The Colts 2011 Available Free Agent Watch List

When each season comes to an end, all eyes turn to the upcoming NFL Draft to restock and improve team rosters. Some thought goes into who may or may not be available on the free agent market to upgrade the team, but in Indianapolis most of the free agent attention turns to retaining Colts free agents.

What could make this off-season unique — or very rare — is that the Colts front office may actually look to find some veteran free agent talent to give the roster a boost as they head into the home stretch of Peyton Manning’s career. Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter of ESPN noted that the Colts still plan to make Peyton Manning the highest paid player in football but indicated that Jim Irsay and Bill Polian have expressed an interest in structuring the contract to allow more free agent signing flexibility:

Sources say team president Bill Polian presented a pitch Thursday that the Colts want more cash flow to build the talent around Manning with a more aggressive offseason that could include a few key free-agent signings. Even though the Colts will remain a franchise that builds around the draft, they have signed just four free agents since Manning signed his last $98 million contract in 2004.

Shortly after Peyton Manning’s last contract was signed, many fans in Indianapolis will remember that the team made a move to reunite defensive tackle Booger McFarland with his former coach Tony Dungy and signed free agent defensive tackle Corey Simon — who unfortunately had a brief tenure with the Colts before retiring. The two players came to the team in different years but their acquisitions signaled that Polian and Irsay are not afraid to pull the trigger when they feel meaningful and productive free agent talent is available.

Accordingly, it makes sense for fans to take a closer look at the available free agents at the Colts biggest positions of need or concern exiting the 2010 season. After all, few of the best free agents on the market will last past the NFL Draft in late April.

Offensive Tackle
Jared Gaither – Baltimore
Matt Light – New England
Jermon Bushrod – New Orleans
Doug Free – Dallas

Offensive Guard
Logan Mankins – New England
Davin Joseph – Tampa Bay

Center
Ryan Kalil – Carolina

Safety
Roman Harper – New Orleans
Dawan Landry – Baltimore
Eric Weddle – San Diego

Defensive Tackle
Haloti Ngata – Baltimore
Brandon Mebane – Seattle

Cornerback
Ike Taylor – Pittsburgh
Drayton Florence – Buffalo
Josh Wilson – Baltimore
Eric Wright – Cleveland
Brent Grimes – Atlanta

Running Back
DeAngelo Williams – Carolina
Darren Sproles – San Diego
Pierre Thomas – New Orleans

Defensive End
Mathias Kiwanuka – New York Giants
Ray Edwards – Minnesota

Wide Receiver
Vincent Jackson – San Diego
Malcolm Floyd – San Diego
Lance Moore – New Orleans
Legedu Naanee – San Diego
Danny Amendola – St. Louis
Mark Clayton – St. Louis

While it is not uncommon for numerous high profile players to enter free agency heading into each off-season, there are some names that pop out as the types of players that could make a lot of sense for the Colts if they turn to free agency to fill some of the team’s holes. Offensive tackle Jermon Bushrod (NO) is young enough and not coveted enough at this point in his career that he could be an upgrade for a reasonable price on the outside of the Indianapolis offensive line. Guard Logan Mankins would give the Colts more experience on the interior.

Safety Dawan Landry is not Bob Sanders but he is the kind of hard hitting, run stuffing, strong safety the Colts like to have on the roster and he could make sense if the team is worried about, or unable to, retain Sanders and/or Bullitt. Defensive tackle Brandon Mebane is under the radar enough that the Colts could legitimately have a shot at adding him, which would should be a big boost to the defensive line’s ability to stop the run.

If Ike Taylor is not retained in Pittsburgh he could be the second former Steelers corner that could provide even more experience and stability at cornerback in place of Hayden. A younger and potentially cheaper option could be Josh Wilson from Baltimore.

The options at running back, defensive end, and wide receiver are likely pie-in-the-sky across the board but DeAngelo Williams, Mathias Kiwanuka, and one of the San Diego receivers could fit very well into the Colts system, along with upgrading the team at their respective positions.

Feel free to discuss the players on this list or suggest others. Coltzilla will take a closer look at many of the available free agents that could look very good in Indianapolis. Check back for more.

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