My Mind and Heart have rather enjoyed this make-believe journey as the "Men in Charge" in the Indianapolis Front Office. I am delivering their free agency pursuits to you now, largely similar to how I informed you of their tentative draft. Since all of this is merely setting the stage for their week by week analysis of every game on the Colts schedule, I have spared you all the dialogue and tried to get down to business. Once their choices in free agency and the draft are settled in, a complete roster reflecting all signings will be posted in another blog. You will notice that rather than erase all free agent signing by the Colts, I have kept everything on the roster exactly as it is at this point up to the signing of Justice/Redding/Wayne and have merely filled it to a full 53 man roster.
Here we go again!
My Mind and Heart agreed that the running game, return game, and receiving game were the aspects of the Colts team that needed to be looked at. This came from the realization of their draft picks which addressed other positions and also the previous free agent signings by the Colts Front Office which added depth along the offensive line and also upgraded the defensive line with the addition of defensive end Corey Redding.
The first position they looked at was the running back spot, and this is what they found:
Cadillac Williams and Tashard Choice are decent free agent options available and their cap costs are low.
Cadillac Williams: 685,000/Year---Drafted in 05
Tashard Choice: 536,250/Year---Drafted in 08
Keep in mind that Williams' contract was a 1 year deal in St. Louis, and 1 year deals are always more expensive than longer-term contracts, so the Colts could probably sign him to a longer-term, less expensive deal. Either Williams or Choice would be an inexpensive option and would provide a bruising back that the Colts need with their perceived new philosophy on running backs.
We do have Donald Brown, Delone Carter, and Chris Gronkowski on the roster already, so one of them would have to go. Both Gronkowski and Brown's contracts end next year, so signing a low cost running back to take their place with Carter as a 1-2 punch is a feasible option.
The second position they looked at was the kick/punt returner spot, and this is what they found:
Devin Aromashodu, LaRod Stephens-Howling, and Ted Ginn, Jr. are available in free agency, and not only are they viable 3rd or 4th receivers, they should each excel in the return game.
Devin Aromashodu: 685,000/Year---Drafted 06 (Played for Colts in 06.)
LaRod Stephens-Howling: 406,333/Year---Drafted 09
Ted Ginn Jr.: 3,920/Year---Drafted 07
Ginn, Jr. is too expensive to consider as merely a returner, so Aromashodu is the better option in cost effectiveness though he may be slightly less productive in the return game. Also, keep in mind that Aromashodu's contract was a 1 year deal in Minnesota, and 1 year deals are always more expensive than longer-term contracts, so the Colts could probably sign him to a longer-term, less expensive deal.
Devin Aromashodu averaged 22 yards per kick return as a college player at Auburn.
LaRod Stephens-Howling averaged 23.8 yards per kick return at Arizona in 2011.
Joe Lefeged (IND) averaged 18.6 yards per kick return.
Stephens-Howling and Aromashodu are both nearly a 30% increase in return yardage.
Brandon Banks had the most return yards last year as the main man for Washington, but will not become a restricted free agent until 2013. If the Colts wanted to wait until then to sign him, he might be available and an inexpensive option as well, but the return game will suffer for yet another year.
Eddie Royal was an appealing choice as well, but was signed by the Chargers. That firmly closed the door on him and seemingly opened the door for San Diego's former returner Richard Goodman, who was fourth in the NFL in return yardage average among return specialists fielding over 30 kicks.
However, he is an Exclusive Rights Free Agent this year. My Heart and Mind figured that the Chargers wouldn’t offer him a deal with Royal in town, but they did, so he was out as a prospect.
With Ginn, Jr. costing simply too much to be a return specialist and a viable 3rd or 4th option; and Royal, Goodman, and Banks unavailable; My Heart and Mind were left with Stevens-Howling and Aromashodu.
Stephens Howling is a Restricted Free Agent, and was offered a deal by Arizona worth around 1.9 million. If Indianapolis wanted to sign him, they'd have to match it or fork over a 2nd round pick in 2013 for him.
Also, Arizona would have the chance to match our offer to him, and you better believe they have the cap room! Our cap salary is not in good shape to get in a bidding war, so Stephens-Howling wasn't really worth it. Devin Aromashodu would be the best option currently out there, and he is unproven in the NFL as a returner.
The third and last position they looked at was the wide receiver spot, and this is what they found:
Early Doucet and Courtney Roby are two decent receivers who could take over the number two spot in place of Garcon, allowing Austin Collie to continue to thrive as a slot receiver.
Early Doucet: 1,200,000/Year---Drafted in 08
Courtney Roby: 1,176,000/Year---Drafted in 05
Doucet was compared many a time before his draft in 08 as a prototype of Reggie Wayne, and learning from Reggie might help him reach his full potential. He had a decent season (54 receptions, 689 yards, 5 TD's) with guys named Skelton and Kolb throwing to him, so why not a guy named Luck? Also, keep in mind that both Doucet and Roby's contracts were 1 year deals in Arizona and New Orleans respectively, and 1 year deals are always more expensive than longer-term contracts, so the Colts could probably sign him to a longer-term, less expensive deal.
Doucet and Roby are both excellent options in the return game as well, with Roby averaging 23.8 per return in 2010, and Doucet fielding punts and kicks in college for several years. Roby's expertise in the return game will not be needed in New Orleans either, most likely, as Darren Sproles has assumed that role.
Soon I will give you the final roster for my 'Mirt' team, as we will call the combination of my Mind's and Heart's draft picks and free agent signings. Keep in mind that there is very little cap room, even with all the recent cuts, and with an average salary for each draft pick this year we only have slightly over 6 million to spend in free agency. And you can't spend it all, as contracts get increasingly expensive each year and also since you have to keep some breathing room in the cap to provide for any contingencies throughout the year should a player get injured and need replaced.
I hope that this was not too confusing, I tried to keep it simple but at the same time let you know how much thought needs to go into this process. Hopefully this will give you some added admiration/respect for the GM's around the league, as well as our own. Have a great day, and as always, God Bless America!