June 24, 2024

The Indianapolis Colts require assistance at the safety position, and a viable solution might already be within their roster.

The Indianapolis Colts defense concluded the 2023 season with a less-than-ideal 28th ranking in points allowed per game, averaging 24.4.

One contributing factor could be attributed to inconsistent pressure on quarterbacks, along with a lack of overall efficiency from the safety position. Free safety Rodney Thomas II experienced a significant decline in productivity from his impressive rookie season, leading to the allowance of big plays and ineffective communication in coverage.

As a result, Nick Cross was given the opportunity to play 210 snaps at free safety and demonstrated better performance than Thomas. Additionally, Ronnie Harrison Jr., initially a safety converted to linebacker, recorded 82 snaps at the safety position.

However, the Colts cannot depend on the current situation for the future. The solution? Retain Julian Blackmon.

Here are three compelling reasons why the Colts must extend the contract of the veteran defender.

The Colts are in need of assistance at the safety position.

Expanding on the analysis of the 2023 season, the Indianapolis Colts currently face a depth concern at both strong and free safety positions, even with Julian Blackmon on the roster.

As a four-year veteran at just 25 years old, Blackmon, despite some injury challenges, stands out as the unquestionable top safety on the team. His transition to strong safety in 2023, aligning with his skill set, resulted in the most successful season of his career. This stands as a significant reason why the Colts must prioritize retaining him.

He is coming off a season where he delivered the best performance of his career.

While Blackmon did miss the last two games of the season due to a shoulder injury, his absence was keenly felt by the Colts, highlighting his impact as a playmaker. Nevertheless, in the 15 games he played, Blackmon showcased an impressive performance.

His stat line for the season included 88 tackles, five for loss, eight passes defended, two fumble recoveries, and four interceptions (leading the team). These figures marked career highs for the former Utah Ute. If he had participated in the final two games against the Las Vegas Raiders and Houston Texans, he might have surpassed 100 tackles and added a few more turnovers to his tally.

Given Blackmon’s strong finish to the season, the Colts must prioritize finding a way to secure his services. The positive aspect is that he is unlikely to demand an exorbitant contract, and the Colts have the financial resources to facilitate the retention of this valuable player.

Re-signing him is expected to be a cost-effective move for the Colts.

Julian Blackmon has completed his rookie contract and is now deserving of a new one, having earned the right to receive it. However, considering this year’s free-agent safeties, it’s unlikely that many will secure massive deals, barring a few exceptions such as Tampa Bay Buccaneers standout Antoine Winfield Jr. or Washington Commanders strong safety Kamren Curl.

According to Spotrac, Winfield commands an annual salary of $18.4 million, while Curl’s market value is estimated at $15.3 million annually. Despite Blackmon’s excellent performance, it is anticipated that he won’t be seeking a contract of this magnitude. Instead, a reasonable estimate for Blackmon’s new deal might fall in the range of $8 to $11 million annually.

Determining the exact value for Blackmon is challenging, given that the safety position isn’t considered a high-paying one in NFL standards. However, the Indianapolis Colts currently boast the fourth-highest cap space in the league, with $66,350,395 available for spending. Given the significant need for a safety in Gus Bradley’s developing defense, it becomes imperative for the Colts to invest in retaining Blackmon.

Despite other impending free agents like cornerback Kenny Moore II, defensive tackle Grover Stewart, and wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. seeking new contracts, the Colts seem financially capable of retaining Blackmon. Additionally, it’s worth noting that he might be the most economically feasible option among the four.

As the Colts approach the 2024 offseason, they face the task of enhancing their secondary with depth, experience, and playmakers to thrive in the fiercely competitive AFC conference. The decision on Blackmon’s contract will likely play a crucial role in shaping their defensive strategy.

Oct 22, 2023; Indianapolis, Indiana, USA; Indianapolis Colts safety Julian Blackmon (32) runs down field after intercepting a pass during a game against the Cleveland Browns at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Scheer-USA TODAY Sports

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