Current Estimated 2016 Cap Space: $25.1 million
Expected 2016 Cap Space: $53.3 million
Estimated Rookie Cap: $4.912 million
Players Under Contract: 58
Pro Bowlers: 0
Unrestricted Free Agents: 12(4 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 18
Salary Cap Breakdown
Free Agents to Re-sign
Though Coby Fleener will likely be overpriced the Colts won’t find a better option on the market and he is a reasonable target for Andrew Luck…Adam Vinatieri says he wants to continue playing and if that’s the case then the Colts should keep him…Jerrell Freeman may not be an elite player but he is a good player and should have a few good seasons in him…Dwight Lowery is a cheap veteran option to add depth to the secondary even if they find a younger player to take a good portion of his snaps.
Free Agents to Let Walk
Greg Toler isn’t consistent enough nor healthy enough to be brought back in a year where there are better options to be found…Matt Hasselbeck gave the Colts everything he had last season but it was also clear that he won’t hold up if needed for a long period of time. I don’t think they can take that risk in the future…Dwayne Allen fell out of favor last season as a receiver and will likely look for more opportunity in that area.
Contracts to Modify
Despite how badly Luck played last season there is no question he is going to be the Colts QB for at least the next 5 years so there is really no need to wait on extending him. He currently has a $16.2 million salary.
Players to Consider Releasing
Andre Johnson has a $2.5 million guarantee in his contract, but he never fit in last season and looked done. His current salary is $7.5 million and a parting of the ways makes sense for both sides…Trent Cole was another older veteran signing last year that was more of a mistake than anything else. They will save $6.1 million when they cut him…In two years Arthur Jones has played in just 9 games and not particularly well in those games. Cutting him saves $3.3 million against the cap.
There seemed to be a perception last offseason that the Colts “mortgaged their future” or “went all in” due to the fact that they signed a number of older players. However, one of the points I try to make with Commitment Index is that a team does not mortgage its future unless it makes actual commitments of future salary cap space. The contracts of the older players signed last offseason contained relatively little in the way of future salary cap commitments, and at no point during 2015 did the Colts rank in the top half of Commitment Index. As a result, Andre Johnson, Frank Gore and Trent Cole will collectively leave behind on $6.5 million if the team releases all of them.
The team’s 24th ranking in Commitment Index is actually deceivingly high, as the cap room “saved” by releasing these players – in addition to other expected cuts such as Irving, Walden, Jones, Mathis and Butler – would be enough to cover all cap commitments in 2017 and beyond even after two or three free agent signings. The Colts will therefore be able to essentially reset their cap situation this offseason, with no ill effects from the 2015 signings other than the opportunity cost of having allocated the cap space to players who performed poorly last season instead of allocating it to more productive players or carrying it forward to 2016. A large Andrew Luck extension will likely only push the team to around the midpoint of the league in terms of future salary cap commitments.
Expected Contract Outcomes – Expected Contract Value 2.0 utilizes an algorithm based on a player’s contract characteristics, age, position and 2015 performance to forecast probabilities as to the outcomes of contract termination decisions. The lower the Expected Outcome, the more likely the player’s contract will be terminated in 2016. A pay cut is treated as a termination. We have applied ECV 2.0 to all contracts scheduled to count $2 million or more against the 2016 salary cap with the exception of exercised 5th year rookie options. Expected Savings is the calculated by multiplying the probability a player will be released by the cap savings realized by the team upon such release.
|Player||Position||Expected Outcome||Expected Savings|
|Expected Change in Cap Room||+$28,232,255|
True Cap Space – Realizable Cap Space depicts the total amount of salary cap space potentially at the team’s disposal in 2016, and True Cap Space makes further adjustments to take into consideration amounts that are accounted for in practical terms. Most True Cap Space will be used on players currently under contract as a result of the team choosing to not release them.
|True Cap Space (2016)|
|Adjusted Salary Cap||$154,997,504|
|Prorated Signing Bonus Amounts||($19,041,221)|
|Realizable Cap Space||$135,956,283|
|Fully Guaranteed Salary||($6,404,791)|
|Minimum Salary Cap Holds||($22,050,000)|
|True Cap Space||$107,501,492)|
Commitment Index – Commitment Index identifies the degree to which a team has “mortgaged its future” by measuring its net future salary cap commitments as a percentage of the average net future salary cap commitments of all teams. A Commitment Index Score of 100% is average, and a negative Commitment Index Score indicates that the team has more current salary cap space than future salary cap commitments. The Commitment Index Score of every team in the league changes to at least some degree with every transaction executed by any team in the league, so Commitment Index Score is measured as of a specific point in time (in this case, January 11, 2016).
|Commitment Index (2017+)|
|Prorated Signing Bonus Amounts||$22,863,143|
|Fully Guaranteed Salary||$1,174,582|
|Current Cap Space||($20,434,444)|
|Commitment Index Score||21%|
|League Rank (1st = Most Committed)||24th|
Last year was nothing short of a disaster for the Colts. Luck played poorly, got hurt, and the team couldn’t make the playoffs in one of the worst divisions in NFL history. They took a very odd approach by looking at much older veterans to fill the holes on the roster, an approach that was nothing short of an epic failure. Teams often look to add veteran leadership to a locker room but often you do that with a well respected, low cost player that contributes in some way but isn’t expected to be a full timer. The Colts were going to rely on these players to get better on and off the field and it was just a mistake.
I think you can liken the Colts a little bit to the Falcons of a few years ago who squandered their opportunity with Matt Ryan and Julio Jones on rookie contracts. Once those players move off those rookie deals the mistakes made elsewhere become pretty glaring because the money isn’t there anymore to hide those mistakes as easily. With Luck about to get extended and TY Hilton and Anthony Castonzo already on new deals the Colts won’t have that same leeway.
The Colts deficiencies in free agency have been masked by the potential of Luck, the numbers he has put up from the over-reliance on him, and the fact that they play in division that is nothing short of terrible, usually a lock for two teams picking in the top 10 each year. Something needs to change for Indianapolis this year. They need to really evaluate the process that just seems to land them players that simply do not pan out and move the team forward because it’s a given they will continue in free agency to improve the team.
The Colts will need to come away with at least one offensive linemen this offseason. They have the ability to move players around a little so they may not be completely locked in on one position, but most likely they will need to find a right tackle and a guard. Right tackle is deep this year so it probably makes more sense to sign someone there and keep Jack Mewhort at guard, though they could opt to go in the other direction. Mitchell Schwartz will the top player but considering the Colts were willing to make Cherilus the highest paid a few years back he should ask for a fortune to come to Indy. Other names like Joe Barksdale and Chris Clark would also help.
The top guard is Kelechi Osemele of the Ravens. Baltimore probably does not have the cap space to keep him and he should have a number of suitors on the open market. He has the ability to play tackle as well which may make him too pricey. Jeff Allen and Alex Boone are more economical alternatives. Boone is a little older but may be more of a sure thing.
Defensively they have to improve the line. I’d make it a priority to go after Jaye Howard and Damon Harrison. Both are proven commodities in the type of defense that Indy is going to run and both would immediately upgrade the team. With ILBs that will be on the older side of things, having the interior lineman that is in his prime is a must.
Defensive end is deep but I don’t know if the Colts will pay top dollar for Malik Jackson or swing a trade for Muhammad Wilkerson. Wilkerson would really be a great fit since he can provide a pass rush from the end spot and is a tremendous all around player, but they would need to pony up $14-$15 million a year and possibly part with their 1st round pick.
This is also a good year for free agent cornerbacks and they could land their upgrade from Toler to pair with Vontae Davis. While there are no certain number 1 corners, some of the players have that potential which would give the Colts the perfect transition as Davis gets older.
Obviously the Colts are not going to target all these players in free agency, but you would think they would hit on two or three of the positions and move on to others in the draft. If you wanted the most economical route they probably should go defensive tackle, guard, guard and a few lower level guys for defensive end and outside linebacker. They can then use the draft to try to uncover starters at the pricier positions like DE and corner.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.