Heading into the offseason, the Indianapolis Colts are a team firmly in the middle of a rebuild. With the recent hiring of Philadelphia Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen, they have found their head coach of the future.
Along with the hiring of Steichen, the Colts have added one of the most sought-after candidates to fill their offensive coordinator position. On offense, former Jacksonville Jaguars offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter will be leading the group. On the defensive side of the ball, Gus Bradley will likely be back to lead the group once again.
Now that the Colts have addressed some of their biggest needs within their staff, they must now look at the roster itself. With several high draft picks, including the fourth overall pick, the front office will look to add young star power. But this is a team that could also be active on the free-agent market.
With several high-profile Colts set to hit free agency, the front office could look to bring in proven veterans.
At the moment, the Colts are projected to have the 11th most cap space in the NFL. If the team moves on from veteran quarterback Matt Ryan, they could have even more flexibility.
Here are five sneaky good free agents the Colts could look to add in free agency.
5. Taylor Heinicke, QB
While the Colts are expected to add a young quarterback through the draft, they could still look to bring in a veteran. Washington Commanders quarterback Taylor Heinicke could be a potential option.
Over the past two seasons, Heinicke has shown that when given the opportunity, he can produce. Through his last 25 appearances, he has thrown for 5,278 yards, 32 touchdowns, and 21 interceptions.
If the Colts are looking for a bridge-type quarterback to help progress whoever will take over, Heinicke could be an affordable option. And while he takes the field as the starter, he could keep the team competitive.
4. Mecole Hardman, WR
The Colts will likely look to address the wide receiver position in a big way over the offseason. While Michael Pittman Jr. has solidified himself as the WR1, and Alec Pierce showed flashes in his rookie season, there is a lack of depth at the position.
When healthy, wide receiver Mecole Hardman played a key role in the success of the Kansas City Chiefs offense in 2022. Over the eight regular season games that he took the field in, he recorded 25 receptions for 297 receiving yards and four receiving touchdowns. On the ground, he added also managed to make an impact. On four carries, he rushed for 31 yards and two touchdowns.
Due to a pelvis injury, Hardman was sidelined for nearly half of the Chiefs season. As they made their run to another Super Bowl, he was available for just one game.
If Hardman can stay healthy, he could be a dynamic playmaker for any offense. The Colts could be a solid landing spot for the young wide receiver.
3. Hayden Hurst, TE
The Colts have already invested in the tight end position with Mo Alie-Cox and Jelanie Woods. But there is still room for talent, and adding a player like Hayden Hurst could be just what the offense needs.
Hurst has proven to be one of the most underrated tight ends in the NFL, specifically through the air. For a team in need of pass catchers, he could be a solid addition.
In 2022, Hurst was a key option in the Ciniccnai Bengals pass-heavy offense. He finished the season recording 52 receptions for 414 receiving yards and two receiving touchdowns.
Adding Hurst to play alongside Alie-Cox could give the Colts a balanced tight end room. For a team who may have a rookie quarterback leading the charge, this could be how they approach the position.
2. Soloman Thomas, EDGE
On the defensive front, the Colts need both depth and playmakers. DeForest Buckner is set to lead the group once again, and Kwity Paye has shown flashes of how good he can be. But adding proven veterans to the group could be key. This could come in a player such as Soloman Thomas.
While Thomas hasn’t been the sort of playmaker that many hoped he would be when he was taken third overall in the 2017 NFL draft, he has still put together a solid NFL career. Over 82 career games, he has recorded 155 total tackles, 21 tackles for loss, 39 quarterback hits, 10 total sacks, and two forced fumbles.
Thomas could be a reliable addition to the Colts pass rush. While he may not be an every-down defender, he could be the perfect depth addition.
1. Byron Murphy, CB
Since being drafted in the second round of the 2019 NFL draft, Byron Murphy has been a consistent defender for the Arizona Cardinals. Over his 56 career games, he has recorded 229 total tackles, nine tackles for loss, 34 defended passes, and five interceptions.
This past season, Murphy recorded 36 total tackles, three tackles for loss, and four defended passes. But unfortunately, he was limited to just nine total games.
Now set to hit free agency, Murphy and the Cardinals could look to go their separate ways. At just 25 years old, he is young enough to still take his game to another level. For a Colts defense that still has room for improvement, Murphy could be a player worth adding.