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Like Fine Wine

With the draft coming up in two months, the Colts have to think about restocking at several key positions.  Fortunately, Indy has one of the youngest teams in the league.  The Colts had only 11 players on the 2009 roster that will enter the 2010 season past age 30.  Let’s take a look at how much longer the Colts can count on these vets:

Matt Stover, Adam Vinatieri-These are the two oldest Colts on the roster, and we saw the problem with depending on old kickers.  Stover didn’t have the leg to make a 51 yard field goal in the Super Bowl.  He was only on the roster because Vinatieri battled injury.  Let’s see…loss of length…injuries…check and check.  Time for a new kicker…a younger kicker.

Jeff Saturday-Saturday was the toughest decision on the roster last year, but this season showed why the Colts were right to resign him.  He had a great 2009, and was by far the most dependable lineman.  The Colts ran the ball effectively up the middle thanks to his play.  He’ll be 35 next season, and under contract for two more seasons.  Centers can play for a long time, so center doesn’t have to be a ‘restock’ priority this year.

Peyton Manning-Manning will be 34 next year.  He can be expected to have at least four if not five or six more good seasons.  As we’ve said before, Peyton Manning’s replacement is in high school right now, not in the 2010 draft.  I think of Manning’s replacement like some kind of apocalyptic devil child.  I wake up in a cold sweat screaming at night, “HE’S DRAWING NIGH!”.  Please note that I do NOT recommend going around stabbing high school freshmen with a blade blessed by a blind priest.

Justin Snow-Oh no!  Where will we get another long snapper?  Moving along…

Reggie Wayne-Wayne will turn 32 late in the 2010 season.  On one hand, the Colts are stone cold stocked with wideouts.  On the other hand, injuries happen.  Here’s the good news for Wayne.  Of the wideouts most similar to him, most were productive until age 34.  Wayne’s contract runs through the 2011 season.  At the end of that year, he’ll be 34.  Because it takes a while to develop a good wideout, the Colts have to ask themselves if Wayne’s replacement is currently on the roster.  If Gonzo or Garcon can become Reggie Wayne, then there is no need to take another wideout.  However, if the team is looking for something more/different from his replacement, now is the time to draft him.

Raheem Brock-Brock will be a Classic Colt.  He’s a hustle player. He’s versatile. He’s a leader.  He’s making too much money and is too old.  The Colts need a new back up passer rusher.  Two seasons have been lost now thanks to injuries to Dwight Freeney.  The Colts simply have to do better than Brock.  Age has caught up to him.  He’ll be 32 to start the year, and it would be for the best if someone can beat him out.  The Colts can save $3.8 million by cutting him.

Dallas Clark-Clark turns 31 this year, and is coming off his best season as a pro.  The shelf life on tight ends isn’t great.  Clark is under contract through 2013, but four more highly productive years are unlikely.  The Colts need to find a second tight end anyway, and it is probably time to start looking for a replacement for Clark.  He could be good for several more seasons, but I wouldn’t count on it.

Ryan Diem-Diem had an up and down season.  The Colts did not run effectively to the outside right (or left).  Diem turns 31 this year, not too old at all for a right tackle.  Still, production rather than age is the reason to look for new tackles.

Dwight Freeney-Freeney has been dominant each of the past two seasons, and other than Manning, he is the most important Colt.  He turned 30 last week.  Most of the elite pass rushers not named Bruce Smith or Reggie White were done by their early 30s.  What we don’t know is who Dwight Freeney is.  If he’s an all time, Hall of Fame DE, it’ll be because he plays another 6 or 7 strong seasons. If he has a more typical career, the end will come quickly.  Judging by the way the Colts structured his contract, my guess is that they think he doesn’t have a lot of life left in him.  His base salary jumps $3 million each of the next three seasons, and screams “RENEGOTIATION!”.  Though I hope I’m wrong, I think Freeney could have a hard time living up to his 2011 number, let alone his 2012 number.  Now, he could totally turn out to be in the class of guy who posts double digit sacks into his late 30s, but I’m guessing he’s not.  The Colts MUST find a new pass rushing DE now.  The clock is ticking on Freeney.

Gary Brackett-He is a key leader on the team.  He has a unique skill set.  He is about to turn 30.  Brackett is this year’s Jeff Saturday.  The Colts need him now, but a long term deal doesn’t make a ton of sense. The franchise tag would have been a massive overpay.  Brackett’s value is in coverage, if he loses even a half step, he’ll go from important cog to major liability in a hurry.  He’s the right guy at the right number, but the Colts will have to be hunting up a new middle linebacker sooner or later.