Where to begin, where to begin....
Step 1 - complete coaching overhaul
Obviously, I haven't had any direct contact with the coaches, so I can't speak for most of the position coaches, but from what I've seen on the field, I recommend finding a new head coach (Jim Caldwell was NEVER qualified to be an NFL head coach), new coordinators across the board (already in motion), and new offensive line coach. The rest, I can't really say without knowing the coaches.
Step 2 - rework Manning's contract
Peyton has shown that he's been willing to rework his contract before and I can't see a single reason he wouldn't do it again. He missed the whole year and his future is still in question. That alone would possibly be enough, but it's not even the main reason he would restructure. We have some 16 players coming up to be free agents at the end of season, including his star receiver, two "other" receivers (garcon and gonzalez), long time center, and some key players on the other side of the ball. Quite frankly, if he takes up $35M on our salary cap, we can't afford to pay all those other guys and he's going to come back to a lesser team and likely struggle in the twilight years of his career.
Step 3 - resign (some) of the free agents
Must be signed (yep, there's only one):
REALLY should be signed:
Preferably should be signed:
J. Lacey (because we have no depth)
If the deal is right:
Everyone else, I either haven't seen play so I can't rightly evaluate them, or should be let go (PLEASE get rid of Diem).
Step 4 - trade the top pick
You may think this step is predicated on step being successfully completed. However, I don't believe it is. You keep Peyton regardless (just don't tell him that!) for obvious reasons (he has been the foundation of the Colt's record-breaking franchise for over a decade and the fans LOVE him) and for not-so-obvious reasons (it sends a message to our fans that we want to win now, it sends a message to players that if you give us everything you've got, we're going to stick by you). Interestingly, I think this step does assume that you can get the right trade. In my mind, there are enough teams who desperately need a quarterback (ranging from the Redskins at pick no. 6 to the Titans at pick no. 20) to get a VERY favorable trade. Luck is the most sought after quarterback coming out of the draft in recent memory and those teams just might be wiling to trade virtually everything to get him. I'm thinking of a scenario along the lines of:
Colts to give:
Miami to give:
2013 1st round
If you don't get the trade you're looking for, then you keep the pick and you draft Luck.
Step 5 - build the future, without give up the present
You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one...or crazy.
- If you traded the pick, you now have a top 10 pick, 2 - 2nd round picks, a whole lot of 3rd day picks (including compensatory picks from some of the free agents we will inevitably lose), and 2 - 1st round picks next year. Specifically the first 4 picks should at least have a shot to contribute immediately and all of them will help to build for the future. If done correctly, it should be a win, win.
- if you didn't trade the pick, you now have two franchise quarterbacks on your roster. No, I'm not under the delusion like many are that Manning and Luck can co-exist for an extended period of time, BUT Luck is the perfect insurance plan in case Manning never really comes back. Should Peyton come back at full strength to finish his career, then you sit Luck for a year to learn from the best and figure something out at the end of next year.