Checking the Market: Offense

It used to be that there was an influx of talent after the June 1 cuts. The rules of the CBA have changed, but there's still some talent to be add in the free agent market as of early June. While the Colts usually avoid the free agent market, they did sign a kicker this week. Could they look for more talent? Brad Keller picks Adam Caplan's brain and takes a look at who makes the most sense.

When I asked Senior NFL Reporter Adam Caplan to identify the best of his best available free agents on offense, the first task was to take out the positions that the Colts didn't need any help with from a free agent standpoint. 

We both agreed that offensive line was not a need position for Indianapolis, given the youth they have added both on the interior and at the tackle positions the last three seasons. 

The Colts are set at TE with Robinson, Clark, Tamme and Santi
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

I thought adding some depth at tight end might be required, but Caplan pointed out — and I now agree — that, "they like Jacob Tamme, Dallas Clark is signed long term, Gijon Robinson flashed a little, and Tom Santi has some upside." At this point, they might have to keep four tight ends again in order to retain everyone that they like, or think has potential.

At running back, Edgerrin James is obviously a name that gets bandied about, but chances are that he will look for a team that will offer him a shot at a starting job.  And, as Caplan points out, "The Colts will probably go with a running back by committee approach with Joseph Addai and Donald Brown, so I don't see them pursuing a veteran. Especially," Caplan adds, "if Mike Hart is ready by training camp."

Of course, with Peyton Manning and Jim Sorgi fairly entrenched in their job slots, a quarterback signing is highly unlikely unless Indianapolis finds themselves in a training camp situation similar to the one they found themselves in heading into the 2008 season.

With the recent news that Adam Vinatieri will require surgery, it may make sense to bring on a place kicker and the Colts did just that with Shane Andrus earlier this week. Rookie Pat McAfee also has experience as a placement specialist from his days with WVU and it looks as though Vinatieri will be ready for the start of the season, if not before.  If anything, the surgery helps McAfee's chances to make the roster as the starting punter over fellow rookie Tim Masthay in one of the more compelling battles heading into mini-camps, OTAs, and training camp.

Speaking of punters, Caplan suggested that, if Indianapolis was in the market for a veteran at the position, they should look in the direction of Kyle Larson or Ryan Plackemeier.

Both men make sense if either McAfee or Masthay is not the answer, but neither veteran had a better season than Hunter Smith in 2008.  Smith averaged 44.2 yards per punt and dropped 43.4 percent of his kicks inside the 20, whereas Larson averaged only 39.5 yards per punt and dropped only 28 of his 100 punts inside 20.  Plackemeier fared better than Larson, but not better than Smith, with a 41.5 yard average, but dropping only 25.8 percent of his kicks inside the 20.

The Colts let Smith go and signed two rookies to compete for his job in order to get younger, fresher, and hopefully better at the position.  Therefore, signing a veteran — even if either one was better suited for the job than Smith — would be an August or September decision, and Masthay and McAfee would have had to have been very underwhelming.

The key position of need, though, is wide receiver.  Caplan feels as though Indianapolis will sign an "outside receiver with size," if they do pluck a veteran off the street.

Out of the players available, Caplan thinks D.J. Hackett, Drew Bennett, or Amani Toomer make the most sense.  A name that I would like to add to that list is Ashley Lelie.

Toomer is a solid vet, but if the Colts bring in an older WR, it should be Harrison
Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Toomer has the most production, but is also the oldest; although it should be pointed out that, heading into his 14th NFL season, he will only be 35.  Bennett is the next oldest at 31 by the time the season starts, Lelie will be 29, and Hackett will be 28.  The production goes in that order as well, with Toomer holding significant advantages in all areas.

At Hackett's age, he can no longer be considered a prospect.  Potential needs to be put aside and production requires a long, hard look.

In that area, Hackett comes up well short of the rest of the receivers in play, having averaged only 13.3 yards per reception and tallied only nine touchdown receptions on 118 total catches.

Bennett has averaged 14.4 yards per reception and a very impressive reception-to-touchdown ratio of 10.9, the best in the group.  He definitely has the best mix of experience, production, and low risk of the four.  Toomer is an injury risk or could retire before the season starts and Hackett is too much of a mystery.

Lelie has not lived up to his first round status, but is also only 29.  He has, by far, the highest per reception average of the men on this list, at 17.3, but the worst reception-to-touchdown ratio, at 14.5.

Once again, all signs point back to Bennett.  However, he recently met with his old team, the Tennessee Titans.  If he ends up signing with them — and, in all likelihood, Toomer will probably re-sign with the Giants or retire, not to mention the fact that, if the Colts are going to approach a receiver in his mid-to-late 30s, it should be Marvin Harrison — then Lelie makes the most sense.  After that, it's a roll of the dice with Hackett, which seems to be out of character for the Indianapolis front office.

The one thing that is known for sure is that the current depth chart has a lot of holes and a lot of young players at the receiver position. Some of those holes need to be filled either through free agency or by some of the young players on the roster stepping up.  It would be helpful if the Colts could mitigate some of the risk of that by adding a veteran between now and when they open training camp.

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