Unless something totally unforeseen happens, the Indianapolis Colts are going to struggle during the 2023 season. Fresh off a 4-12-1 year where the head coach was fired and former center was hired (to be the head coach), the Colts enter the offseason on a collision course with a dreaded foe: the rebuild. The Vikings need to be keeping an eye on things.
Right now, the team doesn’t have a head coach (though, apparently, Jeff Saturday is in the running). With Chris Ballard remaining at GM and the soon-to-be-announced head coach (we think) in place, the Colts will take the next step in their long, hard look at their roster and finances.
If the expected happens and Indy goes all out on future contention rather than immediate contention – a rebuild – the Vikings ought to be ready and waiting.
The Vikings Need to Watch the Colts
One of the main issues for the Colts rests in the mere fact that they’re going into 2023 with some QB uncertainty. Matt Ryan didn’t have a great season, so Indy may decide it’s time to let go of the veteran, taking on an $18,000,000 dead money hit in the process.
Nick Foles – who may still inspire nightmares among Vikings fans – remains under contract, providing the Colts with the opportunity to draft and develop a youngster behind an accomplished veteran.
If they take this eminently reasonable path, might they be looking to move on from some of their high-priced vets?
One thinks of DeForest Buckner, a sensationally gifted defensive tackle who regularly overwhelms the iOL. Almost 29, Buckner still has good football left in him, especially when we remember that he offered 8 sacks, 11 TFLs, and 22 QB hits last year. These impressive numbers occurred during a season where the Colts tied the Vikings for 28th in the NFL by allowing an average of 25.1 points per game.
How good would Buckner look playing in between Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith? Good luck blocking those three. Cutting Buckner leaves behind $0 in dead money while freeing up just under $20 million. That’s money that could be used on younger players or rolled over into next season’s cap.
And what about Stephon Gilmore, the veteran corner who Justin Jefferson absolutely roasted on a touchdown during the insane comeback? The aforementioned play wasn’t great, but the corner had a strong season overall, finishing 9th in the PFF corner rankings. Minnesota, as you may have heard, has a need at corner (though Patrick Peterson does want to return).
Indy could cut Gilmore to save nearly $10 million. Alternatively, they could trade him to try to bring in some draft capital. Would a mid/late-round pick do the trick? The Vikings don’t have a ton of picks to work with in 2023, but Kwesi Adofo-Mensah hasn’t been shy about pulling off deals.
We can be certain that Kwesi Adofo-Mensah’s work not only involves evaluating his own squad but also the situation around the league. The Colts are a prime example of a team that has other teams’ attention. If/when they decide to move on from tremendous talents like Buckner and/or Gilmore, there will be several teams that move in.
Of course, Buckner and Gilmore aren’t the only talented veterans in town. Center Ryan Kelly, corner Kenny Moore, and tight end Mo Alie-Cox are all names to remember due to the potential cap savings of moving on. One even thinks of Jonathan Taylor as someone teams might be calling about for a trade.
Over the past couple weeks, sites like PFF, CBS, and ESPN have been publishing their top free agent lists. These lists are going to get some major subtractions once teams start signing their internal talent. However, the lists will also be getting major talent infusions since teams are going to be cutting great players.
The Colts – given their recent season – are likely heading toward a rebuild. If that occurs, the Vikings need to be ready and waiting.
In all likelihood, Minnesota’s mandate will be to compete in the upcoming season. Given that goal, there should be internal preparations for the potential soon-to-be former Colts who can help Minnesota chase that stubbornly elusive Lombardi.
Editor’s Note: Information from Pro Football Reference and Over the Cap helped with this piece.