After a strong start to the Andrew Luck era, the Indianapolis Colts have taken a significant step backward over the last couple seasons. They missed the playoffs in each of the last two seasons after advancing in each of the three previous years.
With Luck, the Colts have one of the best young quarterbacks in the league, but don’t have the personnel on either side of the ball. Their mission is to improve the roster around him.
Here are the three best moves and the worst one made by the Indianapolis Colts this offseason.
#1. Upgraded the defensive front
The Colts went out and spent money to improve their defensive front seven this offseason, as the five largest contracts they handed out went to defensive tackles, defensive ends and 3-4 scheme outside linebackers.
Defensive tackles Johnathan Hankins (three-years, $27 million) and Al Woods (two-years, $4 million) should factor into the rotation at nose and defensive tackle. Defensive end Margus Hunt (two-years, $4.1 million) is expected to start inside next to Hankins. Outside linebackers Jabaal Sheard (three-years, $25.5 million) and John Simon (three-years, $13.5 million) are slated to start right away.
The Colts still have holes on their defense, but those five signings should move the defense closer to the league average.
#2. Draft picks
The Colts also went heavy on defense in the draft. They got a star safety in first round pick Malik Hooker. Then they got a big, physical, shutdown-type cornerback in the second round with Quincy Wilson. In the third round, Indy got an edge defender that seemed to be climbing draft boards later in the process with Tarell Basham.
On the third and final day of the draft, they got a massive, physical, run-blocking offensive lineman in Zach Banner, a slashing home-run running back in Marlon Mack and a developmental defensive tackle in Grover Stewart. The finished their draft by selecting developmental cornerback Nate Hairston and productive, good tackling inside linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. in the fifth round.
#3. Re-signing Jack Doyle
As trade talks involving tight end Dwayne Allen intensified, getting Doyle re-signed became critical for the offense. Allen was traded to the Patriots a couple days after Doyle re-upped and the latter became the second most consistent weapon on the roster. Behind T.Y. Hilton, no one on the Colts roster last year had as many catches (59) or receiving yards (584). Doyle also was second on the Colts last year in catch percentage (the percentage of balls thrown in his direction that he caught) behind running back Frank Gore.
Doyle is clearly a favorite target of quarterback Andrew Luck and with Allen gone, his role will only get bigger this year.
The worst: Luck needs a break
With all the defensive moves, it was curious that the Colts did very little to help their star quarterback. Luck, who will turn 28-years-old in September, has not had consistent receivers nor very good offensive line play since he joined the league in 2012. Although their defense looks better, the Colts' biggest problem last year was the relentless pressure faced by Luck and Indy did very little to fix the leaks in their O Line. If Luck can't stay upright, the Colts downward spiral could continue in 2017.