Colts' trade for DeForest Buckner Shows They're All In On 2020
The Indianapolis Colts aren’t playing around. After a disappointing 2019 season where they collapsed down the stretch, they’ve wasted no time revamping on both sides of the ball. Most notably, they signed Philip Rivers to replace Jacoby Brissett as their starting quarterback.
But while the Rivers news will garner most of the headlines, it’s their trade for defensive tackle DeForest Buckner that shows they’re really going Super Bowl or bust in 2020. They pulled off the shocking trade for Buckner on the first day of the legal tampering period, giving up their first-round pick to land him.
Upgrading under center was a necessity, but general manager Chris Ballard was always going to make additional moves in order for Rivers to realistically lead them to a championship. He took a bold plunge by giving up such an early pick, and there’s no looking back now.
If the Colts take a step forward and win a playoff game or two, he’ll be vindicated. If they disappoint again, he’ll take a lot of heat. Rivers is 38 now, and obviously doesn’t have too many years left. He already declined this past year, and a drop-off could come suddenly for a quarterback his age.
Rivers only signed a one-year deal, and everything is clearly about winning right now. Indy’s passing game lagged with Brissett struggling for much of the year, but there were serious issues on defense as well. They have a star talent at linebacker in Darius Leonard and some good young players in the secondary, but they desperately needed reinforcements up front.
Buckner will provide that, and then some. The Colts had only one player with more than five sacks last year, and that was 31-year-old Justin Houston. Buckner plays on the inside, but he’s not just a run-stuffer. Not unlike Aaron Donald, Buckner provides significant pressure up the middle, and he had 7.5 sacks last year.
The year before he had 12 sacks and 17 tackles for loss, and he was an All-Pro this past season. The 49ers showed in 2019 how far a dominant defensive front can take you, and Buckner was a massive part of San Francisco’s NFC-winning defense last year. The Oregon product was the seventh overall pick back in 2016, and is still only 26.
Rivers is reuniting with Colts coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni, both of whom were assistant coaches with the Chargers when Rivers was there. Rivers had a down year in 2019, but the year before he was one of the best passers in the league. The Chargers’ offensive line was also in shambles, whereas the Colts have some of the best blockers in the league.
When Rivers has time to throw he’s still capable of playing at an elite level, and the Colts’ offense should be a lot better. The defense has shown plenty of flashes under coordinator Matt Eberflus, and the acquisition of Buckner ensures they’ll be able to deliver on that potential more frequently.
The rest of the AFC South is mired in uncertainty, especially after the Texans just shockingly traded away Deandre Hopkins. The Colts are now likely the favorites to win the division, and their Super Bowl odds have already improved at most sportsbooks since the start of free agency. The Buckner trade shows how all-in the Colts are, and now might be the time to get some money down on their futures.