the impact of speed on
defense and that is exactly what Reddick offers. He can line up
inside or outside and give position flexibility to drop in coverage
or blitz.

Agree? Disagree? Still shopping?

Based on the team’s current status, those are our suggestions for
that first pick. To double check or find another candidate see
NFLDraftScout.com’s full mocks and ratings.

–Frank Cooney, founder and publisher of The Sports Xchange and
NFLDraftScout.com, is in his sixth decade covering football and is
a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee. TSX
team insiders contributed to this article.

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