New faces: DE Justin Houston, WR Devin Funchess, RB Spencer Ware, CB Rock Ya-Sin, LB Ben Banogu, WR Parris Campbell, LB Bobby Okereke
They’re gone: QB Andrew Luck WR Dontrelle Inman, DT Al Woods, WR Ryan Grant, S J.J. Wilcox, G Matt Slauson, S Mike Mitchell
2019 snapshot: Just a week ago, the Colts looked like a Super Bowl contender — an ascending team coming off a strong finish to 2018, with key pieces added on defense and a top-five quarterback running the show. Of course, nobody could have known that Luck, at age 29, had already played his last down in the NFL.
Luck’s stunning retirement leaves tremendous pressure on Jacoby Brissett, a young and talented signal-caller who has the potential to keep Indianapolis in contention for the AFC South. The Colts will hope his development continues at a steady rate, with support from Frank Reich’s scheme and an otherwise well-rounded roster.
GM Chris Ballard added talent this offseason in Houston (two years, $24 million), who immediately brings a pass-rush presence the team hasn’t had since Robert Mathis retired, and reached extensions with CBs Pierre Desir (three years, $22.5 million) and Kenny Moore (four years, $34 million). He also kept S Clayton Geathers (one year, $2.8 million) and DT Margus Hunt (two years, $9 million) on modest deals. The biggest surprise was the one-year, $10 million deal (with $3 million in incentives) for Funchess, who fell out of favor in Carolina.
Ballard didn’t do anything fancy in the draft, trading down a few times to collect a war chest of picks and spending them mostly on defensive talents. Ya-Sin, Okereke and Banogu will compete to start from Day 1, with all likely to have at least a rotational role early on. The lone offensive pick, Campbell, will be one of Reich’s favorite weapons, with wheels to terrify defenses on the speedy Lucas Oil Stadium turf.
Whether it can all come together with Brissett, and not Luck, leading the way remains to be seen.
Get to know… WR Deon Cain
A sixth-round pick in 2018, Cain drew rave reviews last summer before tearing his ACL. He appears to have picked up where he left off, with 12 catches for 169 yards and a touchdown in three preseason games.
Worth the investment?
-Once sporting a double-digit over/under win total (10), the Colts slipped to 7.5 with the news of Luck’s retirement. In an AFC South with plenty of question marks, we’d lean toward the over.
-Previously the clear favorite, Indianapolis now has the longest odds (+400) to win the division, which feels like an overreaction. Houston (O-line, secondary), Jacksonville (O-line, quarterback) and Tennessee (quarterback) each have major concerns of their own.
Bottom line: The Luck bombshell makes the Colts one of the league’s most fascinating teams to watch in 2019. Brissett is capable, but the margin for error is essentially gone.