Mike Wells, ESPN Staff Writer 51d

Indianapolis Colts free-agency overview: Left tackle, pass-rushers sit at top of priority list

The Colts enter 2021 NFL free agency coming off an 11-5 season in 2020 and have 15 unrestricted free agents.

The quarterback position has been addressed by the Colts with the addition of Carson Wentz, but don't fooled, their roster still has holes that need to be filled. Left tackle, linebacker and pass rusher to just name a few. Then there's also the uncertainty surrounding receiver T.Y. Hilton's future with the franchise. Wentz is a big piece of the puzzle, but many more pieces need added.

Here’s what to expect from the Colts when the NFL offseason hits high gear with the start of free agency on March 17:

QUARTERBACK

Under contract: Jacob Eason, Jalen Morton

UFA: Jacoby Brissett

Game plan: The Colts have their starter for the present and future (hopefully) after agreeing to trade for Wentz from Philadelphia. The trade won’t become official until the new NFL year starts in March. Colts coach Frank Reich spent two seasons as Wentz’s offensive coordinator with the Eagles, including in 2017 when the quarterback was an MVP candidate prior to tearing his ACL late in that season.

RUNNING BACK

Under contract: Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins

UFA: Marlon Mack

Game plan: Taylor proved without a doubt that he’s the Colts’ No. 1 running back when he rushed for 1,169 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie last season. Hines is a do-everything back because of his ability to also line up at wide receiver. The Colts want to re-sign Mack, who missed all but one game due to a torn Achilles, but they know the odds of that happening aren’t the best.

WIDE RECEIVER

Under contract: Michael Pittman Jr., Parris Campbell, Ashton Dulin, Dezmon Patmon, DeMichael Harris

UFA: T.Y. Hilton

Game plan: Hilton, who has had five 1,000-yard receiving seasons in his nine seasons, will be the focal point of the group. Don’t be surprised if the Colts let Hilton test the market first before making an offer to him. It may come down to whether the 31-year-old will give a home-team discount. Pittman has all the tools to be the team’s No. 1 receiver in 2021. Zach Pascal is a restricted free agent.

TIGHT END

Under contract: Jack Doyle, Noah Togiai

UFA: Trey Burton

Game plan: Doyle continues to be the glue of the tight ends for the Colts. They have to start preparing to find Doyle’s replacement because he’ll be 31 later this year. It wouldn’t be surprising if the Colts re-sign Burton to give Wentz a familiar face after the two were teammates with the Eagles. Mo Alie-Cox is a restricted free agent.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Under contract: Ryan Kelly, Mark Glowinski, Quenton Nelson, Braden Smith, Danny Pinter, Will Holden

UFA: Le’Raven Clark, Chaz Green, Joey Hunt

Game plan: All eyes will be on who the Colts find to replace Anthony Castonzo at left tackle. The possibility of moving All-Pro Quenton Nelson from guard to left tackle has been floated around. Nelson is open to the idea, as the Colts, according to Reich, want to put the best five players on the line.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Under contract: Kemoko Turay, Tyquan Lewis, DeForest Buckner, Grover Stewart, Taylor Stallworth, Ben Banogu

UFA: Denico Autry, Al-Quadin Muhammad, Justin Houston

Game plan: The defensive line was arguably the deepest unit last season. Re-signing the 32-year-old Houston is a possibility, but the Colts would like to get younger at that position. Turay ideally would be a replacement for Houston, but he’s battled injuries and has yet to show any consistency to take the next step. Autry, who had 20 sacks in his three seasons with the Colts, may get more money offered to him on the outside.

LINEBACKER

Under contract: Darius Leonard, Bobby Okereke, Matthew Adams, Zaire Franklin, E.J. Speed, Jordan Glasgow

UFA: Anthony Walker

Game plan: Don’t be surprised if Okereke moves from the outside and replaces Walker at middle linebacker. Walker has been one of the leaders on defense, but he’s looking for more playing time. He played only 18 snaps in the playoff loss at Buffalo. Moving Okereke means the Colts will have to find somebody to go man the outside opposite Leonard.

DEFENSIVE LINE

Under contract: Kenny Moore, Rock Ya-Sin, Isaiah Rodgers, Khari Willis, Julian Blackmon

UFA: Xavier Rhodes, T.J. Carrie, Malik Hooker, Tavon Wilson

Game plan: Rhodes, like Autry on the defensive line, could be in position to land a bigger payday elsewhere after he had a strong 2020 season with the Colts. Blackmon spent his rookie season proving that he was more than ready to handle the free safety spot after Hooker’s season ended in Week 2 due to a torn Achilles.

SPECIALISTS

Under contract: Rodrigo Blankenship, Rigoberto Sanchez, Luke Rhodes

UFA: None

Game plan: It may suit the Colts better if they bring in somebody to challenge Blankenship for the kicking job, after after he was 32-of-37 on field goals and 43-of-45 on extra points as a rookie.

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