The money has been spent, the contracts signed, the jerseys stitched. All that's left in the 2014 Free Agency period is for the Carolina Panthers to sign 5 receivers and for us to harshly judge the Colts' moves.
In this week's fireside chat, we'll do just that, assigning the Colts a grade for their FA performance, examining their best and worst moves, and deciding what work is left to do.
Here is the exact question posed to our writers, their answers after the jump, feel free to add yours in the comments!
"With the FA signings winding down to a crawl, it's time to look back on the job that Ryan Grigson did. Your questions:
2) Whilst I like Arthur Jones I think the deal we got for Hakeem Nicks is excellent value for me.
3) I still don't like the D'Qwell Jackson deal. I don't think he's a great fit and better linebackers went for less money.
4) I do, they've only really lost Bethea but added size on the defensive line and another good receiver.
2) It has to be the Nicks signing. Whatever struggles he's had the past couple years, he's a big-time talent, and they got him on a very reasonable contract.
3) Nothing sticks out to me as especially bad. I even liked the Costa signing, given the low price. I suppose the D'Qwell Jackson contract was a little hefty, but I like the move to upgrade at ILB.
4) Definitely. They haven't lost anyone essential (I like Bethea, but it was time for him to go) and they've added some useful players. Jones and Jackson should be helpful on defense and Bradshaw and Nicks will give Luck more options.
5) I thought they were semi-legitimate contenders last season. They were flawed, but they showed they could beat anybody if things went right. I think they'll be around that level again next year. They should be a little better, particularly if they can find some help in the draft, but they'll likely need everything to break their way to have a shot at a title. It feels like 2015 will probably be their best chance at winning one before all the young guys get paid.
6) The obvious holes are center and safety, but I'd like to see them add depth at cornerback and guard as well. Toler gets hurt a lot and Butler is better in the slot, so getting a couple more competent guys will be important.
1) B: Liked Arthur Jones, Hakeem Nicks and Ahmad Bradshaw. Not in love with D'Qwell Jackson or Vontae Davis' new deal. At least Vontae covers a need and there's upside there.
1. B+. I still don't like the D'Qwell Jackson signing or the way they've handled the center and safety positions, but the contracts they've given out have been fair, and they've signed more *actually* good players than they did last season.
1) B. Costa was the only real head scratcher for me. Every other signing addressed a need. My only issues are philosophical (more on that later).
2) Tie? I really like the Ahmad Bradshaw and Hakeem Nicks deals. Without Bradshaw, the Colts backfield is scary. And while Nicks wasn't really needed to make the Colts passing offense dangerous or elite, I love this move for a few reasons:
a) it's low-risk, high-reward. Unlike DHB, Nicks has a history of being good.
b) I like Da'Rick Rogers and LaVon Brazill but also accept that they are supremely talented and supremely raw. The Nicks signing buys time for the players to develop.
c) Depth is always good. We saw what two injuries did to the Colts last year. Nicks is just an added layer of protection. <I'll fight the urge to make a joke or give him a nickname here>
3) Costa? My reaction is to say Vontae Davis, but while I think he's overrated and overpaid, the deals doled out at CB over the past two weeks have all been in the same neighborhood, and Grigson seemed to do a good job of structuring it in a way that helped the Colts maximize future space as needed.
So what's my issue with Costa, a relatively low-money signing? Phil Costa, to me, is like DHB (in hindsight) and Mike McGlynn (in every sight): if they are playing significant time for you, you're in trouble. People keep telling me to relax, Costa isn't their solution at starter, but I'm not sure how that's supposed to make me feel better. If the guy isn't good enough to play – and look, that's what his history tells us – then why would I want to spend any amount of money on him? Why would I want to put myself in a position where he is second in line? The Colts have injury problems, if you don't think Phil Costa is killing them in the playoffs next year, you've been in a coma for a decade.
Look at the deal Evan Dietrich-Smith signed: It was very cap-friendly. I'd rather Grigson have upped the money on THAT contract and nabbed a legitimate starter. Maybe he has a plan (Mack?), maybe he doesn't. But center is a really important position and Grigson needs to find a long term solution at the position, not a bandaid.
5) Emphatic no, for now, I'll explain why in #6.
6) The obvious ones are easy: opposing QBs have to be licking their lips at the prospects of facing a tandem of either Delano Howell or LaRon Landry at safety, and the aforementioned center position has a gaping hole at starter.
But neither of those issues are what make me think this team is far from a legitimate contender.
As Kyle, Jason and I were doing our live Free Agency Show (shameless plug, give it a listen! Not Safe for Work, by the way) I was looking at the Colts' roster and it hit me like a ton of bricks:
the Colts are still lacking a Championship-caliber pass rush.
Last year, Robert Mathis played out of his mind, coming within another game against Blaine Gabbert of setting the single-season sack record. His beast mode was not enough to help the Colts pass defense down the stretch.
So what did the Colts do this off-season? They signed an upgrade in D'Qwell Jackson at ILB and an upgrade at DE in Arthur Jones. Notice I say they are upgrades. I'm not saying either is a bad player. I'm not saying either makes the team worse. But both signings – especially the Arthur Jones signing – show the philosophical difference between me (a writer) and the Colts (the only people who matter).
Instead of Jones – a good run stopper who has shown minimal ability to rush the passer: the Colts had an opportunity to nab Lamarr Houston – a 6ft 3", 300lb DE who runs a 4.84 40 and can rush the passer.
People have told me that the Colts expect big things from Bjoern Werner moving forward. That's great. I hope they do. He's a 1st-round pick! But you HAVE to get a pass rush from different areas, you can't just rely on your OLBs. Every great 3-4 defense has at least one DL who can create havoc in the backfield. The Colts lack that player. Jones will be a huge upgrade, for sure, but this is a team who has no good pass rush and a subpar secondary. They are going to have to face Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Phillip Rivers to get to the Super Bowl.
I feel like passing on Lamarr Houston was a missed opportunity.