Many NFL observers had not only penciled in the Colts for a lengthy postseason run, but projected Andrew Luck to be among the league’s top contenders for the MVP award. Instead, Luck dealt with injuries (and wasn’t all that productive when he was on the field), and though backup Matt Hasselbeck played well at times, the offense couldn’t handle the loss of its starting quarterback, and finished 30th in DVOA. Indy’s defense was surprisingly competent (13th in DVOA), but that performance wasn’t enough to help the club finish better than 8-8, second in the AFC South.
- Dwayne Allen, TE: Four years, $29.4MM. $11.5MM guaranteed.
- Patrick Robinson, CB: Three years, $14MM. $6MM guaranteed.
- Adam Vinatieri, K: Two years, $6MM. $1MM guaranteed.
- Scott Tolzien, QB: Two years, $3.5MM. $500K guaranteed.
- Jordan Todman, RB: One year, minimum salary benefit. $480K guaranteed.
- Antonio Cromartie, CB: One year $3MM. $250K guaranteed. $500K available via incentives.
- Jack Doyle, TE: One year, $1.671MM. Signed original-round RFA tender.
- Robert Turbin, RB: One year, minimum salary benefit.
The Colts and general manager Ryan Grigson have been active spenders during the last two free agent periods, as they’ve attempted to augment their roster with external additions. During the 2014-15 offseasons, Indianapolis handed out an average of $38.5MM in guaranteed money while inking veterans such as D’Qwell Jackson, Arthur Jones, Andre Johnson, Frank Gore, and Trent Cole. This year, the club took a markedly different approach, limiting their free agent spending and disbursing less than $20MM in guarantees.
The majority of that money went towards re-signing one of the Colts’ own free agents, as the club hammered out a four-year deal to retain tight end Dwayne Allen. The 26-year-old is coming off a platform season during which he was not only hampered by ankle and calf injuries, but posted only 16 receptions for just over 100 yards and one touchdown, so it’s perhaps surprising that Allen is now among the 10 highest-paid tight ends on an annual basis.
But this contract was offered with an eye towards the future, as new Indy offensive coordinator Rob Chudzinski — a former tight ends coach who often features the position in his scheme — reportedly told Allen that he’d be more involved in the club’s gameplan going forward. Allen has flashed before (he put up a 45/521/3 line during his rookie campaign), and as Scott Barrett of Pro Football Focus noted at time of the signing, Allen has always graded out well as a blocker, both in the run and pass game.
The Colts’ only other notable re-signing was that of kicker Adam Vinatieri, with whom the club worked out a two-year deal. In 2015, Vinatieri connected on 25 of 27 field goal tries, for a 92.6% conversion rate. However, he did occasionally struggle with the longer extra point, missing three of 35 attempts. Still, there were few NFL kickers more reliable than Vinatieri, who is now third on the league’s list of all-time leading scorers. With 2,253 points, Vinatieri should be able to make a run at Morten Andersen (2,544) and Gary Anderson (2,434) as he plays out the final leg of his career.
On defense, Indianapolis found a cornerback who can slot in opposite Vontae Davis, as it agreed to terms with Patrick Robinson, who spent last season with the Chargers. A first-round pick of the Saints back in 2010, Robinson never broke out until heading to San Diego, as he started 10 games in 2015 and graded as the league’s No. 30 CB among 111 qualifiers, per Pro Football Focus.
Because Davis lines up primarily on the right side, Robinson will see most of his time at left corner, although he is also capable of playing in the slot. As PFF’s Nathan Jahnke tweeted earlier this year, Robinson held quarterbacks to the third-worst rating (67.7) in the league when lined up in the slot. But with Darius Butler entrenched on the inside, Robinson will likely stay on the outside most of the time, something that Grigson confirmed when the 28-year-old was signed.
Joining Robinson in the secondary will be veteran corner Antonio Cromartie, who was just signed yesterday following news that Davis will miss at least the first month of the season with an ankle injury. Cromartie, a 10-year veteran and four-time Pro Bowler, has been on the open market since the Jets released him in February. That was the end of Cromartie’s second stint with New York, which lasted only one season. Pro Football Focus ranked him just 86th out of 111 qualified cornerbacks in 2015, but he’ll now likely be counted on to start for a quarter of the season at minimum.
While Indianapolis is planning on Robinson and Cromartie providing consistent production in the defensive backfield, the club is surely hoping that Scott Tolzien doesn’t see many — if any — snaps this year as he serves as Andrew Luck‘s backup at quarterback. Luck is coming off an injury-wrecked season, but the Colts were able to stay afloat thanks in some part to the play of Matt Hasselbeck.
Tolzien, meanwhile, doesn’t have anywhere close to the level of experience that Hasselbeck did, as Tolzien has only attempted 91 passes during his career. As such, it’s fair to wonder why Indy didn’t target a more high-profile backup signal-caller. But, as former Colts offensive coordinator Tom Moore once said (in an extremely colorful way), clubs are usually finished if their starting quarterback goes down, so perhaps not investing in a No. 2 option is the smart strategy.
Indianapolis doesn’t have much depth behind Luck, and the club is also short on options behind running back Frank Gore, who is entering his age-33 season. Veteran free agent additions Jordan Todman and Robert Turbin, each of whom signed minimum salary benefit deals, both figure to make the roster and would likely share carries if Gore suffers an injury. However, 2016 undrafted free agent Josh Ferguson has been drawing rave reviews, and could leap both Todman and Turbin for playing time.
Continue reading about the Colts’ offseason…