Indianapolis Colts T Dennis Kelly (77). (Photo by Michael Conroy/AP Photo)
The Indianapolis Colts have a TON of off-season decisions to make, some seemingly more important than others. They must decide either to resign five starters or let them walk (Yannick Ngakoue, Parris Campbell, Chase McLaughlin, Matt Haack, and Bobby Okereke). I have detailed my opinions on these players in previous articles.
Teams are not comprised of 53 big-name players. Most of them are hardworking guys looking to make a name for themselves while improving their game in hopes of becoming leading contributors on a championship-caliber team. These players are the backbone of winning teams and cannot be forgotten regarding free agency. The Indianapolis Colts have the option to resign a multitude of players of this caliber; here are my top three.
1. Swing Tackle Dennis Kelly
On paper, Frank Reich and Marcus Brady came into the season with a solid plan for the Indianapolis Colts offensive line. Swing Tackle Dennis Kelly was a big part of that plan. The first hurdle came when Kelly suffered a knee injury very early in training camp. This injury and the coaching staff’s strong faith in their starters would sideline him until Week 6 of the regular season.
This put immense pressure on rookie LT Bernhard Raimann and career back-up Matt Pryor to perform at a high level. Both Raiman and Pryor were put into a tough situation. Rainman was asked to make leaps and bounds of progression in a position he had been playing for less than two years at that point in time. At the same time, Pryor was tasked with switching to his less productive side of the offensive line.
Once inserted into the lineup, Kelly played in four games, starting three. Across these four games, he played 240 snaps (83 run blocking and 157 pass blocking). Per Pro Football Focus, he allowed ZERO sacks and 14 pressures this season while committing only two penalties. Yes, Kelly is getting up there in age (33), but he has proven he is a capable swing tackle and can provide production in that backup role. The Indianapolis Colts should re-sign the former Purdue Boilermaker for a team-friendly deal, just in case Rainmann and whomever they may draft do not work out this season.
2. Versatile RB Deon Jackson
In his second season in the NFL, running back Deon Jackson displayed solid growth across all facets of his game. Jackson featured in 13 games this season and stepped up in the absence of Jonathan Taylor and after the Nyhiem Hines trade. On 68 carries, Jackson averaged 3.5 yards and found the endzone once. He had back-to-back solid performances in Week 5 and 6 against the Denver Broncos and the Jacksonville Jaguars, respectively. He rushed for 104 yards on 25 carries in these two contests and scored his lone touchdown. These numbers do not jump off the page. Jackson’s numbers in the passing game are much more impressive.
In Weeks 5 and 6, Jackson caught every pass that came his way (14), including ten against Jacksonville. Jackson took these 14 receptions for 108 yards for an average of 7.7 yards per reception. Throughout the season, he caught multiple passes behind the line of scrimmage, which allowed him to record 231 yards after the catch, per PFF, more than his total yards this season. Jackson proved to be the check-down king for the Indianapolis Colts, and for this reason alone, he deserves another contract from the team.
3. Rotational Edge Defender Khalid Kareem
The third and final free agent on this list was added to the Indianapolis Colts roster late in the season. ED Khalid Kareem featured in four games for the Shoe and became a good rotational player behind Yannick Ngakoue, Kwity Paye, and Dayo Odeingbo. The former Notre Dame defensive lineman played 61 defensive snaps this season and made the most of his limited playing time. The Colts are desperate for defensive line pieces, and Kareem could be a potential stud if given the chance.
Kareem totaled four pressures on 36 snaps spent pursuing the quarterback. The stats don’t tell the whole story here. Kareem was vital in filling holes and setting the edge in the run game, something that Ngakoue struggled with greatly. His run defense grade of 73.6 from PFF puts him as the 7th best run defender on the Colts roster. With only three seasons under his belt (technically 2.3), there is time for him to improve and develop his game. The Colts could get him with a cheap offer and let him learn from Ngakoue and Paye.