In years past, the Washington Redskins would usually get the nod as the team who "won" the offseason, making free agent moves, trades, and entertaining draft selections that - despite their silliness in terms of logic and execution - wou...
In years past, the Washington Redskins would usually get the nod as the team who "won" the offseason, making free agent moves, trades, and entertaining draft selections that - despite their silliness in terms of logic and execution - would provide excitement-generating fodder for the ever-evolving NFL news cycle.
This year, I think it's safe to say that the Indianapolis Colts are the winners of the 2013 offseason.
No team signed more free agents in 2013 than Indianapolis has. 13 veterans were brought into the franchise via free agency or via trade. And that's not counting corner Darius Butler, who played for the Colts last year but was re-signed after the new league year began.
Add in rookie free agents like Josh McNary, Sheldon Price, Dan Moore, and others, and the 2013 Colts are almost as unrecognizable from the 2012 version as the 2012 team was from the 2011 one.
As many as nine new starters could emerge from the free agent additions, and if rookies Hugh Thornton or Khaled Holmes make an impact along the Colts offensive line during training camp and preseason, that number could grow to 11.
11 new starters! That's nearly half the starting lineups for both offense and defense!
However, just like last year, every decision that involved bringing in a new player was done with the mindset of getting the team better. Overall, I think it's safe to say that the goal was accomplished.
From a talent standpoint, the 2013 Indianapolis Colts are much better than the 2012 version. In fact, you can make an argument that they are one of the more talented teams in the NFL. On paper, they rival the Broncos, Ravens, Patriots, and Texans.
Note: If papers champions meant anything, the Redskins would have 20 Super Bowl trophies by now.
Still, that's not meant to demean and diminish the great work second-year general manager Ryan Grigson and his front office have done this offseason.
Real quick, take a look at this article I wrote back in January. I outlined five critical need positions heading into the offseason: Running back, offensive line, defensive end, outside linebacker, and safety. Using just free agency alone, Grigson upgraded each position grouping.
Running back: Ahmad Bradshaw
Offensive line: Gosder Cherilus, Donald Thomas
Defensive end: Ricky Jean Francois
Outside linebacker: Erik Walden
Safety: LaRon Landry
Then, during the 2013 NFL Draft, Grigson reinforced these positions:
Running back: Kerwynn Williams (6th round)
Offensive line: Hugh Thornton (3rd round), Khaled Holmes (4th round)
Defensive end: Montori Hughes (5th round)
Outside linebacker: Bjoern Werner (1st round)
Safety: John Boyett (7th round)
If that's not attacking your needs, I don't know what is!
Grigson also addressed second tier need positions - such as corner, back-up quarterback, nose tackle, and wide receive - by inking free agents Greg Toler, Matt Hasselbeck, Aubrayo Franklin, and Darrius Heyward-Bey.
Finally, he cut away the dead weight, shipping 2010 draft bust Jerry Hughes off to Buffalo in exchange for inside linebacker Kelvin Sheppard. Per reports from minicamp, Sheppard has already begun to make an impact, working with the starting unit along with 2012 gem, Jerrell Freeman.
In fact, when you step back and look at who was brought in to play this year, and who they are replacing from last year, it really is amazing just how much improved this 2013 roster is.
Last year: Drew Stanton
This year: Matt Hasselbeck
Analysis: Stanton is a quality veteran, but Hasselbeck is a former starter with significant experience running an NFL team. Significant upgrade.
Last year: Donald Brown
This year: Ahmad Bradshaw
Analysis: Brown is one of the worst backs in football at pass blocking. Bradshaw is one of the best. Significant upgrade.
Last year: Donnie Avery
This year: Darrius Heyward-Bey
Analysis: Avery rejuvenated his career in Indianapolis last year, but Heyward-Bey is a bigger, faster, stron