In 2021, the Indianapolis Colts were a heartbreaking Week 18 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars away from making the NFL playoffs. In 2022, the team was much further from the promised land. A 3-5-1 start cost Frank Reich his job, and after the head-scratching Jeff Saturday hire as his interim replacement, the team won one game then promptly lost the final seven in a row. The National Football League is a league of parity, if nothing else, though, so a team with a strong base of talent can quickly jump back into the postseason with the right few moves. This Colts’ offseason, a strong draft, the right hire for the head coach position, and some smart Colts free agent moves could have the team back competing for titles in no time. With that in mind, here are the three major fixes the Colts must make this offseason to reach the NFL playoffs in 2023.
3. Re-sign Colts free agents
The Colts’ offseason should start with re-signing their own players. There aren’t a ton of Colts free agents on the market in 2023, but several of the ones who are no longer under contract should be re-signed.
The Colts are in the upper echelon of teams with salary cap room in 2023 already and cutting Mat Ryan will save over $17 million. And with a few big contract restructurings — Shaquille Leonard, DeForest Buckner, Braden Smith, Stephon Gilmore, Ryan Kelly, and Mo Alie-Cox — the team can save nearly $60 million more.
That should give the team plenty of room to re-sign defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, linebacker Bobby Okereke, and even wide receivers Parris Campbell and Ashton Dulin if they want.
These Colts’ offseason re-signings don’t necessarily fix any problems that kept the team out of the NFL playoffs last season, but they do allow the team to keep a solid talent base to build on in 2023.
2. Take a franchise quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft
The Colts have the No. 4 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, and they need to take a quarterback there. The last two times the Colts had the No. 1 overall pick, they took Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck, which is a pretty good track record.
If the Colts stay at No. 4, they should be able to get one of the top three QB prospects, Bryce Young from Alabama, C.J. Stroud from Ohio State, or Will Levis from Kentucky. If the Colts want to have their choice, though, it shouldn’t take a huge haul to move up to No. 1 by trading with the Chicago Bears.
At that point, the Colts can take whoever they like best, and C.J. Stroud could be the answer. Yes, Stroud is an Ohio State quarterback, and the history there isn’t good. However, Stroud is an excellent modern-day QB prospect with athleticism, arm talent, and a great head on his shoulders.
Keeping Stroud in the Midwest would be a great move, and he could be the next in line among those historic Colts’ No. 1 picks.
1. Hire the right head coach
The biggest Colts’ offseason move, though, has nothing to do with the players the franchise puts on the field in 2023. It’s all about who is leading them on the sideline.
Firing Frank Reich wasn’t a horrible decision, but the fact that he got another job (with the Carolina Panthers) in about 10 minutes might hint that it was a rash decision from Jim Irsay.
Whether firing Reich was right or wrong, what we can all agree on is that Jeff Saturday is not an NFL head coach right now. The decision was strange, to begin with, and after a 1-7 record, giving up the second-most points in a quarter, and the biggest comeback in NFL history, everyone knows that he’s not the guy.
Everyone except Jim Irsay, apparently.
As the NFL coaching carousel spins in 2023, all but two teams – the Colts and the Arizona Cardinals — have found their next head coach. There are still plenty of great options out there, but it seems like the reason Irsay is taking so long is that he truly wants to give Saturday the job full-time.
If that happens, the Colts will not make the NFL playoffs in 2023. If the Colts hire anyone else, that move is possible. Shane Steichen, Eric Bieniemy, Ejiro Evero, Wink Martindale, or Mike Kafka are all intriguing choices, and the Colts could be in a good spot with any of them.
Again, the key to this Colts’ offseason isn’t necessarily about who fills the head coach role. It’s about Saturday not filling it again next season.