Indianapolis continues to free up cap room for free agency, this time with the release of Ricky Jean-Francois. The move saved the Colts $4.875 million in cap space for 2014. Based on our estimates that should leave the Colts with around $43 million in projected cap space and just outside of the top 5 in the NFL.
This marks the second big move of the offseason for the Colts, the first being the release of LaRon Landry. The moves are likely positioning the Colts to make a big run in free agency which should be a good sign for the players. In recent years the Colts have awarded pretty strong contracts to players like Landry and Jean-Francois that exceeded thier levels of performance in the past. Of the top 6 teams in estimated cap room the Colts are the only one that will be expected to be a free spender, which is a benefit for all players in free agency
It is possible that the Colts might earmark some of this money for Andrew Luck’s extension, but it may also signal that the team sees a short term window and will do whatever they can to maximize their roster in 2015 and 2016. 2015 is the final season in which the Colts have Luck under a reasonable salary cap charge ($7M) and may decide that these next two years will be their best opportunities to fit a number of high priced players around Luck. By 2017 Luck will likely see his cap charges rise significantly, especially if they keep his number artificially low in 2016 with an extension.
Jean-Francois was signed to a $5.5 million per year contract in 2012, despite having started a total of just 5 games in 4 years with the 49ers. He will have earned half of the contract prior to his release. One would expect he will pick up with another team, or perhaps even back with the Colts, in free agency as a lower cost rotational player. The Colts will carry a $1.25 million dead money charge for him this year.