Yesterday, the Indianapolis Colts released defensive end Jake McDonough and running back Tashard Choice - neither of which were big moves but that prompted some questions from fans about other possible moves that the Colts might make.
There is no hurry to make these moves and it is better for the team to evaluate who they have and where they are going, but at some point they are going to be faced with decisions to make about several players. Let's take a look at the biggest candidates to be cut (mainly for salary cap reasons) and the chances that actually happens:
Ricky Jean Francois, DE
2014 Cap Number: $5,125,000 (4th highest overall on the team; 22nd highest at his position in the NFL)
Dead Money: $1,875,000
Potential 2014 Cap Savings: $3,250,000
Ricky Jean Francois was brought in for one reason: to stop the run. At his position along the defensive line in the 3-4 defense, that is his primary role - but the Colts run defense was not very good in 2013. While I didn't think that RJF was as bad as some others do, there is no argument whatsoever that he was worth the money and the bottom line is that the unit he was brought in to help improve - the run defense - didn't play well. Currently, RJF is scheduled to be paid like a top-25 defensive end in the NFL in 2014, which he most definitely is not. If the Colts cut him, they would save $3,250,000 in cap room. The big question is which the Colts would rather have: Ricky Jean Francois or $3,250,000 to spend. To me, the answer is easy (the latter one), but to the Colts I don't think it's that simple. If RJF wants to restructure to come back in a smaller role on a smaller contract I'd be ok with that, but with the way his contract currently is I see no reason why the Colts should keep him around.
2014 Cap Number: $5,066,667 (5th highest overall on the team; 10th highest at his position in the NFL)
Dead Money: $1,066,668
Potential 2014 Cap Savings: $3,999,999
It seems that whenever a move seems incredibly logical and a no-brainer to me, it often isn't and often doesn't go the way I think it should go. Samson Satele is one of those moves that seems like a no-brainer to me, and I'm scared that it might not go the way I think it should. Satele was awful in 2013, there is no doubt about it. In my opinion, he was easily the worst offensive lineman on the Colts team. He is scheduled to be paid like a top-ten center in 2014 in terms of cap hit, which is completely outrageous. He hurt the Colts just by being on the field and made a bigger contribution while sitting on the bench, and added on top of that the Colts could save $4 million in cap room by cutting him. I mean, if that doesn't seem like an easy decision, I don't know what is. But to the Colts, this decision won't be nearly as easy. After all, Satele is their starting center and they have to evaluate which direction they are going to take to replace him if they part ways. They will absolutely have to bring in a starting caliber center (no, it's completely ridiculous to count on Khaled Holmes to step in and start - it might happen but that absolutely cannot be the expectation). I think that there is no explanation for why this shouldn't happen - I just hope the Colts agree.
Greg Toler, CB
2014 Cap Number: $4,833,333 (6th highest overall on the team; 22nd highest at his position in the NFL)
Dead Money: $666,667
Potential 2014 Cap Savings: $4,166,666
Brought in by Ryan Grigson last offseason as a starting cornerback, Toler struggled mightily in 2013. His limitations were exposed when he was on the field, as he got beat way too often, but his limitations were shown much more when he wasn't on the field - he was injured for more than half of the season and has been an injury prone player throughout his career. He wasn't that great when he was healthy, either, and when added to the fact that he is due to have the 22nd highest cap hit of any cornerback in the NFL in 2014, he is absolutely a candidate to be cut - especially because by cutting him the Colts could save over $4 million in cap room. Toler certainly isn't worth the money he is being paid, but you have to understand that to sign a free agent you have to overpay to a certain degree. If the Colts were to cut Toler they would have to overpay for another corner, and while he might certainly be better than Toler is, there is no guarantee and would likely cost more. Given the fact that the Colts will have to invest money to re-signing starting cornerback Vontae Davis already, I think that keeping Toler would be the right thing to do, and I think the Colts agree.
LaRon Landry, S
2014 Cap Number: $4,750,000 (7th highest overall on the team; 16th at his position in the NFL)
Dead Money: $5,250,000
Potential 2014 Cap Savings: - $500,000
Ryan Grigson gave LaRon Landry an awful contract last offseason and Landry was even worse on the field in 2013. He was terrible at safety and was a liability to the Colts defense often. Like with Toler, I think that giving Landry another year is probably the right thing to do, but in addition to that the Colts would actually lose $500,000 of cap room by cutting Landry. If they feel that his roster spot is truly worth eating the money for then they will do so, but I don't believe that to be the case at all and I fully expect LaRon Landry to be starting at safety next year for the Colts, for better or for worse (probably for worse, unfortunately).
Erik Walden, OLB
2014 Cap Number: $4,250,000 (9th highest overall on the team; 19th highest at his position in the NFL)
Dead Money: $4,750,000
Potential 2014 Cap Savings: - $500,000
I could just copy and paste what I wrote about Landry in the section above here and have it apply to Erik Walden. I think that giving players more than one year when you invest so much in them is a good thing, and the Colts would also lose $500,000 in cap room by cutting Walden. In 2013, Walden was bad and the contract Ryan Grigson gave him last offseason was even worse. Walden looked decent at times (and bad at others) but certainly isn't worth being paid like a top-20 outside linebacker in 2014. Unfortunately, the contract is not very friendly to the Colts and it seems likely that Walden will be back with the Colts next year as well.
Matt Hasselbeck, QB
2014 Cap Number: $3,750,000 (11th highest overall on the team; 26th highest at his position in the NFL)
Dead Money: $1,500,000
Potential 2014 Cap Savings: $2,250,000
This is an interesting one because the Colts are scheduled to pay their backup quarterback the 26th highest cap hit in the NFL in 2014 - not an outrageous number but probably not the best financial decision given their starting quarterback is Andrew Luck. Hasselbeck was brought in last offseason to be a help to Luck and to help him learn the position, and the real question that people are asking now is what value he still brings to the team? Sure, he could step in and play admirably if Luck went down, but he couldn't save the season and he couldn't carry the Colts like Luck. And the learning factor probably would diminish quite a bit in 2014 in terms of it's usefulness. By cutting their backup quarterback who never plays and who, if he had to play wouldn't be able to save the season, the Colts could save $2.25 million in cap room. So why not do it? As much as I like Hasselbeck the person and as much as I think he is about as good of a backup quarterback as you can get, I don't think it is the best decision for the Colts to be paying him $3.75 million in 2014 and I think he should be a cap casualty. I'm honestly not sure what the Colts will do, but they've got to at least consider cutting Hasselbeck. And I think that he is one of the more likely options to be cut of those we looked at on this list.
What do you think? Should the Colts cut some of these players this offseason? What would you do if you were general manager?