As Ryan Grigson and the Indianapolis Colts assess their free agent needs this offseason, wide receiver might not seem like a pressing need compared to other areas on the field. Reggie Wayne returns, having regained his Pro Bowl form this season and TY Hilton emerged as a dangerous deep threat. But if the Colts are to get beyond the first round of the playoffs, they'll definitely need to add some depth to their wide receiving corps.
In addition to Wayne and Hilton, LaVon Brazill showed some promise this year in limited duty. Beyond those three, however, there's not much that would strike fear in opposing defensive backs. Nathan Palmer was signed off the practice squad mid-season. Kris Adams, who impressed in preseason, but was cut and brought back to the practice squad is on the roster along with Jabin Sambrano and Jeremy Kelley, a 6'6" project out of Maine whom the team signed last week. Griff Whalen would also be competing for a roster spot assuming he's healthy.
Donnie Avery likely won't be re-signed and Austin Collie's career is likely over.
The Colts need to add depth and a dependable slot receiver this off season. They've got a lot of cap room to use, so money shouldn't be an object for Grigson as he courts free agents. Still, Grigson has shown that he's not going to just throw money at a player to get one. Here's who is available and where they might fit in the Colts' plans. I've only included unrestricted free agents who are questionable to re-sign with their current teams.
Dwayne Bowe- Bowe has been inconsistent in Kansas City, but then again so has his quarterback play. At 6'2" and 220 pounds, Bowe would give Andrew Luck a big, physical target on the outside that would perfectly complement the sure-handed Wayne and the speedy Hilton. Bowe is fast enough to beat defenders deep, tall enough to win battles in the end zone and strong enough to hold his own over the middle. If I'm Ryan Grigson, Bowe is at the top of my list.
Mike Wallace- Wallace was clearly dissatisfied in Pittsburgh last season, holding out after receiving the franchise tag as a restricted free agent. The bad blood created in that dispute means he's probably done there. Two things put Wallace second on my list of targeted wide receivers. First, he's pretty much a carbon copy of TY Hilton. Granted, Hilton's not at Wallace's level yet, and teams can't have too many deep threats, but Wallace isn't going necessarily make that tough grab over the middle to take some pressure off of Reggie Wayne. Second, with Bruce Arians, Wallace's offensive coordinator in Pittsburgh, off to Arizona, I'm not sure that the Colts would be his first preference any more. Arians will no doubt be courting Wallace to go opposite Larry Fitzgerald.
Brian Hartline- Hartline made a big splash with the Dolphins, becoming Ryan Tannehill's go-to receiver. Hartline will be looking for number one money, but I'm not sure the Dolphins or anyone else is going to be offering that. Ideally, Hartline would be in the mold of a Brandon Stokley or Austin Collie, a tough possession receiver who can get deep on safeties. The Colts haven't had a lot of success with former Ohio State guys, but Hartline would be worth a shot.
Those are the big three that I see being available and who could fill an immediate need for the Colts this season. Don't be surprised if the Colts use some of their cap room on some other receivers in search of depth if the price is right. Adding a third weapon at wide receiver in addition to the tight ends would give Andrew Luck a full arsenal at his disposal every time he drops back.
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