Colts Conclude their 2012 OTAs Today

Today the Indianapolis Colts held their tenth and final Organized Team Activity (OTAs) of the offseason.  Yesterday was the final media availability, and according to those in attendance the receivers made quite an impact.  Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, and rookie tight end Dwayne Allen had very good days. 

The very fact that Reggie Wayne is participating in OTAs this year is impressive.  He usually works out on his own in Miami, but this year he was at the team activities.  The playbook is new for the first time in Reggie’s career, and thus he has to put in time learning the offense.  But also I think he is there partly to be a team leader.  For his entire career, Peyton Manning and Jeff Saturday were the leaders of the offense.  Both of them are gone.  Wayne is the longest tenured Colts player on the offense.  He has to be a leader this year, and I am confident he can be and will be.  In fact, he has been for years, but there were others.  Now, he is the veteran.  The returning starters on the offense look to be Wayne, Austin Collie, Anthony Castonzo, and Donald Brown. 

Collie is an incredible talent, if he can stay healthy.  It looks as if Collie will play opposite Wayne, with Donnie Avery in the slot.  At least at OTAs, that is.

Some more notes from yesterday’s practice:

From George Bremer (@gmbremer):

Big day for WR Austin Collie, who made a pair of nice catches in the end zone.

It was also a good day for Reggie Wayne, who caught several TDs and made the play of the day on a ball that was tipped multiple times.

TE Dwayne Allen also made a nice grab in the end zone on a pass that was tipped by OLB Jerry Hughes.

Other topics of interest: RB Donald Brown will be an every down back according to Pagano and competition is high at CB.

Pagano said the CB situation won’t truly begin to sort itself out until the pads come on in training camp.

[Cornerback Kevin Thomas] looked good in drills today, including an interception during red-zone work.

@GoHorse88 On defense, Hughes filled in for Freeney and Eads played in Conner’s likely spot. Powers and Thomas at CB, with Johnson nickel.

From Tom James (@TribStarTJames):

Sitting out Wednesday’s OTA session: ACastanzo, BIjalana, THilton, JSnow, DNevis, DCaldwell, BJackson, CFleener, DLegree, DCarter.

Rookie TE Coby Fleener is sitting out this week’s OTA workouts due to finals week at Stanford. Fleener is a graduate student.

From Mike Chappell (@mchappell51):

Reggie Wayne hasn’t gotten together with Colts QB Andrew Luck yet, but they will after next week’s minicamp and before training camp

Colts WR Austin Collie shared dinner with Andrew Luck recently. One aspect of developing chemistry.

And last but not least, from Phil B. Wilson (@pwilson24):

#Colts rookie TE Dwayne Allen catches TD pass off deflection, goes airborne for chest bump from OG Mike McGlynn.

The Colts will have a mandatory mini-camp next week June 12-14.  All players will attend, including Mr. Andrew Luck (no, he does NOT have to be under contract to attend, contrary to some reports.  A deal very well may be signed by that point, however).  On June 13 the practice will be held at Lucas Oil Stadium and will be free to the public from 11:30 to 6:00.  It will also include a select-a-seat season ticket promotion.  For details head here.


All Manning Era Team: Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

All Manning Era Team: We take a look at the greatest single seasons by position in the Peyton Manning Era (1998-2011).  Today, we look at the:

 Wide Receivers and Tight Ends: 

Just to be clear, this does not mean the receiving core as a whole.  That would be without a doubt the 2004 squad.  This is the three greatest single season individual performances by a wide receiver in the Manning Era, just grouped into one post. 

First, we have Marvin Harrison’s 2002 season.  There are so many great seasons that Marvin Harrison had in his brilliant career, but his 2002 season was undoubtedly the best.  The future hall of famer caught an NFL record 143 passes for a career high 1,722 yards and 11 touchdowns.  Marvin averaged 12.0 yards per reception and contributed 92 first downs to the Colts offense without fumbling.  

Before the emergence of Reggie Wayne in 2004, Marvin Harrison was really the only receiving threat that Peyton Manning had.  That is why his numbers in 2002 are so huge.  Marvin Harrison was so good in 2002. 

 Reggie Wayne is the second wide out on the All Manning Era Team.  His best season came in 2007, when the Colts went 13-3 and Reggie was already established as one of the best in the league. Wayne caught 104 passes for a career high 1,510 yards and 10 touchdowns.  He averaged 14.5 yards per catch and got 72 first downs.  

In 2007, Marvin Harrison was dealing with injuries and was basically never a factor again in the Colts’ offense.  Reggie Wayne stepped up in a big way and he was rewarded, with his 2007 season making the list of the greatest Colts’ seasons in the Manning Era. 

The third wide receiver and the slot receiver spot on the All Manning Era Team is occupied by Brandon Stokley’s 2004 season.  Stokley in 2004 caught 68 passes for 1,077 yards and 10 touchdowns (including Peyton Manning’s record breaking 49th touchdown).  Stokley averaged an astounding 15.8 yards per reception and gained 59 first downs.  

As far as slot receivers come, not much more could be expected than what Brandon Stokley was in 2004.  That was easily his best season of his career, and it was good enough to earn a spot on this list. 

Finally, the tight end spot.  The Colts have had three very good tight ends during Peyton Manning’s career: Ken Dilger, Marcus Pollard, and Dallas Clark.  Despite how good the other two were, Dallas Clark took the tight end position to an unprecedented level and his 2009 season ranks among the greatest seasons ever by a tight end.  

Although Peyton Manning was the NFL’s MVP in 2009, a case could be made that the Colts’ best player that year was Dallas Clark.  He caught a TE franchise record 100 passes for another TE franchise record 1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns, averaging 11.1 yards per catch and gaining 59 first downs.  The league had no answer for Clark.  In the Colts’ super bowl loss to the New Orleans Saints, the Saints game planned around Clark, treating him as the Colts’ best player.  And in many ways, he was. 

2011 was called the year of the tight end.  Before Rob Gronkowski’s 2011 season, however, there was Dallas Clark’s 2009 season.  And just as his quarterback preceded the eruption of passing in the NFL, Clark was the forerunner of tight end dominance in the league.  

Really, there was no other option for tight end on this list. 

And really, each of these seasons belonged on this list.  No doubt.

Colts Making Some Moves

The first two days of free agency have to be considered a success for the Colts.

First, they brought back team leader and pro bowl wide receiver Reggie Wayne on a 3 year deal.

Today, they acquired former Eagles offensive tackle Winston Justice basically for free.  The Colts gave the Eagles their 2nd pick in the 6th round of the NFL draft, and the Eagles gave the Colts their 17th pick in the same round.  Justice presumably will start at right tackle across from LT Anthony Castonzo.  That means that last year’s 2nd round pick Ben Ijalana will likely move inside to guard. 

The Colts are also pursuing free agent OG Evan Mathis from the Eagles.  He could take the other guard spot, and if center Jeff Saturday comes back, the Colts line could be very much improved next year.  They could also re-sign Mike Pollack for depth.

The Colts will assume the final two years of Justice’s deal, which will be $3.225 million in 2012 and $3.75 million in 2013.

The other move the Colts made today was signing former Ravens defensive tackle Cory Redding to a 3 year, $10.5 million deal.  Redding is a good defensive tackle who fits in perfectly with new head coach Chuck Pagano’s 3-4 scheme.  Pagano was the Ravens defensive coordinator last year. 

Also in the news is that former Colts quarterback Dan Orlovsky signed a one year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Oh yeah, and another former Colts QB is getting some attention too.  Peyton Manning is visiting with the Tennessee Titans today, who are reportedly in serious contention for Manning’s services.

Reggie Wayne Re-Signs with the Colts

Big news coming tonight, per Adam Schefter: the Colts have reached an agreement with free agent wide receiver Reggie Wayne on a 3 year deal.  Schefter tweeted:

Reggie Wayne re-signing a three-year deal with Colts. Agreement reached.

This means that rookie quarterback Andrew Luck will have a good veteran to throw the ball to, and it also means that a young rebuilding Colts team will have a veteran leader.  I love this move.

I will admit, I am shocked, but in a good way.  I thought there was no chance of Reggie coming back.  I am glad I was wrong.

I, for one, am really glad that Reggie Wayne will finish his career in Indianapolis. 

Oh, and this means Peyton is coming back right?  (Kidding!!)

Adam Schefter: 12 Teams have contacted Peyton Manning

Adam Schefter reports that on the day he was released, Peyton Manning’s camp had already heard from 12 teams.

Chris Mortensen reports that two of them are the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals

Schefter says that the Kansas City Chiefs, Miami Dolphins, Washington Redskins and the Denver Broncoshave also contacted Manning. 

The Tennessee Titans and the New York Jets have also reportedly contacted the representatives of the NFL’s only 4-time MVP.

I am not sure who the other 4 teams are.  Schefter said that Manning would prefer to stay in the AFC.

I said yesterday that I think Peyton will go to Miami, and that is where I want him to go too.  Especially if Reggie Wayne goes there with his former quarterback, the Dolphins would be really good.

Reggie would likely be the number one receiver, leaving another one of the NFL’s best, Brandon Marshall, as the number 2.  Davone Bess is a very capable slot receiver, and Reggie Bush is a very good pass catcher out of the backfield.  Bush is also coming off of his best season running the ball, by far.  The Dolphins also have one of the best left tackles in the league, Jake Long.  Their defense is pretty good as well, and they would have a much bigger cushion on how many points they could give up with Manning on the other side of the ball.

It makes sense.  Said Reggie Wayne:

“It can truly be dangerous, if they put us all together. The league might not want that, Mike. They might not want that. They might not want to see that. South Florida is already hot out here, baby, so you put us all together, it’ll be burning up.”

The Dolphins play in Indianapolis next year in the House that Peyton Built.  Imagine what that would be like.  If Manning signs there, I will have much more on that .

For now, just know that there is a lot of competition for the future hall of famer’s talents.

Colts Franchise Robert Mathis; Sign him to Multi-Year Deal

The deadline for the franchise tag was today at 4 p.m.  The Colts announced right around that time that they had franchised defensive end Robert Mathis.  At the time, they were reportedly very close to a deal. 

A few hours later, they had agreed on a contract that will keep one of the league’s best pass rushers in Indianapolis and will keep the best pass duo in the NFL together (Mathis and Dwight Freeney).

The Indianapolis Star’s Mike Chappell tweeted the details of Mathis’ contract:

Colts ponied up for Robert Mathis. 4 years, $36 million, $15 SB. $17 mill in 1st year, $24 mill in 2nd year. Next dinner’s on #98.

New Colts head coach Chuck Pagano loves Mathis, and Mathis loves the defense the Ravens run, where Pagano was defensive coordinator last year.  Regardless of whether the Colts are rebuilding or not, they still need that veteran leadership, and Mathis provides that.  Glad to see Mathis get rewarded for his play.

That said, the deal leaves wide receivers Reggie Wayne and Pierre Garcon without a contract and without the option of being franchised.  Both will likely hit the open market when the league year starts March 13th.  I do not expect Wayne to come back, or for the Colts to even make much of a push to keep him.  That effort will be focused on Garcon.  I do expect Garcon to stay in Indy, but he will likely test free agency first.

An Early Look at some Possible Changes this Offseason

We all know this offseason will bring about a lot of change in Indianapolis.  But what will those changes be?  Here is my best guess as to what will happen, based on what I know currently. 

Reggie Wayne – I think that Reggie will not be a Colt next year.  From what I am hearing, he wants significant money that I am not sure he is worth at the age of 33.  The Colts likely will think that he is not worth it either.  With fellow WR Pierre Garcon being a free agent as well, and with him being only 25 years old, I think the Colts will re-sign him instead of Wayne.  Check out this post I wrote 2 weeks ago prior to Reggie’s “last” home game

Jeff Saturday – It seems logical that the 36 year old Saturday would not return.  But I think that there is a good chance he comes back on a one year deal.  Peyton Manning would really want Saturday back.  If the Colts do decide to go with Andrew Luck as their starter (and I will get to that shortly), then I still think there is a chance that the Colts would bring him back on a one year deal to ease the transition.  If the Colts keep both Manning and Luck, then they will need to find some money if they were to keep Saturday.  But he is the type of guy and the type of player that I think they may keep. 

Robert Mathis – Mathis also has a contract that expires this offseason.  I expect the 30 year old Mathis to be re-signed, keeping the best pass rush duo in the league together.  However, if the Colts go with both Manning and Luck, I doubt they re-sign Mathis.  There is just no way to have two franchise quarterbacks on the same team and expect to keep all your other players.  So, if that happens, I don’t think Mathis is back. 

Gary Brackett – Brackett is the defensive captain of the Colts and has played really well in his career in Indy.  The Colts never re-sign their own linebackers, so when they re-signed Brackett a few years ago that showed what they thought of him.  But he was placed on IR early this year, which opened the way to Pat Angerer stepping up and playing incredibly well at MLB.  Angerer finished the season with 148 tackles (Brackett had 6) and should have made the pro bowl.  Angerer’s great play and Brackett’s age (31 years old) mean Brackett’s career in Indy is all but over, and he knows that as well

  Jacob Tamme – I expect the Colts to re-sign him.  I really don’t know what kind of money he would get on the open market, but I think he should be re-signed.  He had a pretty good year this year, and is a valuable player as a backup to the injury-prone Dallas Clark.  And with Wayne and Anthony Gonzalez likely not on the roster next year, a pass catching tight end like Tamme is especially valuable. 

Ryan Diem – I think Ryan Diem will not be a Colt next year.  Diem’s play has fallen off greatly in the past few years.  They moved him to guard this year, and so maybe they will choose to keep him if they do not have anyone to replace him with.  But I have a hard time envisioning a scenario in which Diem returns to the Colts next season. 

Others – I don’t think Anthony Gonzalez will be back next year.  The former first round pick did not catch a pass this year.  He was a healthy scratch against the Jaguars.  His contract is up, and there is no way the Colts keep him.  I also think the Colts will part way with injury-prone safety Melvin Bullitt.  They will need to find someone to replace him (David Caldwell, anyone?  Anyone?), but I don’t think they will bring him back.  I expect him to be released.  Another player I think could be let go is also a former first round pick, Jerry Hughes.  Hughes may still be in the franchise’s plans, and if Robert Mathis is not re-signed the Colts should keep Hughes.  But he has not shown much at all in his first two years.  There was a lot of talk of him being released in training camp.  He is a player to keep an eye on this offseason. 

Peyton Manning – Peyton Manning is the key to what happens with a lot of players, and Manning is the one that Colts fans care the most about.  This is a confusing and touchy issue.  Let me start by saying that I am confident the Colts will draft Andrew Luck.  Now, from Manning’s rookie year, he has had a special relationship with owner Jim Irsay.  People talk about how football is a business, and it is, but Irsay is incredibly loyal to Manning.  I think he will try his hardest to keep the guy who gave him his super bowl ring and so much success.  While Manning’s relationship with the Polians is not very good (and that is an understatement), I have heard nothing about a feud between Irsay and Manning.  I think that Irsay will keep Manning if Peyton is healthy (and reports say that he is doing well).  Which means that I think Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning will be on the same team to start a “new” era in Colts history.  It will not be the end of the “Manning era”, but it would be different.  Having them both means very likely not Reggie Wayne, no Robert Mathis, maybe no Jeff Saturday.  It means that the Colts would move on from the quiet, nice-guy coaching model that Dungy andCaldwell both represented.  And, while I think that Peyton Manning will be the Colts 2012 opening day starter, it will be different.  What happens the first time he throws 3 picks in a game and the Lucas Oil fans start chanting for Luck?  What happens when Luck has a great preseason?  It will be different, even if Peyton Manning is wearing the horseshoe next year.  My opinion will likely change many times before the decision is due, but for right now, I think that Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck will both be Colts next year. 

When we hear that Jim Caldwell has officially been fired (I am pretty confident he will be), I will have a post about who may replace him.  My early guess is Dom Capers, but my opinion on that will change as well.

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