Ahmad Bradshaw had himself a good season with the Colts this past year. He had a 4.7 yards per carry average and surprisingly had 6 receiving touchdowns (and 38 catches), doubling his career total. He had a big impact on the Colts offense, totalling 8 touchdowns in 10 games, on top of 425 rushing yards and 300 receiving yards. When in the game, teams are unsure how to play him and his versatility is a big asset for the Colts.
The current state at the running back spot is full of question marks. Trent Richardson is as good as gone, leaving just Vick Ballard, Dan Herron and Zurlon Tipton. However, Herron is a free agent, so Ballard is the only guy under contract. The Colts have a full slate of draft picks, but because they have options in-house, it doesn't make too much sense to take a running back early. Also, the Colts gave up their 2014 first round pick for a running back, and as we all know, that didn't work out too well. I have a feeling they're going to avoid taking one early again. Even if the Colts re-sign Herron, the Colts can't roll with just Ballard and Herron. Ballad has his injury history and Herron isn't a #1 running back. Signing someone like Bradshaw, who's proven he's a good fit in this offense, should be a priority.
There are two logical options for Bradshaw in terms of giving him a contact. You can give him another one year deal, or you can give him a two year deal and load some money (cap hit) into the first or second year. The first year makes the most sense, but Bradshaw could seek more of a commitment from the Colts, making the 2nd option a more enticing deal. Let's remind ourselves that Bradshaw will only be 29 years old next year. He's had some bad injuries, but there have been plenty of examples where people have overcome worse injuries and come back stronger (not just Adrian Peterson). Compared to other running backs within the same age group, Bradshaw has significantly less carries over the course of his career. Matt Forte, who's 29, has 765 more carries (43%) than Bradshaw. Demarco Murray, who's 26 years old, has only 117 less carries (11.7%) than Bradshaw. Point is, Bradshaw, despite his age, doesn't have a lot of mileage on him. He's an aggressive running back, but his low carries amount should be an indicator that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank.
How much is he worth? This year, he made a base salary of $855,000 and a tiny cap hit of $486,353. The Colts won't be able to get away with that type of contract this year. He has a very strong case for being a Top 15 running back this season (not as much leverage if he argues for top 10 money especially considering the injury). Top 15 money would garner a cap hit of around 3.25M. With an injury history and him playing for Indianapolis, a team where he's almost guaranteed to start and led by a great quarterback, he'll be very enticed to stay. The Colts could offer him a contract of 2.75M per year and he would most likely take it. This is a perfect fit for him and this is a good upgrade from his previous deal.
All in all, giving Bradshaw a deal of 1 year, 2.75M would be a wise deal. It gives the Colts a good option as a starter for the season and they could re-evaluate him at the end of the season. Bradshaw is definitely worth bringing back and he could be a good starter for the Colts, while splitting some time with Herron and Ballard.