Colts Mailbag

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Colts Mailbag: Slow Playing Free Agency, Defensive Interior, Jalen Collins’ Opportunity

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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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» Andrew E. (Dayton, Ind.):So now that you've seen the combine who do you like? Who do you think can realistically be there for us at 26? You think sweat drops that far? Thanks and keep up the vigilant work.

Walker: After getting a little time to reflect on the Combine, I continue to be very impressed with the likes of Montez Sweat. He really opened my eyes watching him practice in January down in Mobile, Ala., at the Senior Bowl, and his performance at the Combine only confirmed those thoughts. I mean, come on — a 4.41-second 40-yard dash? Are you kidding me? No way he drops to the Colts at No. 26. Others I liked at the Combine: linebacker Devin Bush, defensive end Brian Burns, tight end Noah Fant, wide receiver A.J. Brown, tackle Jawaan Taylor and cornerback Byron Murphy. Other than probably Burns, all those guys could be there for the taking when the Colts go on the clock with their first-round selection.

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» Michael J. (Folkestone, Kent, England):Hi Andrew, its been a few years since i last posted a question/statement. I hope your well, and thanks for your work with the mailbag, 

This past season has arguably been one of the most enjoyable in recent memory. From the shocking start, to our troops rallying together and finishing as strong as any team in the league, it was a joy to watch. The analysts, "Experts" if you will had us ranked in the late 20's, one or two considered us as the worst team in the league, That coupled with the mediocre draft ranks we received ranged from c- to b at best. How wrong were they all. Andrew i hope you'll agree, Its been a long time since the future has looked this promising..

The whole franchise has transitioned from what seemed like organized chaos, to a stable well oiled machine. Its incredible how quick the change has happened. Its clear to me Chris Ballard is at the top of his game, as the awards he has received confirm. In your opinion, what do you think sets him apart from the rest, 

With regards to the roster, i watched replays of all colts games after the SB. Our QB is back to his best, TY was outstanding of course. Leonard and nelson clearly are superstars. Do you have any players in your opinion that don't get the recognition they deserve, for me i saw a Anthony Castonzo back to his best. The line just looks much more organized when playing, lets hope for an injury free season. The pick for me was Anthony Walker, the attention quite rightly goes to leonard he was incredible, Yet my pick for most unappreciated player goes to walker, Its not an easy job, calm and composed gets the job done. Linebacker was a concern not any more, a great duo. And the forgotten man watch the replays many great punts inside the 10, sanchez one of the best..

Walker: Thanks for your dedication all the way from England, Michael! There’s obviously a lot to take in from your submission, so I’ll try my best to answer your questions.

» What’s building with the Colts’ organization definitely, to me, feels somewhat like what happened back in 1999, when Bill Polian selected Edgerrin James to match up with Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison to create one of the greatest offensive attacks the league has ever seen. What followed was about a decades’ worth of year in and year out being considered a Super Bowl favorite. That’s a lot to try to live up to for this current Colts squad, but then again, the team did just advance to the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

» I think what sets Chris Ballard apart from some others across the league is his conviction. And there isn’t anything fake about it. He says what he means, and he means what he says. Fans of other teams might constantly wonder what’s next, or be in the dark about certain moves made, but Ballard isn’t scared to explain his line of thinking, as well as provide a blueprint of sorts for what might be coming next. He’s extremely loyal to the people and the processes that got him to where he is, but isn’t afraid to evolve and adjust as needed.

» I’d definitely agree with your pick of Anthony Walker as an unsung hero from last season. Coming into training camp, we figured Darius Leonard, once healthy, would be one of the starters, but the rest of the group, quite frankly, was very much in question as to who would likely fill what roles. I’d also add Malik Hooker to that list, however. He was a first-round pick, so, of course, you’d hope he’d make a big impact, but when he was on the field last season, teams just didn’t attempt to throw the deep ball. For a Colts defense that had struggled at times to limit big plays in the recent past, this was probably considered a huge step forward in Matt Eberflus’ first season as defensive coordinator.

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» Jesse G. (Largo, Fla.):Hi Andrew, thank you for all you do! I love Colts Mailbag and the depth of information you provide in your responses. I know the Colts just resigned Margus Hunt and I think he had a great year last year, but I would still like to see the Colts get a young Defensive Tackle who could push the middle of the line not allowing the QB to step up. This would be a big help to our edge guys and perhaps bring more sacks to the group. That being said, and knowing the Colts have pick 26 in the first round, who do you think would be a good fit for this defense?

Walker: Thanks Jesse! It’s always fun to see what’s on the mind of Colts fans (well, OK, most of the time). Anyway, there are a few factors at play when it comes to the interior of Indy’s defensive line: first off, we know Denico Autry is a starter — but at which position? He mostly played the three-technique last season out of necessity, but Chris Ballard hasn’t been shy about wanting a true three-tech, and then likely sliding Autry over. So perhaps Tyquan Lewis, with a full offseason workout program, training camp and preseason, could be that guy after playing mostly off the edge the second half of his rookie year? Factor in Margus Hunt, who showed he can be productive all around the line last season, and you’ve got a solid starting point heading into this year’s draft, which is stocked deep with defensive line talent. Of those who might be there for the picking at No. 26-overall, I look at Clemson’s Dexter Lawrence and Christian Wilkins, Notre Dame’s Jerry Tillery and Mississippi State’s Jeffery Simmons all as solid possibilities. But, again, this is such a loaded class up front that maybe you use the 26th pick elsewhere and you use one of your two second-round picks on a defensive lineman? Lots of directions this thing could go.

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» Rob K. (Manahawkin, N.J.):With several free agents on the defensive line do you think the colts should bring back Henry Anderson? 

If not should they target a player like Trey Flowers who fits the mold of being able to play anywhere on the line?

We definitely have the cap room to find many potential answers in free agency although I don't see the colts changing their approach to moving slowly and finding the best fits for the team.

Walker: Since submitting your questions, Rob, the New York Jets re-signed Henry Anderson, while the Detroit Lions spent $90 million ($56 guaranteed) on Trey Flowers. But I will say this: why would the Colts last year trade away Henry Anderson, who they didn’t consider a perfect fit for the 4-3, only to potentially sign him to a decently big deal in free agency this offseason? Anderson really seems like a perfect fit as a defensive end in the 3-4, as evidenced by his career-best 7.0 sacks with the Jets last season as more of a situational pass rusher, so best of luck to him in New Jersey.

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» Thomas W. (Woodbun, Ind.):Are you ever going to bring back those throwback uni's???? PLEASE BRING THEM BACK!!

Walker: The main thing to keep in mind when referring to team wearing “throwback” uniforms is the helmet. League rules now prohibit players from wearing more than one helmet the entire season, so that really limits the options when it comes to helmet color/design. So pretty much any “throwback” the Colts could potentially wear would almost have to include a white helmet. We all remember Peyton Manning throwing for six touchdowns on Thanksgiving Day in 2004 against the Detroit Lions wearing that throwback uni with the white helmet (the one with the two horseshoes on the back of the helmet split by a single blue stripe), so, theoretically, the Colts could decide to wear those again. I, personally, would like to see just one game in which the team wears the white jersey with its blue “Color Rush” pants. I’m not suggesting this happen every year by any means, but it’d just be interesting to see what this combo would look like for one game.

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» Doug S. (Shingle Springs, Calif.):Hello again Andrew, thank you for the insight to Q.Wilson’s role. Is there a power hitter lawn dart defensive prospect that flat out changes the game consistantly game in game out in the up coming draft that the Colts should/could or a meat eater d lineman. The mock draft has a few eye poppers but realistically are they real prospects or wishlist?

Clemson nose tackle, LSU or Fl Seminole safety? Thank you again. Doug

Walker: “Lawn dart?” “Meat eater?” You’ve been watching Mike Mayock too much over the years! I’d say the “lawn dart” would be Mississippi State’s Johnathan Abram — a big hitter that’s believed to be solid in coverage, as well. I’d guess he isn’t going to be around when the Colts pick at No. 26, but you never know. Alabama’s Quinnen Williams would be my “meat eater” defensive lineman prospect; but, again, he’ll likely go in the Top 10 at this point. And the fun thing about mock drafts this year for the Colts is that because the team is selecting so late in the first round, there are all sorts of possibilities, many of which, of course, depend upon the action in the 25 picks before them. Last year, when the team was picking third overall, and then traded with the New York Jets to move down to No. 6, there were really only a handful of names that we all knew the team would likely pursue. But I’d say that most of the mock drafts that I have seen have some pretty realistic players being picked by the Colts. There are a few reaches — some probably too high, some probably too low — but there’s a good collection of 20 or so names that I’ve seen that could be considered good fits for the team in the first round.

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» Tim H. (Lafayette, Ind.):Great job keeping us updated on Colts actions. It would be nice if Chris gave us fans little more FA information. We understand the price and not pulling a Grigson. It would be nice to get how far put were we on price. Collins I can live without at that price. But Flowers, Smith, and Amos. Were we that far off. I great S is a need and a rookie probably not that level. We have to get a DL player and a great EDGE player to really move forward in 2019. Another WR like a slot Aghlor? Do we really need Ajagi RB.  We need 1-2 FA for 2019.

Walker: Honestly, I think Chris Ballard gives more insight into his process than just about any other GM across the league. Besides, it’s probably not in the Colts’ best interest to give exact details about what value they might’ve placed on certain free agents, anyway. Bottom line, however: let this process play out, and then we’ll catch up with Ballard and see what he has to say. Free agency literally just got started on Wednesday.

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» Joe A. (North Vernon, Ind.):A lot of people frustrated again this year due to the lack of "splashy" signings by the Colts. Personally, I really like Chris Ballard's philosophy of signing, developing and eventually rewarding your own players. My question is this: Do you think part of the plan might be to use some of the available cash to extend some of the core players (next year's free agents) BEFORE the end of the 2019 season?

Walker: Joe here brings up a good point: there’s still plenty of time for the Colts to work out some contract extensions with players currently on the roster whose deals are expiring after the 2019 season. Notable players who fit that criteria include left tackle Anthony Castonzo, defensive end Jabaal Sheard, tight ends Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron and cornerback Kenny Moore II. The Colts could even consider extending players currently with two years left on their deals, although the general approach to that tends to vary from team to team. Those players would include wide receiver T.Y. Hilton, defensive tackle/end Denico Autry, center Ryan Kelly, running back Marlon Mack and linebacker Anthony Walker. There’s not much precedent to contract extensions for the team under Chris Ballard, however; most, if not all, extensions have been signed by players in the weeks leading up to or immediately following free agency. But that certainly could change this year/offseason.

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» Christopher K. (Riga, Latvia):first let me say what a job Chris Ballard has done with this team. now my question about one of the forgotten men, a second round pick guy, what kind of role do you see Jalen Collins playing this year if one at all?

Walker: A question from the Baltic Sea! And a terrific one at that. While many have pointed at cornerback as a position of need for the Colts to address this offseason, let’s not forget that the team does have a former second-round pick with a lot of promise on its roster that is yet to really get an opportunity to show what he can do in Jalen Collins. I think one thing that stood out to me about Collins last year upon his signing in Indianapolis was the fact that despite being on the practice squad, he was on almost all the team’s road trips down the stretch of the regular season and into the postseason. So clearly the team wants Collins around and involved. I’d really need to get a good look at the team as it gets deep into offseason practices and minicamp before I could get a good idea where Collins could fall on the depth chart heading into the 2019 season, but he should get a fair shot to earn a spot.

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» Allan K. (Big Pine Key, Fla.):Thanks for the Colts Mailbag it gives fans a great opportunity to get some questions answered. This might be a dumb one but I would like to know. When a team tells a player that they can test the market, as the Colts did with Pierre Desir, do they expect or ask the player to get back to them when they get an offer so they have an opportunity to counter the offer?

Walker: Thanks for writing in, Allan. I’d say, in general, if the Colts legitimately want a pending free agent to return, but will allow them to test the market, then I don’t think it’d be out of line for the team to ask that player’s agent for the chance to stay in touch as free agency begins. Fortunately for the Colts and Pierre Desir, although several other teams had reportedly expressed interest in the cornerback during the “legal tampering” period to begin the week, the two sides seemed to agree to terms on his new deal before Desir ever officially hit the open market (he officially signed the next day).

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» Yeni T. (Fort Wayne, Ind.):Hi, thanks for ur time. As a fan for long time. I would love to see Ballard go out n spend some of the money we have. I understand his strategy Building roster through the draft. But my main thing is this. Andrew luck is not getting younger 29, he on his prime. He want to Win now, for that he needs some Veterans help, rookies take some time to be great. Last year was great comeback story, we have a team. By adding players only gonna help.After seeing jets n browns making all the moves really frustrated for me that we r so quiet. What do you think Chris Ballard real strategy here?

Walker: This question was asked in many different ways, but I felt that Yeni best explained what I believe to be some of the Colts fans’ frustrations with the team’s free agency approach (or lack thereof) this time around. And I get it: fans see the Colts have the most available cap space to spend of any team in the NFL and are seeing all the “bigger-name” free agents signing elsewhere, and with a few key needs still left on the Indy roster, they feel Chris Ballard should be more aggressive than he has been. And, from what I can gather, most fans who are frustrated still get Ballard’s general approach to free agency; that he won’t pay “blue chip” money for players that he doesn’t believe have “blue chip” talent, and that he wants to primarily build through the draft. To me, this brings up the age-old question: do you want to be set up for more short-term or long-term success? Do you want to overspend now on an outside player who could help you in 2019, or use those resources to extend the contract of a key contributor currently on your roster? Do you want as many shots at the draft “dart board” as possible, or do you want to give those picks up to trade for a player that another team is desperate — for whatever reason — to get off their hands? Also, remember: free agency is a year-round endeavor; the Colts signed both Pierre Desir and Kenny Moore II after they were let go during final cuts heading into the 2017 season, for example. So, no, the Colts don’t appear to be very active in the first wave of free agency once again, but Ballard trusts head coach Frank Reich and his staff to be successful with — and continuing developing — whatever roster he puts together. The goal, of course, is to win now, but it’s also to be in the best position to have sustained success for as long as possible. 

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» Terry A. (Bloomington, Ind.):Why are Colts fans already complaining about the direction the Colts are going this off season? They ask, why aren't we spending money on big name free agents? Trust Ballard! Look at what he did last year! No Colt fan (not even me) expected the Colts to make the playoffs and I have been a die hard fan since 1971. I totally trust the direction that were going in and I plan on watching the Colts win the SUPER BOWL this year!

Walker: Terry might have something here. Let’s see how this approach plays out; Indy did pretty well for itself with it last year. Give Ballard & Co. the benefit of the doubt, if you’re so inclined.

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» Heiko A. (Berlin, Germany): “No Question at the Moment.”

Walker: OK then.

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