Editor's Note: This guest post comes to you from Jacob Lewin, who we are excited to work with. Enjoy his first post at Colts Authority!
Both Austin Collie and Donnie Avery are free agents and the Colts front office must decide what to do with these veteran receivers. Avery assumed the role of the Colts’ #2 receiver after Collie ruptured the patellar tendon in his right knee against Jacksonville on September 23, 2012.
Although Avery had the most dropped passes this season, he was a serviceable replacement and even made some of the most memorable plays of the 2012 season. Because Collie should be ready for the 2013 season and since there is some skepticism about re-signing Avery, the Colts have no reason to keep both players.
Between the two, Collie has more versatility: he’s a great route runner, possesses underrated quick speed, has excellent hands, and fearlessness running in the middle of the field (could be related to his four concussions). Collie’s numbers as a Colt in three seasons were pretty exceptional – 173 Receptions, 1845 yards, 16 TDs, only 1 fumble – and in one of those seasons he was being targeted by a Curtis Painter and Dan Orlovsky. He also had a memorable game against the Jets in 2009 AFC Championship.
Collie developed a great connection with Andrew Luck in the small amounts of film I saw – especially in the 8/12/12 game against the Rams – where they seemed right on the same page. Reggie Wayne and Luck shared a great connection this past season and if Luck and Collie connect in the same way, we could certainly see pro-bowl numbers in 2013.
However, because of Collie’s injuries, many (Brad Wells and Will Carroll just to name a few), think he has likely played his last game as Colt. While it’s true that he’s had 4 concussions over 2 years, it’s not much different than other wide receivers with similar injury records but whose jobs aren’t in question (think, Laurent Robinson and Desean Jackson). Also, because of his recent knee injury (not related to concussions at all), he's had a full year without any contact. More importantly, doctors have been astonished with how fast he was able to recover from his knee surgery.
Will Carroll believes that Collie could likely end up either a Bronco or Raven next season, which makes a lot of sense. Indeed, Collie had a great rapport with Manning back in Indianapolis, and he even worked-out with him in Duke in March 2012. His game does resemble Brandon Stokley in many ways and could be a more long-term option for that offense (also, Stokley is a free agent).
Baltimore could also be a nice fit since they may cut Anquan Boldin – he’ll be too expensive, with their cap issues – and although Collie may not have the size and strength of Boldin, he will not drop Flacco’s passes.
Assuming Collie isn’t coming back, there are some free agents the Colts should consider. Brian Hartline from Miami and Danny Amendola from St. Louis could both come at a reasonable price and both have a lot of talent. Although Amendola is the more explosive of the two, he is injury prone, whereas Hartline was a solid option for Ryan Tannehill (74 catches, 1083 yards, 1 TD), has decent size (6’2) and also played all 16 games in 2012. If the Colts are looking to save some money, Denario Alexander (RFA) from San Diego or Devry Henderson from New Orleans are good options that could come even cheaper.
Personally, I think the Colts should re-sign Collie for a short-term contract (maybe 7.5-8.5 million/2 years), and cut ties with Donnie Avery. With Luck under center, Wayne lining up with Collie, Hilton as a deep threat, and two budding Tight-ends that appear to have a high ceiling, the Colts offense will be complete with many different weapons.
Ultimately, Ryan Grigson has a tough decision coming up, but I trust his judgment. He won executive of the year and has a keen eye for talent; he may see something in Jeremy Kelley or perhaps a different wide-out in the upcoming draft class and use the money he could spend on Collie for an interior offensive lineman or even a new defensive back. Whatever the Colts decide, the most important thing is that Austin Collie can stay healthy, continue to play in the NFL, and become a success wherever he ends up.