Congratulations to Colts general manager Ryan Grigson on winning the NFL Executive of the Year award. But whilst his work in 2012 was, for a first time GM, exceptional, the expectation levels have raised ahead of the 2013 season.
2012 saw a team of plucky underdogs make their way to the playoffs, largely based on Grigson's draft picks and free agent pickups during the season.
However, with approximately $40m in cap room to spend, Grigson is now expected to raise the talent level of a team that overachieved its way to an 11-5 record. Big name free agents are hitting the market and the Colts have the money to pay them. There are plenty of holes on this team that need to be filled, starting with the offense…
After an offense-heavy draft in 2012 that featured a number of skill position players, it seems strange to want another weapon, but the reality is that the Colts may need one. Reggie Wayne is almost 35, whilst Donnie Avery is a free agent who may not be back. One thing the Colts clearly lack at wide receiver is a big target to throw the ball to, as T.Y. Hilton and LaVon Brazill are fairly small but fast. There were numerous occasions where the Colts' offense stalled in the redzone, so adding a bigger bodied receiver to go up and get the ball should be a priority. Dwayne Bowe is the big name that fits the bill, but his contract would almost certainly exceed what he is worth.
Under Bruce Arians, the fullback wasn't a feature of the offense, as Arians preferred to use more tight ends. However, with the hiring of Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton, a fullback will be much more important – and it's impossible to write this section without mention of the famous “Spider 2 Y Banana” play that Jon Gruden broke down from Andrew Luck's time at Stanford. Robert Hughes was used in the role until he was placed on IR in December, but it's possible that the Colts look to take a fullback in the later rounds of the draft, as it remains to be seen whether Hughes will be back with the team next season.
Other than Anthony Castonzo, who of the Colts current offensive line would you want to build around? This is the offensive line that was ranked 31st (out of 32) by Pro Football Focus for offensive line efficiency. Improving the protection for Andrew Luck has to be Ryan Grigson's #1 priority in the upcoming offseason, particularly the interior, which allowed far too much pressure throughout the season. Joe Reitz and Mike McGlynn were either hurt or just plain bad, so expect Grigson to be as aggressive as usual in both free agency and the draft. As a former offensive lineman himself, Grigson knows the importance of good protection and blocking, and at the start of the season vowed to improve the offensive line by saying, “I can’t rest until we have one of the best lines in the NFL, if not the best line. I can’t rest until that happens.”
On the right side of the line, Winston Justice will be a free agent and despite starting well, Justice's reliability dropped off around the midway point of the season, struggling with injuries and form. There is a chance that Castonzo will move to right tackle if Grigson can land one of the big name tackles (Ryan Clady, Jake Long, Branden Albert), allowing Justice to walk away from the team.
There are other spots that could become need areas depending on cuts, such as center and running back, but the priority on the offensive side of the ball simply has to be offensive line.