Estimated 2015 Cap Space: $27.7M ($143M cap limit)
Players Under Contract: 54
Pro Bowlers: 5
Unrestricted Free Agents: 12(6 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 29
Salary Cap Breakdown
Free Agents to Re-sign
Veteran safety Mike Adams ended up being an important addition to the Colts defense last season on a one year minimum salary contract. He will probably get a bit more than this this time and finish his career in Indianapolis…The Colts may need to convince Cory Redding to continue playing football as he is still very effective even at 34 years of age…Darius Butler provides a reasonable option covering the slot and should fit in that $3.5-$4.5 million salary range that is typical for players at the position…The team already released LaRon Landry which likely means that Sergio Brown will be back and given the full time job as starter.
Free Agents to Let Walk
With Reggie Wayne recovering from another injury it sounds as if retirement may be in the books for Wayne. I think this is something where the two sides need to talk this over to make sure he retires before going through the free agency process, unless the goal is to simply bring him back to set some records and phase him out…Ahmad Bradshaw is a terrific player, but he can never stay healthy and the Colts can not rely on him for a few games only to see him end the season on IR. The team has too much cap room and there are too many available options for them to bring him back…Hakeem Nicks came in on a one year “prove it” type of contract and he proved he is a third or fourth option. He should not come back.
Contracts to Modify
The team will wait until picking up Andrew Luck’s option before they actually extend him, but it is hard to imagine them not extending him this year. All signs point to the Colts signing Luck to a record setting contract and once free agency is over they should use most of their remaining cap space on him this season to keep him as affordable as possible against the cap in the future…The Colts should also consider an extension for tackle Anthony Castonzo who is in the final year of his rookie contract.
Players to Consider Releasing
We’re a little late to the party here, but there are still plenty of players that might be released on the team. The most interesting name will be Trent Richardson, who the team suspended in the playoffs. Richardson’s salary had been fully guaranteed by I (as had others) speculated that the suspension was done to void those guarantees and allow the team to release him. Richardson is a non-factor for the team. The Colts could try to hold onto him to potentially include in a trade, but probably won’t cut him until they clarify if his guarantee is void…Donald Thomas has been unable to see the field since being signed in 2013 so it would make sense for the team to give up on him and pocket the $3.25 million…Both Greg Toler and Erik Walden could be in some danger of release, but I believe these would not occur until the players were replaced. They could also be asked to take pay cuts. Cutting Toler saves $5.5 million and Walden $3.75 million.
Of the “good” teams in the NFL, the Colts are probably the team that needs to do the most if they want to take that next step. They have benefitted greatly from playing in the worst division in the NFL for the last few years helping them inflate their record far beyond the actual performance level. Most of the time when they step up in class they have great difficulties. While Andrew Luck may be a bit of a polarizing figure in terms of just how good he is, I think most universally agree the team around him is not as good as Luck.
The Colts have built up a huge cap surplus and expect them to use it in an attempt to get to the Super Bowl. This team has been built up through free agency, specifically on defense, and there is no reason to believe that will change. Of 22 players who started at least 8 games for the team last season, 10 came from outside the Colts organization. The expected free agent contribution list was even greater than that but players like Landry and Nicks and Arthur Jones were either injured or ineffective to qualify. Most of the players are overpaid and this will likely be one of the first teams agents call on March 7 to try to up the bidding for the players they represent.
On the offensive side of the ball I think it is clear the team will want to build a running game. I would picture them being linked to trading for Adrian Peterson (perhaps including Richardson as a throw in), signing DeMarco Murray, or any of the name players that will be available. That will be followed by working on revamping the interior of the offensive line where there will also be good players. The Colts essentially set the market for right tackles two years ago and it would not be a stunner if they did the same for one of the guard spots. The team will also be linked to a number of receivers and it would not be stunning if they made they called up Miami about Mike Wallace.
I think everyone believes that this is the likely destination for Pernell McPhee to be their next pass rusher. If Haloti Ngata is released this would be a likely spot for him. Regardless of who they sign they will certainly be focusing on the defensive line and pass rush, especially if Redding retires.
The draft will likely focus on the positions that the team doesn’t upgrade in free agency. Given the lack of available players in the secondary finding another cornerback and/or safety may come in the draft. Finding younger defensive linemen should occur even if they make some signings. But I feel safe saying that the draft will supplement their run at free agency.
Thus far the team has had a number of misses when going outside the team for help so they need to find more Vontae Davis’ this season than Richardson’s if they want to be a legit contender for the AFC crown. But come March 10 expect to hear the name Colts very often.
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.