Notable Offseason Moves: When the Colts selected tight end Dallas Clark with the 24th overall selection in this year’s draft, the choice downright flummoxed some people. Why, they asked, go offense when the defensive puzzle has yet to be solved?
The reason is quite simple, really.
The offense, which Tom Moore likes to run with two-tight end formations, hasn’t been the same since Ken Dilger was released two years ago. His departure left the Colts’ offense—and Marcus Pollard’s fantasy numbers—very mediocre. Clark, who is a hard-hitting, converted linebacker with great hands, will once again give Moore the extra tight end that he needs.
We see Clark picking Pollard’s fantasy numbers off the floor—while putting up impressive stats himself—and helping to be an edge blocker that Edgerrin James was missing last year. And that should make Clark’s value become apparent to all the draft day doubters.
Wide receiver Qadry Ismail was released to save some cap space, but shouldn’t be missed all that much with the signing of Brandon Stokley.
The Colts signed Stokley, who spent his first four seasons with the Ravens, to a two-year deal worth $2.9 million to be the team’s third receiver. His best season was last year when he had 24 receptions for 357 yards and two touchdowns, but was absent for five games after separating two bones in his right foot. Yuck.
Position Battles: We have two pseudo-battles “raging” in Indianapolis this summer. The first is from the kicker position. Still inching his way off the hot seat after publicly lambasting coach Tony Dungy and quarterback Peyton Manning for not showing enough emotion, Mike Vanderjagt has to put up with “competition” from Brett Conway this summer. Although Conway did have a 100-point year in ’01 with the ‘Skins, Vandy is the league’s all-time most accurate kicker. Conway will be taken out with the trash at the end of training camp.
The second “battle” is between receivers Reggie Wayne, who’s entering his third season, and newly acquired Stokley. Like most NFL athletes these days, when he’s healthy, according to his old coaches in Baltimore, Stokley is said to have top-notch ability. But Brandon has yet to play a full 16 games without blowing a gasket. Don’t count on him to beat out Wayne, who many people are expecting to have a break out year.
Keep an Eye On: Manning’s contract expires after this year. Already one of the league’s highest paid players at his position, the Colts have said that they expect to keep it that way.
Manning will count about $15 million against this year's $74.8 million salary cap, and team president Bill Polian has said that must be lowered to free up more money for other players. This situation isn’t likely to turn ugly since Polian has repeatedly said that he wants Manning to be a Colt for life. Look for Manning to be the next $100-million quarterback sometime before the season starts.
Edgerrin James, whom Manning said at minicamp “looks healthy as we’ve seen him,” appears hungry to get back to his pre-ACL tear numbers where he gained a total of 2,303 yards and 18 touchdowns in 2000. "There's no discomfort," James told the Seattle Times in June. "I'm out there full-throttle." I see a huge comeback for Edge this season and wouldn’t be surprised to see him get his third rushing title of his career.
Dominic Rhodes, who ran for over 1,000 yards in 2001 when Edge was hurt, had a setback in minicamp with his knee, but looks like he’ll be fine by training camp. Both he and James Mungro will be around—most likely in backup duty only. In all, the Colts have one of the deepest running back talent pools in the league.
Watch to see if the Colts' offense can turn more multi-demensional this year if Edge can reemerging as a serious ground-threat and Clark and Wayne can give Manning more quality passing options.