Colts Mailbag

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Colts Mailbag: Draft Needs, Free Agency Approach And How About Tom Brady Or Philip Rivers?

In this week’s Colts Mailbag, readers inquire about the team's biggest needs heading into the 2020 NFL Draft,  whether the Colts will be buyers in free agency, if Tom Brady or Philip Rivers could be possible options to sign at quarterback and much more.


Steve T. (Indianapolis): "I want to know why u waited so long to find a kicker to help out love adam but in training camp when he was hurtting he needed to looked at and then i think GM should have been looking for a kicker we could have been maybe in the play offs since adam is the reason we lost so many close games i blame everybody in the office and then since luck didnt play any of the snaps in training camp didnt u think to look for a QB maybe wow is ownership so dar out of it u guys didnt care about the city or the team"

Walker: Here is general manager Chris Ballard, when asked after the season why the team didn't ever move on from Adam Vinatieri after his struggles earlier in the year: "Adam is very prideful. He would tell you he needed to be better. But do I regret us sticking with him? No. There's no guarantee. We worked out a ton of kickers. The one thing I kept asking myself when we would do that — because Adam was kicking great in practice; y'all were at the same practices I was — I kept asking our group, 'If we had Adam working out with this group of kickers that we brought in, who would we pick?' We would have picked Adam. I told Adam that. Every time I'd work guys out, I'd look at Adam and say, 'Adam, if I had to tell you who I had to take out of this group, I'm taking you.' Do I wish we would have produced more in that position? Yes, I do. But, saying that, I do not regret the decisions we made with Adam. Not at all." Pretty much says it all.


Larry B. (Indianapolis): "start using the other running back's other than marlon mac"

Walker: Why, Larry? If Marlon Mack doesn't suffer a broken hand and miss two games — he only missed two games! — he likely would've finished in the top five in the league in rushing. And Mack is not only a terrific young ballcarrier — he's solid in pass protection, too. So while Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins will continue to play their roles — and they play them well — I think you're going to have to get used to the idea of Mack continuing his role as the team's lead running back.


Shawn W. (Newport, N.H.): "Why don't we ever pick up any players from free agency that are half way decent"

Walker: Justin Houston was signed in free agency last offseason, and had 11 sacks in his first year in Indy. Pretty decent year, if you ask me. And Devin Funchess, also signed as a free agent last year, was clearly going to be heavily involved in the offense before suffering a season-ending injury in the very first game of the year. So that's just bad luck. Two years ago, the Colts signed free agents Denico Autry (a Pro Bowl alternate in 2018 with a combined 12.5 sacks the last two seasons from the defensive tackle position) and Eric Ebron (who earned his first-career Pro Bowl selection in 2018 after leading all NFL tight ends with 13 receiving touchdowns). All halfway decent free agency pickups. Might not be the big splash signings some are clamoring for, but they're very productive additions and key playmakers on both sides of the ball.


William M. (Beaumont, Calif.): "Andrew Luck was a top 5 QB and possibly a hall of Famer . In my gut I feel he will regret his decision to retire from football for the rest of his life. My question is will he come back and if not will he regret it? "

Walker: I'll let Chris Ballard answer this one. From his end-of-season press conference, when asked if he's talked to Andrew Luck and whether he believes he's "done-done" in terms of his playing career: "Look, Andrew's retired. Do I talk to Andrew? Yes I do. Haven't talked to him here in a few weeks. I'm sure he's been busy being a father. But Andrew is retired. I think we all need to accept that. That's where he's at. He's retired."


Charles S. (Lerona, W. Va.): "Why wasn't Chad Kelly put in to play when QB was having problems? Who would make that call? Frank"

Walker: This was discussed ad nauseam over the final couple games of the season, but I will explain it again here: the Colts expressed a desire to finish out the season with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback because they still felt as they had some work to do in terms of getting better as an offensive unit heading into 2020. To put a brand new guy in at quarterback would've be a major adjustment for the rest of the offense, as well as for those calling the plays. "We need to continue to learn and get better," head coach Frank Reich said on Dec. 17. "(Brissett's) our quarterback, so we need him in there to work through those things." Chad Kelly remains on the team's offseason roster, and he's in line to get a shot to show what he's made of over the next few months.


Ritchie R. (Indianapolis): "What is the most important need for the colts in the 2020 N.F.L Draft????"

Walker: Offensively, I think it's important for the Colts to add more top-end playmakers to their roster, whether that's at wide receiver or tight end. And what do you do at left tackle, where Anthony Castonzo is a pending free agent and is mulling the possibility of retirement, and your top backup tackles, Le'Raven Clark and Joe Haeg, are set to become unrestricted free agents in March? Defensively, I think the Colts should keep adding to their defensive interior up front; Chris Ballard talked about the need to find a dominant three-technique, which is a huge piece to the puzzle to the Colts' 4-3, Tampa 2 base defensive scheme. "I think the interior, we've got to be able to get some more interior pressure. The three-technique, the three-technique drives this thing. It does. Every time I've been a part of this, the three-technique drives this," Ballard said after the season. So we'll see how the Colts respond accordingly with their (current crop of) eight picks heading into the 2020 NFL Draft.


David S. (Arlington, Texas): "Chris Ballard expressed a lot of accountability in adding depth (or lack of) last season. The Colts have a LOT of cap again, do you think this season they'll go after more "premier" free agents? Ex: the Packers never went after free agents but this past offseason they overhauled their front 7 and now have a pretty good playoff defensive unit w the Smith bros. Also; this is probably the most promising WR class I've seen in terms of speed and explosiveness. How many pass catchers should the Colts look to add? Injuries sucked this year but it would have been nice if there were some rookies to give some run to."

Walker: I think first one has to look at how many of their own players and pending free agents the Colts might want to re-sign before digging into the possibility of signing outside free agents. There are some big names entering the final years of their contracts in 2020 that could possibly be in line for an extension in the coming months, among them: T.Y. Hilton, Jacoby Brissett, Justin Houston, Denico Autry, Ryan Kelly, Marlon Mack, Grover Stewart, Anthony Walker and potentially Malik Hooker. Still, the Colts could still have plenty of money to play with once the league's free agency period begins in mid-March. I think there's a misconception out there that the Colts simply won't participate in the free agency process, and won't pursue the "premier" players, in your words, but that really isn't the case. Indy has entered into negotiations with multiple top free agents the last two or three years, but once talks enter a certain price point, general manager Chris Ballard is comfortable with just letting that player walk. I guess the question this year will be will Ballard be a little bit more willing to spend what is likely those few extra million dollars a year to convince one of those top players to sign in Indy? Well, he said this in his end-of-season press conference: "You all know my philosophy on free agency: you cannot buy a championship. You cannot buy a locker room," Ballard said. "We will continue to go down the same road we've been going down. Saying that, when we get opportunities to acquire players that we like, we'll do it. … Our general philosophy is always going to be to build through the draft. That's how we're going to do it."


Dominic H. (Indianapolis): "Who you guys going to sign Philip Rivers or tom brady for your quarterback"

Walker: What we know: both Philip Rivers and Tom Brady are set to become unrestricted free agents once the new league year begins at 4 p.m. March 18. What we don't know: how teams will approach the possibility of signing either player. Rivers will turn 39 during the 2020 season, and Brady will turn 43 during training camp in early August. Both could very well be effective stop-gaps at the ever-important quarterback position, but neither are going to be considered long-term options, so with that in mind, if you're a team like the Colts, do you explore the possibility of signing either guy? To me, you start at the top: owner Jim Irsay has expressed a desire for his franchise to return to having long-term, consistent success, and his goal is to one day become the first NFL team to win three straight Super Bowls. Are you putting yourself in position to do that by signing an aging veteran quarterback for one or two years — at a hefty, hefty, hefty price tag? Or are you better served with a quarterback you've developed in your own system? Both Brady and Rivers thrived in the latter scenario themselves. But, again, I can certainly see why some teams would be interested in either guy.

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