Chris Ballard shocked the NFL with his surprise trade for Deforest Buckner.
If not for the Deandre Hopkins robbery and the Stefon Diggs trade, we might still be talking about it.
Likewise, Tom Brady and the Buccaneers stole some of the thunder from Phillip Rivers and the Indianapolis Colts.
There are many teams who signed, traded, and brought back many more players.
In case you missed the first few days of free agency… 🔵⚪️ pic.twitter.com/ePeO7iIhEM
— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) March 22, 2020
But quality over quantity is still a thing.
And the folks who get paid to make NFL predictions are mostly impressed with the Colts´ 2020 offseason.
ESPN, CBS Sports, Pro Football Focus, and the Score are among the organizations praising Ballard´s efforts.
Plenty of other pundits and monitors are not as impressed.
Just like Colts fans, there is a distinct range of opinions over what to expect from Rivers.
What made the Indianapolis Colts give 38 year old Phillip Rivers money to replace the quarterback you all ready had in Brissett? Was it that 23 to 20 TD/Int ratio that convinced them? #NFL #niceworkifyoucangetit
— Nathan Smith (@dextertee12) March 21, 2020
There are some who believe the Colts overpaid for Buckner, too.
And more than a few lament the loss of the 13th overall draft pick.
But even the critics agree Indianapolis is an improved team even before the 2020 NFL draft.
Here is a sampling of what they say.
ESPN, PFF, Score like the Overall Effort
ESPN put the panel of NFL sportswriters to work recently, asking them to name the most improved team so far.
Dan Graziano was quick to put Indianapolis at the top of his list.
Graziano made more of a case for Buckner than either Rivers or the re-signing of Anthony Castonzo.
He called Buckner a difference-maker at all three levels of the defense.
“The DeForest Buckner trade isn´t getting the attention it deserves. He´ll play the vital 3-technique defensive tackle position in the Colts´defense and make everyone around him better.”
Graziano didn´t dismiss the Rivers signing, citing the Colts´superior pass protection in prediciting good things for the former Charger.
“(Rivers) should rebound for a late-career shot at that elusive Super Bowl.”
Pro Football Focus considered the costs of acquisitions compared with statistics and skills ratings.
Only the Chargers received an excellent rating.
— PFF (@PFF) March 18, 2020
However, PFF stated the price of DeForest Buckner as the only factor blocking the Colts from an excellent rating, too.
The Score ranked Indianapolis as the third most improved team at the midpoint of free agency.
Mike Allesandri mentioned Rivers´ aggressiveness as what makes him a huge improvement in Frank Reich´s offense.
The Score author also noted the state of the other AFC South teams will push the Colts further up the rankings.
ESPN, CBS Call Rivers the Best Offseason Move
Jeremy Fowler didn´t join his ESPN counterpart in naming the Colts the most improved team.
But Fowler did cite the signing of Phillip Rivers as the most underrated move of the offseason.
ESPN names Philip Rivers to the Colts a top ‘underrated’ signing https://t.co/qW2PtR4AOW
— Indiana Sports Coverage (@IndyCoverage) March 21, 2020
CBS Sports´ Jared Dubin was bold enough to say it was better than Brady joining Tampa Bay.
Dubin pointed out how Brady and coach Bruce Arians will have a steep learning curve before writing,
“Rivers steps into a situation in Indianapolis where he already knows the intricacies of the offense he’ll be running. Colts coach Frank Reich was Rivers’ former offensive coordinator in San Diego, and Rivers averaged 4,539 yards, 30 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions per season. The Colts would take that from their quarterback all day.”
Another factor in how the Rivers signing will work out is the re-signing of Anthony Castonzo.
Castonzo´s return assures the Colts enter the season with their top-rated 2019 unit intact.
With a better offensive line in front of him, Philip Rivers seems poised to bounce back with the Indianapolis Colts. https://t.co/IvYxIWt10f
— Fantasy Draft Engine (@DraftEngine) March 24, 2020
Rivers will enjoy protection like he hasn´t seen in years from the Chargers.
His quick and aggressive decision making should make Reich´s offense more effective, too.
Both writers believe if the Colts upgrade their wide receiver unit, Rivers could become a Luck.
Oops… I mean a lock, to lead Indianapolis back to the playoffs.