As they traded for quarterback Matt Ryan, the Indianapolis Colts watched another veteran sign elsewhere in NFL free agency. But wide receiver Zach Pascal did not depart without first saying goodbye.
The 27-year-old wideout tweeted a farewell message to the Colts and the city of Indianapolis on March 24. NFL Insider Adam Schefer reported on March 21 that Pascal signed a one-year contract with the Philadelphia Eagles.
“To the city of Indianapolis: I am beyond grateful for the love and opportunity that was given to me by the city of Indianapolis, Jim Irsay, Chris Ballard and Head coach Frank Reich,” Pascal wrote in an image he posted on Twitter. “You guys and this city embraced a young man on a journey and believed in me when I was the only that did.
“Thank you for not only helping me become a better player but a better man and for future life.”
Zach Pascal Departure Leaves Giant Hole for Colts
Outside of Michael Pittman, the Colts don’t have a wide receiver currently on the roster that contributed much during 2021.
Last season, Pascal was the team’s second-leading receiver. T.Y. Hilton, who is also a free agent, was the team’s third-leading receiver.
Indianapolis’ next most-productive wideout last fall was Ashton Dulin, who only had 13 catches for 173 yards. Among all Colts pass catchers, Dulin was eighth on the team in receiving.
Excluding Pittman, Indianapolis receivers currently on the roster — Dulin, Parris Campbell and Mike Strachan — combined for just 25 catches and 361 yards.
NFL analyst Maurice Moton of Bleacher Reporter identified one offseason move every NFL team could regret in an article on March 23. For the Colts, he wrote the team could regret “not extending” a contract to Pascal.
“Aside from wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., the Colts need someone to catch the ball from Matt Ryan, who the team acquired from the Atlanta Falcons,” Moton wrote. “Pascal isn’t a high-end No. 2 wideout, but he’s had a couple of solid seasons, logging 607-plus receiving yards and five touchdowns in 2019 and 2020.
“Pascal’s departure won’t hurt Indianapolis on a large scale in the passing game, but Ryan would have to rely on wideout Parris Campbell — who’s played 15 games in three years — in the No. 2 spot if the front office doesn’t add a veteran or rookie ready to contribute right away.”
Moton also mentioned that Pascal helped tremendously in run-blocking for NFL-leading rusher Jonathan Taylor.
Colts Looking for Upgrades at Wide Receiver?
Pascal leaves a hole to fill at wide receiver in Indianapolis, but he was far from unexpendable this offseason. While Pascal posted a pair of 600-yard receiving seasons in 2019 and 2020, he had just 38 catches for 384 yards during 2021.
Even if Pascal stayed with the Colts, wide receiver was going to be a position of need.
“I like Michael Pittman, but you don’t want to be developing Michael Pittman into being that No. 1 guy,” media personality and former Colts cornerback Butler said while appearing on The Pat McAfee Show on March 24. “And then who’s the best pass catchers behind him?
“So we need to get at least, I’d say, two top-notch pass catchers to make this [Matt Ryan] trade actually work.”
Indianapolis could look to address wide receiver in the 2022 NFL Draft at the end of April. A lot of the top free agent wide receivers have already signed with new teams, but free agency is still an option too.
Spotrac reports the Colts have the seventh-most salary cap space in the league as of March 26 with about $22.04 million to spend. The Colts opened up an additional $6 million in space after restructuring Ryan’s contract on March 24.
This offseason, the Colts also lost tight end Jack Doyle, who announced his retirement on March 7.
Losing Pascal, Doyle and maybe Hilton too should give the Colts urgency to find more pass catchers for the upcoming season.