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2018-19 Important Dates For The Indianapolis Colts

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INDIANAPOLIS — Break those calendars out once again.

While the Indianapolis Colts already have their next few months planned out when it comes to their training camp and the regular season schedules, there are still a few key dates released by the league about this time each year that complete the rest of 2018 and get into the beginning of 2019.

Those NFL dates, like clockwork, were released this week. You can see the entire release by clicking here, but here are a few dates that could be considered relevant to the Colts:

• Late June: Rookie Experience Transition Program to be held at individual clubs. Attendance is mandatory for all 2017 rookies. This is a “rookie onboarding platform” hosted by each team that is “designed to provide the resources for a successful transition to the NFL.” This was started two years ago and took the place of the Rookie Symposium, which was only available to drafted rookies. At this program, Colts rookies can expect to learn about social responsibility, mental health, character, values and player engagement resources — and much more. Expect David Thornton, Director of Player Engagement, to once again play a huge role in this for Indy.

• July 25: The Colts’ veterans report to training camp for the first time at Grand Park Sports Campus in Westfield, Ind. Teams’ report dates can be no more than 15 days prior to their first preseason game, and this date is exactly 15 days from the Colts’ 2018 preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks, Thursday, Aug. 9, at CenturyLink Field.
• Aug. 7: If a drafted rookie has not signed with his club by this date, he cannot be traded to any other club in 2018, and may sign a player contract only with the drafting club until the day of the Draft in the 2019 League Year. Currently, linebacker Darius Leonard and guard Braden Smith are the only two Colts draft picks left unsigned.

• Sept. 1: Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, clubs must reduce rosters to a maximum of 53 players on the Active/Inactive List. Simultaneously with the cut-down to 53, clubs that have players in the categories of Active/Physically Unable to Perform or Active/Non-Football Injury or Illness must select one of the following options: place player on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform or Reserve/Non-Football Injury or Illness, whichever is applicable; request waivers; terminate contract; trade contract; or continue to count the player on the Active List. Previously, there was a cutdown to 75 prior to the final cut to 53, but that was eliminated last season. This gives the Colts and every other team an extended period with 90-player preseason/training camp rosters, which could translate to better overall competition and fewer injuries.

• Sept. 2: Claiming period for players placed on waivers at the final roster reduction will expire at 12:00 noon, New York time. Also, upon receipt of the Personnel Notice at approximately 1:00 p.m., New York time, clubs may establish a Practice Squad of 10 players (clubs participating in the International Player Development Program) may sign one player to an International Practice Player Contract.) No club, including the player’s prior club, will be permitted to sign a player to a Practice Player Contract until all clubs have received simultaneous notification via the above Personnel Notice that such player’s prior NFL Player Contract has been terminated via the waiver system.

• Mid-October: Beginning on the sixth calendar day prior to a club’s seventh regular season game (including any bye week) clubs are permitted to begin practicing players on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform and Reserve/Non-Football Injury or Illness for a period not to exceed 21 days. Players may be activated during the 21-day practice period, or prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, on the day after the conclusion of the 21-day period, provided that no player may be activated to participate in a Week 6 game. At any time after six weeks have elapsed since a player was placed on Reserve/Injured or Reserve/Non-Football Injury/Illness, each club is permitted to designate two players for return from either list to the club’s 53-player Active/Inactive List. A player who is “Designated For Return” must have suffered a major football-related injury or non-football-related injury or illness after reporting to training camp and must have be en placed on the applicable Reserve List after 4:00 p.m., New York time, on the day after the final roster reduction. A player whom the club wishes to designate for return is permitted to return to practice for a period not to exceed 21 days. The club is required to notify the League office that the player has been “Designated For Return” on the first day the player begins to practice. The player cannot be returned to the Active/Inactive List until eight weeks have elapsed since the date he was placed on Reserve.

• Oct. 30: All trading ends for 2018 at 4 p.m,, New York time.
• Dec. 31: Earliest permissible date for clubs to renegotiate or extend the rookie contract of a drafted rookie who was selected in any round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Any permissible renegotiated or extended player contract will not be considered a rookie contract, and will not be subject to the rules that limit rookie contracts. Those currently on the roster who could be eligible: center Ryan Kelly, safety T.J. Green, tackle Le’Raven Clark, defensive tackle Hassan Ridgeway, linebacker Antonio Morrison and guard/tackle Joe Haeg. Also that day, the option exercise period begins for Fifth-Year Option for First-Round Selections from the 2016 NFL Draft. To exercise the the option, the club must give written notice to the player on or after December 31, 2018, but prior to May 3, 2019. In this case, for the Colts, that player would be Kelly.

• Jan. 5-6, 2019: Wild Card Playoff Games.

• Jan. 12-13: Divisional Playoff Games.

• Jan. 20: AFC and NFC Championship Games.

• Jan. 27: NFL Pro Bowl, Camping World Stadium; Orlando, Fla.
• Feb 3: Super Bowl LIII, Mercedes-Benz Stadium; Atlanta.

• Feb 19: First day for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.

• Feb. 26-March 4: NFL Scouting Combine, Lucas Oil Stadium; Indianapolis.

• March 5: Prior to 4:00 p.m., New York time, deadline for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players.

• March 11-13: During the period beginning at 12:00 noon, New York time, on March 12 and ending at 3:59:59 p.m., New York time, on March 14, clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with, the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2017 Player Contracts at 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 14. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4:00 p.m., New York time, on March 14. During the above two-day negotiating period, no direct contact is permitted between a prospective Unrestricted Free Agent and any employee or representative of a club, other than the player’s current club.
• March 13: The 2018 League Year and Free Agency period begin at 4:00 p.m., New York time.

• April 15: Clubs with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs. Clubs with a new head coach after the end of the 2017 regular season may begin offseason workout program April 1.

• April 25-27: 2019 NFL Draft; Nashville.

Indianapolis Colts Sign CB Juante Baldwin for Cornerback Depth

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The Colts are looking for someone to step up at cornerback in 2018, and they’re hoping Juante Baldwin can make a good impression this preseason.
Cornerback was one of the biggest positions of need for the Colts heading into the offseason, but they didn’t do much to address their defensive backfield.

General manager Chris Ballard didn’t select a defensive back with any of his 11 draft picks, and the front office didn’t really make any moves in free agency to replace Rashaan Melvin who signed with the Raiders.
The Colts are now looking to find some undiscovered talent at cornerback, and that’s led them to sign Juante Baldwin.

Baldwin participated in Indianapolis’ rookie minicamp tryout, but the Colts originally passed on him so he put in some work in Kansas City’s rookie minicamp as a tryout.
Baldwin has now found his way back to Indianapolis as the Colts want to take another look at him.

Following a redshirt year as a transfer, Baldwin played one season at Pittsburgh State, which is one of the nation’s best FCS programs.

As a senior, he racked up 30 tackles with 2 tackles for loss and a forced fumble, and he picked off 3 passes for the Gorillas.
Baldwin has decent size at 5-foot 11-inches and 188 pounds, and he was a standout track athlete before transferring to Pittsburgh State.

To make room for Baldwin on the roster, the Colts released fellow cornerback Channing Stribling.

Stribling has great length for a defensive back at 6-foot 1-inch, but he bounced around a few practice squads as a rookie last season and Indianapolis wasn’t impressed enough by Stribling to keep him on the roster after their offseason program.

Five reasons why the Colts will make the 2018 NFL playoffs

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Wondering if and how your NFL team can make the playoffs in the coming season? Adam Rank and Marc Sessler have you covered in this ongoing series, as they provide five reasons why each of the league's 32 teams will make an appearance in the 2018 postseason. Today, Sessler examines the Indianapolis Colts.
1) Counting on a healthy Andrew Luck
Feel free to deep-six this article if Andrew Luck's surgically repaired shoulder is anything less than ready to roll. You can't make a case for the Colts without their star quarterback returning to the field and authoring 16 uninterrupted starts after sitting out all of last season.

Here's what we know: Luck hit OTAs looking like an evolutionary Paul Orndorff -- the dude is jacked beyond comprehension -- and has finally resumed throwing after not playing a game in more than 530 days. Luck's intense commitment to rehab is paying off. He sought out a mechanics coach and voyaged to Amsterdam for treatment, telling reporters during this month's minicamp: "The pain is gone, and it's going to stay that way. My body doesn't revolt, in a sense, to new things I ask."

The Colts remain a work in progress, but a healthy Luck makes this club a factor in the AFC South. He's been out of the picture for so long. Long enough that our attention has drifted to other passers in this division -- Deshaun Watson, Marcus Mariota, even Blake Bortles -- but Luck is imbued with Hall of Fame-level skills. A Colts squad that was largely unwatchable last season could hit the scene as a new creation ... assuming their prized leader can toil from wire to wire.

2) Frank Reich
The Colts wanted Josh McDaniels. They wound up with Frank Reich.

Time will tell how this marriage plays out, but I can't help but wonder if they stumbled upon a gem. Reich brings a much-needed breath of fresh air to a club that felt punchless in 2017 under deposed coach Chuck Pagano. Pairing Luck with an offensive-minded coach is long overdue.

Reich deserves mounds of credit for helping craft an Eagles offense that hammered opponents en route to Super Bowl glory one season ago. Philly's attack -- flush with college concepts and RPO action -- had plenty to do with Reich's decades of NFL experience. The Colts might need another draft or two to accrue the optimum lineup, but Reich's impact on the playbook will be felt right away.

3) Chris Ballard
It's just a hunch, but I see Ballard as a general manager with the leadership skills and scouting talent to transform a Colts team that felt lifeless before his arrival.

The sense around the team is that Indy's draft class is filled with players who will -- and must -- contribute right away. The defense needs help at every level and lacks star-power, but there's a plan in place with Ballard running the show.

Ballard handled the McDaniels double take with class and poise before turning around and picking Reich. After Pagano and ex-general manager Ryan Grigson spent years battling one another, the Colts have organizational unity for the first time in years.

4) Young talent on the offensive line
Luck's career has been undermined from the start by an offensive line riddled with issues. The results were no surprise: a franchise passer who took far too much punishment before ultimately going down with an injury that flung the team into a black hole.

Ballard has gone out of his way to address this unit, adding a rock-solid, immediate starter in pro-ready guard Quenton Nelson out of Notre Dame. With pivot Ryan Kelly beside him and Anthony Castonzo at the bookend slot, Indy has a foundation to build around.

5) A wide open AFC South
The Colts were a fiery wreck last season, but if all the above plays out in their favor, what's stopping Indy from hanging around in this division?

The Jaguars are a fascinating, physical team with a Super Bowl-level defense, but you're still asking Blake Bortles to play above his head for Jacksonville to repeat.

The Texans are juicy if Deshaun Watson returns to form, but this is a young quarterback coming off a mid-season torn ACL. Another variable. The Titans have promise with Marcus Mariota under center and a versatile backfield, but Tennessee has a ways to go in terms of adding star power in the passing game.

The division is intriguing, but it's too early to call it for Jacksonville or anyone else. Especially if we get the version of Luck we saw before his shoulder erupted into total chaos.

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