Wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, signed by the Colts this offseason, makes a catch last season for the Raiders (Ed Zurga/The Associated Press)

Last season’s record: 11-5

Key players released:  S Tom Zbikowski

Key free agents lost: WR Donnie Avery, LB Moise Fokou, CB Jerraud Powers, QB Drew Stanton, G Seth Olsen, LB/DE Dwight Freeney, DT Antonio Johnson

Key free agents re-signed:  P Pat McAfee, DE Fili Moala, CB Darius Butler

Key  free agents added: T Gosder Cherilus, CB Greg Toler, LB Erik Walden, G Donald Thomas, LB Lawrence Sidbury, S LaRon Landry, DT Ricky Jean Francois, QB Matt Hasselbeck, DT Aubrayo Franklin, WR Darrius Heyward-Bey

Key players traded: DE Clifton Geathers, LB Jerry Hughes, C A.Q. Shipley

Key trade additions: FB Stanley Havili, LB Kelvin Sheppard

Draft:

Rd. 1 (No. 24 overall)… Bjoern Werner, DE, Florida State

3 (86)… Hugh Thornton, G, Illinois

4 (121)… Khaled Holmes, C, Southern California

5 (139)… Montori Hughes, DT, Tennessee-Martin

6 (192)… John Boyett, S, Oregon

7 (230)… Kerwynn Williams, RB, Utah State

7 (254)… Justice Cunningham, TE, South Carolina

Analysis: When the Colts released Peyton Manning last offseason and prepared to use the top overall selection in last year’s NFL draft to select Andrew Luck, owner Jim Irsay talked about the franchise starting its rebuilding project around a young quarterback. Well, the rebuilding moved swiftly, as the Colts reached the playoffs in Luck’s rookie season. This offseason, they kept Irsay busy on Twitter, announcing their moves in free agency in, at times, rapid succession.

The Colts said their goodbyes to another mainstay this offseason as they opted not to re-sign Dwight Freeney, who ended up in San Diego in free agency. Freeney had a modest-for-him five sacks last season. He turned 33 in February and he did not appear as comfortable as an outside linebacker in a three-linemen, four-linebacker alignment as he had been as a defensive end in a 4-3 arrangement. Still, he is among the top pass rushers of his generation and he will be remembered in Indianapolis as one of the core players during the Colts’ lengthy run of success.

The Colts did well in the draft to get Florida State defensive end Bjoern Werner late in the first round. He should provide some pass-rush help to begin to offset Freeney’s departure. The Colts focused on their offensive line with their next two picks, choosing Illinois guard Hugh Thornton in the third round and Southern California center Khaled Holmes in the fourth round. That’s after the team signed right tackle Gosder Cherilus and guard Donald Thomas in free agency. It also bolstered the secondary in free agency by adding cornerback Greg Toler and safety LaRon Landry, and gave Luck a speedy wideout by signing Darrius Heyward-Bey after the former first-round draft pick from Maryland was released by the Oakland Raiders.

Luck appears to be well on his way to being all the Colts expected him to be when they drafted him last year. The team that will be around him this season appears to be improved as well. The Colts with Luck seemingly are a championship contender in the making. What remains to be seen is whether enough has been done for that top-contender status to be reached this season.

Why Redskins fans should care: It promises to be a career-long comparison and competition between Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III as to which quarterback has a better career.

Conversation starter: If the 2012 NFL draft were re-done now, would Luck or Griffin (or perhaps even Russell Wilson) be the top pick?

Background: Schedule | Depth chart | Draft | Home page | Previous Other 31 reviews

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