AFC South: T.J. Ward

INDIANAPOLIS -- There is no better time for an offseason power ranking than right after the draft, because that is the unofficial ending of the major moves made by teams.

Teams will continue to tinker with their roster, but the draft is compete and the majority of the headline-making moves are complete.

ESPN.com's post-draft Power Rankings, based teams' offseason moves, were released Tuesday. The Indianapolis Colts are seventh in the rankings up one spot from the season-ending rankings.

To no surprise, the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks are at the top of the rankings. From an AFC standpoint, the Colts are third behind Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos (2nd), who lost to the Seahawks in the Super Bowl, and Tom Brady and the New England Patriots (4th).

I think the Broncos are still the class of the AFC after they added DeMarcus Ware, Aqib Talib and T.J. Ward on defense to go with Manning and that high-powered offense.

I only give the Patriots the edge over the Colts because they beat Indianapolis in the playoffs last season, and Colts quarterback Andrew Luck has struggled in two games -- seven interceptions -- against New England.

The Colts didn’t make a major splash in the offseason, but they continued to add offensive weapons to go with Luck’s arm, feet and ability to pull off the unthinkable. Questions at center and safety will remain until Khaled Holmes (center) and Delano Howell prove they are the right players to start at those positions.

The Colts will be able to see how they match up with those teams next season. They play the Broncos in Week 1 and the Patriots in Week 11.
The talk of the NFL's free-agency period through the first two weeks in the AFC has centered on the Denver Broncos and New England Patriots.

The Broncos bulked up their defense by acquiring defensive end DeMarcus Ware, safety T.J. Ward and cornerback Aqib Talib to go with quarterback Peyton Manning and the rest of the offense. The Patriots signed cornerbacks Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner while re-signing receiver Julian Edelman.

The Indianapolis Colts?

They didn’t make any free-agent splashes outside of re-signing cornerback Vontae Davis. General manager Ryan Grigson easily could have panicked as the Patriots and Broncos, the two teams who played in the AFC Championship Game last season, made their moves.

Nope.

The Colts went into the free-agency period with a plan, a plan they weren’t going to deviate from. Grigson said they signed all the players they wanted to get.

"You're competitive, but you can't be competitive in that way where you're watching what they're doing and say, 'We’re going to one-up you.' That makes no sense to me," he said. "We're in our own little world over here with our own vision of the future with our own set of problems and circumstances and things we're trying to work through positionally and needs we're trying to address. And they have a completely different landscape on all of those different teams."

The Broncos loaded up their roster in an attempt to make at least one more run at a Super Bowl with Manning before his Hall of Fame career likely ends in the next couple of years.

The Colts, like the other 31 teams, want to win the Super Bowl, but don’t have a short window to win a title like Denver and New England. Their quarterback, Andrew Luck, is headed into only his third season. Grigson also has to be financially conscious because they’ll have to pay players such as Luck, offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo and receiver T.Y. Hilton sooner than later.

"It's a team effort when we bring guys into the building," Grigson said. "We really attack it like a team and at the end of the day, we stick to our plan and our vision. Again, it's forward thinking and always looking ahead and not necessarily living in the now even though we feel like Super Bowl XLIX is something that we can attain. With the quarterback that we have and the young players around him, you want to build for sustained success. It's something that you have to stay disciplined in day in and day out."
Safety Antoine Bethea has started every game he’s played in during his eight-year NFL career. The Indianapolis Colts are the only team he’s put a uniform on during his professional career. But come March 11, he’ll step out into somewhat foreign territory when he becomes a free agent.

Bethea, like most who have or currently play for the Colts, has interest in re-signing with the organization.

At the same time, he is intrigued by testing the free-agent market.

“It’s my first time really testing the market, so kind of excited,” he said at the end of the season. “Want to finish my career here, but if not, hey, got to go on and start a new chapter in my career.”

The Colts have interest in re-signing Bethea, but you have to wonder how much they’re willing to pay him, especially since there’s a chance this could be the last big contract of his career.

Bethea, the backbone of the Colts' secondary, recorded his fourth straight season with at least 100 tackles. An issue the Colts have to decide is: Is Bethea and fellow safety LaRon Landry’s playing style too similar?

Bethea is more reliable than Landry, but Landry is heading into the second season of a four-year deal.

Here’s a look at some of the top safeties who will be available during free agency if the Colts and Bethea decide to go their separate ways:

 

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