We are a month removed from the 2012 NFL Draft and it has been well over two months since the most relevant free agents found their teams of the future. While we have taken in-depth looks at all of the moves made by the Jaguars, the moves made by the three inter-divisional teams that make up over a third of the Jaguars annual schedule are also important.
Without question the team that has dominated the AFC South since its inception in 2002 are the Indianapolis Colts. In the 10-year history of the division, the Colts have earned the AFC South crown seven times and averaged more than 12 wins per year in the first nine seasons of the division. The sole year the Colts struggled was 2012, and wow did they struggle a lot.
When news broke of a potentially season ending neck injury for four-time Associated Press MVP, Peyton Manning, there was an instant assumption that the Colts would be lost without him. The actual impact of his absence surprised many.
Without Manning the Colts won just two games and did what any team does when they realize they have a roster of players incapable of legitimately competing at a high level. They started the rebuild.
While the Colts did make some additions through free agency and trades, the 2012 offseason will be remembered for its subtractions. The Colts cleaned house, releasing Manning, Joseph Addai, Melvin Bullitt, Gary Brackett, Dallas Clark and Curtis Painters while also allowing contributors such as Pierre Garcon, Jeff Saturday, Jacob Lacey and Jacob Tamme to leave in free agency.
The team is clearly a work in progress, but the team made the right decision by focusing on the front seven in the rebuild of the defense. Ensuring that Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney (no MJDfan32, he's not on the Jaguars, it was an April Fool's joke) stayed on the team and adding Cory Redding will cushion the transition to a 3-4.
While free agency did some to help the rebuild of the Indianapolis defense, the draft was predominantly focused on fixing the offense. Namely with quarterback and first overall selection, Andrew Luck.
Make no mistake, the grade of the 2012 offseason and the future of the Colts rests squarely on the shoulders of the Stanford product. While he has huge shoes to fill, if Luck's play can even approach the level of hype he has received, the Colts will be in good hands. If not, the team will absolutely be set back, as is every team that whiffs on a QB early.
After Luck the Colts spent five of their next six selections on skill positions. While most rebuilds focus on building with the line first, the Colts got a head start of sorts by selecting Anthony Castonzo and Ben Ijalana with their first two picks in the 2011 NFL Draft. Add in a trade made for Winston Justice in March and the line wasn't a top priority for the Colts in the draft.
The Colts have just about every reason to not be good in 2012. They're coming off a 2-14 season, which doesn't usually switch to Super Bowl worthy roster overnight . Their defense is going to begin a scheme change and several of the top veteran contributors of the last several years will be replaced by rookies. Namely they will be starting a rookie quarterback which just about always isn't very good.
Even the best rookie QB seasons are only marginally good and it's only fair to expect as much from Luck. If he pans out as the quarterback he has been hyped up to be, the Colts will be back. But they're not there yet.