Colts Mailbag

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Colts Mailbag: Adding Depth At Linebacker, Salary Cap Space, Anthony Castonzo’s Future

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INDIANAPOLIS — Each week, Colts.com readers can submit their questions to have a chance of them being answered in our Mailbag series.

Missed out on the party this week? Not a problem — you can submit your question(s) for next time by clicking here.

Let’s jump right into this week’s questions:

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» Troy C. (Linton, Ind.):Last year we seen a play with Ebron throwing the ball to Luck. With the offensive mind of Reich do you think we would ever see a wildcat scenario with Brissett in the backfield? I would really like to see Jacoby involved in our offense more and he can throw the ball better than Ebron and I feel he needs to be “rewarded” for proving himself in our 2017 season.thanks

Walker: We did actually see one play in 2018 in which Jacoby Brissett was the quarterback with Andrew Luck lined up as a receiver out wide on fourth down, and Brissett actually threw the ball to Luck, who snagged the high pass and converted the first down. On a side note, I actually got to ask Frank Reich about the origin of that playcall, which was pretty interesting stuff if you wanted to read it (click here). But I don’t really see too many other plays on the horizon in which Brissett is on the field with the offense other than if Luck is unable to go or if the Colts are up (or down) big in the final minutes of a game. That’s just the life of a backup quarterback in the NFL, no matter how good they are — and the Colts believe Brissett is very good. He’s a tremendous security blanket to have, but he’s simply just not going to get the chance to play all that much when you have an elite quarterback like Luck running the show.

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» John P. (Muncie, Ind.):I really hope they sign someone to help Leonard on the other side that will be awesome go Blue Bleed Blue......

Walker: Personally, I thought Anthony Walker was pretty awesome opposite of Darius Leonard at linebacker last season. I mean, Leonard and Walker were the league’s top tackling duo in the NFL in 2018, with a combined 268 stops between the two of them, and one would expect even more growth out of Walker in Year 3 in 2019. While that’s not to say the Colts haven’t already considered adding competition at linebacker this offseason, it looks as if the team will head into the start of its offseason workout program with both Leonard and Walker returning into their starting roles, which is the type of luxury probably several other teams across the league would like to have afforded to them.

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» Darvell L. (Joliet, Ill.):How do you feel about us grabbing Ferrel at 26 and then IMO the best receiver in the draft Hakeem Butler at 34?

Walker: That doesn’t sound all that bad to me, Darvell. In fact, Colts.com’s Jake Arthur, who has been leading our 2019 NFL Draft coverage, would probably jump for joy if this were the actual result (he’s had the Colts taking Clemson DE Clelin Ferrell at No. 26-overall in both of his mock drafts so far). Butler, meanwhile, seems to be an extremely tough and big-bodied wide receiver prospect, though I think the consensus is he needs to work on his hands a bit at the next level. Personally, for me, if N’Keal Harry is there at No. 34 overall, you should jump at selecting him at wide receiver, but I certainly don’t think you’d be doing yourself a disservice if you ended up selecting Butler.

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» Lucas H. (Michigan City, Ind.):Why are we viewing safeties higher than cornerbacks? The secondary has been better the past two years but we have multiple established safeties but we are really lacking a shut down corner

Walker: I think there are a few factors at play, Lucas. First off, I’m of the belief that the Colts’ cornerback situation isn’t as dire as some have made it out to be. Considering the work Pierre Desir did last year down the stretch, as well as how well Kenny Moore II played in the slot, I’d say that the first couple corner spots are in pretty good shape moving forward. When the Colts have three or four corners on the field, meanwhile, having competition between the likes of Quincy Wilson, Jalen Collins, Nate Hairston, Chris Milton and D.J. Killings this offseason and into camp should sort that out — and I wouldn’t be surprised at all if the team went cornerback with one of its picks in this year’s draft. Secondly, sticking with cornerback, I think fans need to try better understand what they’re being asked to do in Matt Eberflus’ defensive system; while they’re still playing some man-to-man and press coverage, the corners are mostly being asked to play zone and keep the plays in front of them. So, yeah, teams are going to get plenty of five-, seven-, 10-yard pass plays, but as long as the corners swarm to the ball, tackle well, limit big plays and then really bear down in the red zone, then they’re, for the most part, succeeding in this scheme. Lastly, with the injury issues that have affected the safety position in recent seasons, why wouldn’t the team want to try to solidify its options at those two spots? I think it’s clear that the likes of Malik Hooker and Clayton Geathers are solid starters in the NFL, but if there are times when they can’t make it on the field, you need just-as-capable replacements to go to in their absence. Plus, there’s what Chris Ballard considers a pretty deep safety class in this year’s NFL Draft, so add all those factors together, and I’d hope you’d get a decent idea where they are.

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» Eddie C. (San Juan, Puerto Rico):Since we are so close to the draft, do you think we could use a linebacker to add depth to the position?? Always love your insight Andrew. Great job everytime. Oh, and you can let your readers know that there was no exchange of any kind for my comments 😜”

Walker: Disclaimer: Eddie is not a paid Colts Mailbag spokesperson. But thanks! And as I mentioned above, while you’re always looking for ways to get better at every position, I think the Colts are very comfortable with what they have at linebacker when it comes to Darius Leonard and Anthony Walker. But I do think there will be heavy competition for that SAM linebacker spot, as well as the backup spots behind both Leonard and Walker. I would have to think Chris Ballard will take a very close look at the linebacker position in the draft, and then there’s always an undrafted guy or two that seems to make a play there, as well.

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» Scott H. (Atlanta):Thanks for all the great Colts insights! I have a question about how the salary cap works. The Colts are still millions under the 2019 cap but don't seem to be eager to use all of the cap space. What are some strategic reasons why a team wouldn't spend all of what they have available to them in a given offseason, especially a team with Super Bowl aspirations?

Walker: Thanks, Scott! We’ve gotten into this question in past Mailbags here recently, but to me, the main factor at play when it comes to all the available cap space the Colts currently have is making sure they have enough in the coffers to cover a few potential key player extensions over the next few months and going into next season. With Anthony Castonzo, Ryan Kelly, Kenny Moore II, Jabaal Sheard, Eric Ebron, Jack Doyle, Rigoberto Sanchez and others entering contract years, the Colts will likely want to try to begin the negotiation process with at least some of these players in the days and weeks following the NFL Draft to get them locked in for the future. It sounds simple, but to be able to extend those players, you need a good chunk of money, and by not going out and being huge spenders in free agency, it seems as if the Colts will be in prime position to do just that.

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» Ewotha G. (Frederick, Md.):Hey Andrew. Long time Colts fan from the Bert Jones/ Lydell Mitchell days in the 70's. Btw, keep up the great work you're doing with the Mailbag. This really keeps us Colts fans in on the inside story of our Colts. My question is about WR Dontrelle Inman. I haven't heard a lot about the Colts interest in re-signing him. What's holding that up? I saw him really help down the stretch last season especially in the Playoff win over Houston. Thanks for taking my question.

Walker: Thanks for the very kind words, Ewotha, and I happen to be a huge Frederick, Md., fan. When I used to work for the Washington Redskins and lived in Northern Virginia, I always knew I was getting close to home along Interstate 70 when I’d start seeing signs for Frederick. Does anybody else have an affinity for a certain location for similar reasons, or am I just crazy? Probably crazy. Anyway, Chris Ballard said at the owners meetings a couple weeks back that talks continue between Dontrelle Inman and the Colts, and that at this point he’s not going to rule out or 100 percent commit to Inman returning to the team in 2019. To me, the thought process is this: yes, Inman was an incredibly valuable midseason signing last year, and he certainly helped rise the play of the receiver group as a whole for that critical run the team made down the stretch. But at some point the team is going to want to get younger at the position and let the other guys get their chance to show what they can do, and if you’re also going to sign a Devin Funchess, have room for the return of Deon Cain and potentially get a player or two at the position in the draft, then you start to run out of other options. So I’d say at this point, let’s see what the Colts do in the draft, and if Inman is still available, then we’ll revisit the topic.

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» Matt S. (Greenwood, Ind.):In your( colts. Com)"who might we pick" series you do not include a tackle. Is that because you see greater need elsewhere, an oversight, or no tackle worth a second round choice? With AC in a contract year and the struggles we had without him, tackle seems a big need.

Walker: Great question, Matt, and first of all, thanks for being such an avid reader. To get you the best answer possible, I reached out to Colts.com’s Jake Arthur, who wrote the article you’re referring to. He said: “Guys like Kaleb McGary and Tytus Howard were considerations in the second round, but I ultimately valued the other players chosen higher. More offensive linemen come into play on my third round list. I acknowledge the need for depth and a possible replacement for (Anthony Castonzo), but overall I just decided not to go with a tackle in the second.”

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» Dustan K. (Fort Wayne, Ind.):First off let me say I am very excited about this coming season and this years draft.My question is do you think we will go best available or needs with are first pick this year and why not sign a veteran wide receiver to help that group out and can you give a update with the visits by Shane Ray and adai thank you and keep up the good work.

Walker: Thanks Dustin! I’ve addressed the “veteran wide receiver” question here recently as it pertains to Dontrelle Inman, but here’s the basic premise: at some point the team is going to want to get younger at the position and let the other guys get their chance to show what they can do, and that includes Devin Funchess and Deon Cain. So spots are limited for a guy like Inman or any other outside experienced wide receiver, and nobody would blame them if they decided there were better fits elsewhere. As for Shane Ray, we know he reportedly visited with the Colts on March 22, and he’s also made other stops along the way. I’d say to wait for the draft to see what the team does along the edge, and if there’s room for a guy like Ray at that point and he hasn’t signed elsewhere, then we’ll revisit the topic.

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» Gary M. (Kenosha, Wisc.):With Marlon Mack’s injures don’t the Colts need another back

Walker: Marlon Mack had a nagging hamstring issue to start the 2018 season, but played in the Colts’ final 14 games of the regular season and the postseason. So while I definitely understand the injury concerns, I’m not sure the Colts are just desperate to find another body at the position because of this. And you also have two backs in Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins who are about to enter the second year of their careers, which is when Mack made a huge jump forward, so in short, no, I don’t think the Colts need another running back. Don’t forget about Jonathan Williams at the running back position, who the team is also high on. Now, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Colts added another body or two at running back for their 90-man offseason roster just to help with the load during camp and preseason, but I’d say Chris Ballard and Frank Reich are very satisfied with what they currently have there.

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» Chris P. (Lake In The Hills, Ill.):I’m really excited about us picking up Devin Funchess... I know, they say he was a bust in Carolina... but being no huge pressure, due to being number 2, to TY... do you think he we flourish in our offense, as did Eric Ebron... thanks to the change of scenery??

Walker: It’s pretty hard not to envision Devin Funchess making an Eric Ebron-like jump as he figures out his role in Frank Reich’s offense with the Colts. And by saying that, I’m not necessarily predicting a double-digit touchdown season or a Pro Bowl selection, but I think the fresh start will do wonders for Funchess, just as it did for Ebron last year. Frank Reich was absolutely gushing about Funchess and what he brings to the table two weeks ago at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix: “I’m so excited about Devin,” Reich said. “I mean, when I watch his tape, what I see is a big man who is really athletic. I like to talk about having route-running skill; this combination of having good feet, good instincts and good body control, and then what sometimes we refer to as body quickness.

“I’ve gotten a good idea what he can do and what he likes to do from watching that tape. I just think it’ll be a fresh start for him, so I think the consistency of all the route running, all the little adjustments and nuances to zone coverage — which I see on tape, but now it’s a whole new scheme — and then, really, the big part, right, he can work on now (is) developing chemistry with Andrew (Luck), and that’ll be huge.”

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» Charles J. (Terre Haute, Ind.):So I think Anthony Costanzo has done a remarkable job and I was wondering since he's getting up there in veteran status, is there an acceptable replacement for him when he's gone? No disrespect towards him but i feel like replacing him is gonna be a hard task.

Walker: It’s not unfair at all to inquire about the future of Anthony Castonzo and the left tackle spot for the Colts, simply because Castonzo in 2019 is entering the final year of his contract and nobody on the current roster has really jumped out at this point and for sure earned the right to be the likely player-in-waiting at the position moving forward. Castonzo will be 31 by the time the regular season begins, but considering how well he’s played in particular the last couple years, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see the Colts offer him one more multi-year contract extension within the next few months. But even if that doesn’t end up coming to fruition, the tackle position is considered a pretty deep group in this year’s NFL Draft, so Chris Ballard could possibly choose to address that spot with one of his nine selections.

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» Ivory G. (Honolulu):Aloha from Hawaii, Question: Did we miss the opportunity to trade Jacoby Brissett at this point? Is his value down due to the fact that he cannot display what he can do. Like the shine is off the diamond at this point. Especially with all the QB needy teams that were out there. Thanks for ur time. Ivory

Walker: Aloha, Ivory! Thanks for writing in. And short answer, no, I don’t think the Colts have missed any key opportunities to trade Jacoby Brissett. There are tons of trades during the NFL Draft, so that might be worth keeping an eye on, but then some teams might get a little desperate in the midst of training camp and the preseason if they realize their quarterback situation heading into the regular season isn’t looking too hot (a la, when the Colts traded for Brissett just prior to Week 1 of the 2017 regular season). And I don’t think Brissett’s lack of snaps in 2018 is playing into any sort of lack of interest from other teams. He’s certainly not the first backup quarterback to be in his position that has gone on to be traded or sign elsewhere.

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» Steven H. (Cohoes, N.Y.):How can I get a Darius Leonard jersey

Walker: From the Colts Pro Shop, of course! Click here to check out the various selections.

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» Mackenzie W. (Shelbyville, Ind.):What is the biggest thing for this team moving forward?

Walker: I’d definitely say Lucas Oil Stadium.

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