The Colts have themselves an interesting offseason ahead of them. They'll get a decently high draft pick and a lot of their core players will be returning to the team. However, there are still a few important players that won't have a contract in 2 months and those guys need to be re-signed.
The ranking is based upon three important factors:
- Importance and value to the team
- Monetary value and whether his expected contract meets/matches his value
- Age and potential
1. Jerrell Freeman
I called Freeman the MVP of the Colts this season. He finished the season extremely strong and was the leader on defense. According to Pro Football Focus' grade system, Freeman was considered an "elite" player in the NFL at his position. Freeman understands the system well and he continues to improve. He's going to be 30 years old, so he's right in the middle of his prime. The Colts cannot let him slip away. Freeman's value should be around 6-7.5M per year... and he's worth every penny. He needs to be the first guy the Colts re-sign.
2. Coby Fleener
Fleener has established himself as a starter on offense and he has a very strong connection with Andrew Luck. He is slowly becoming a threat at receiver. He still needs to work on his hands (still too many drops) and his consistency from game to game. He still has issues getting open and that hurts his consistency. Despite that, Fleener has tremendous potential due to his size, strength and speed (much more than Allen) and has become a "good" blocker (according to Pro Football Focus). Fleener is a good player the Colts must keep around. His price range should be in the 3-4.5M per year range.
3. Adam Vinatieri
Vinatieri is so good that the Colts must keep him. It doesn't matter what his age is, Vinatieri should stick around for at least one more season. Vinatieri is a valuable part of the Colts and unless the Colts are wiling to invest a very high pick on Roberto Aguayo (which I highly doubt they will), then Vinatieri is the only way to go. He's clutch, he's still got a strong leg and he's still very accurate. If he doesn't retire, I can't see why the Colts would part ways with Vinatieri.
4. Dwight Lowery
Lowery was a nice addition to the Colts this season. He definitely outplayed his 950k contract and is due for an increase. If re-signed, Lowery should end up being a starter in 2016 and even if he gets three times his 950k contract, he'll be worth it. Lowery did his job all season and had some key interceptions that helped win the Colts some games. Lowery is a priority and the Colts should look to keep him in a blue uniform.
5. Colt Anderson
Why is a backup safety a priority to re-sign? For starters, Anderson has proven to be a good backup to have in the secondary. He can play in the slot cornerback (nickel) role, if needed, and can play as a strong safety. With that being said, his value comes on special teams, as he is arguably the best special teams player (non-specialist) on the team. I don't need to get into how important special teams are, so I will say that if the Colts intend on keeping good kickoff and punt coverage units, then Anderson needs to stick around. His expected value should be around 1-1.5M per year.
6. Jack Doyle
Doyle took over the #2 tight end spot at the end of the season (more snaps than Allen over the final 5 weeks) and was a nice contributor for the team in 2 tight end sets. He can block well and be a good occasional receiver. Doyle is a hard working, versatile player you can move around. He won't be very expensive to keep around (can't imagine anything more than 2M per year), so keeping him should be an easy decision.
7. Billy Winn
Winn proved to be a good backup for the Colts along the defensive line. When he was forced into action, he held his own and played well. He would be a good backup to keep around for depth, but his importance to the team isn't great. There are many players like him in free agency and this year's draft is extremely strong for defensive lineman, so he's replaceable. Nevertheless, he'd still be a good person to keep around for the right price (anything less than 2M per year).
8. Dwayne Allen
Dwayne Allen had a great rookie season with the Colts, but has battled injuries and consistency issues since. He has not been the same player since his rookie season. At this point, with Fleener establishing himself as the starter and with Jack Doyle taking his backup spot, I can't see the Colts keeping him. The only way Allen would stay on the team is if he does a bridge deal. A bridge deal is a small one or two year contract given after a rookie contract, and essentially it's a try out deal. If he performs well in that contract, then the Colts would sign him to a much bigger deal or if he plays poorly let him go after the contract is done. It's very popular in the NHL. If Allen is wiling to a sign a 2 year, 4M total (2M per year) deal, then it's worth keeping him around. If he has other ideas, then he should hit the road.
9. Greg Toler
What a disappointment Greg Toler has been. When he was on the field, he was a below average starting cornerback. When he wasn't on the field, well, you can figure that one out. Toler didn't have a very impressive stint and this past season was a major disappointment, where he was constantly beat on deep passes. Unless it's for a very cheap deal (less than 1M per year... which won't happen), then Toler shouldn't be returning to Indianapolis.
10. Matt Hasselbeck
Matt Hasselbeck is a beat up, old man. Overall, he had an up and down season. He got the Colts some very important wins, but when the games became more important, he became worse. Hasselbeck had 6 injuries in a 4 week span and considering his deteriorating arm talent, his career is probably done. I'm certain he'll retire, but if he does not, then the Colts should not try to re-sign him, even for league minimum, as he's not worth the roster spot.
The rest: Lance Louis, Charles Whitehurst, Ahmad Bradshaw, Dan Herron, Andy Studebaker