The offseason frenzy of moves has concluded for another year, as the majority of free agent moves are done and the draft is long gone. Instead, the attention has turned to the 2016 NFL season.
With that said, it's also worthwhile to take a look at how a team is set up for the future. A lot of the moves that the Indianapolis Colts made this offseason were with the future in mind, as they opted to build for long-term success rather than simply try to plug all the holes with an immediate, veteran answer.
Let's take a quick look at the Colts players whose contracts will expire following the 2016 season to begin getting it on the radar as to what the Colts might do moving forward. Here's the list, according to Spotrac:
Andrew Luck, QB (26)
Trent Cole, OLB (33)
Robert Mathis, OLB (35)
Erik Walden, OLB (30)
Darius Butler, CB (30)
Mike Adams, S (35)
Hugh Thornton, OL (24)
Sio Moore, LB (26)
Jack Doyle, TE (26)
Jalil Brown, CB (28)
Winston Guy, S (26)
Jordan Todman, RB (26)
Robert Turbin, RB (26)
There's obviously one name that towers far above all of the others, as he's really the only one who is a lock to be back: quarterback Andrew Luck. He's entering the final year of his rookie deal as he plays on the fifth-year option, and there is zero doubt whatsoever that the Colts will lock him up long-term. That extension is very likely coming this offseason and is expected to shatter records for the largest deal in NFL history, probably somewhere between $23-25 million per year. If for some shocking reason the Colts don't get a deal with Luck done this offseason, they would use the exclusive franchise tag on him next year while still working on a longer deal. In other words, there's no way the Colts won't get a deal done with Luck, and it's very likely that a deal will come this offseason. That would take the most notable 2017 free agent off of the table a year early - just like with the re-signing of T.Y. Hilton and Anthony Castonzo last year.
After Luck, there's really no player who is considered a must re-sign at the moment. Robert Mathis is obviously the biggest name, but he'll be another year older. It wouldn't be a surprise whatsoever if the Colts opt to bring him back on a one-year deal to continue rushing the passer and help teach the younger guys, and he has already expressed an interest in doing just that. The same could be true of Erik Walden or Trent Cole, as the Colts currently don't have a ton of depth at outside linebacker. Depending on how the younger guys develop this year and depending on how Walden and Cole do this year, we could see one or both of them back next year too.
Mike Adams and Darius Butler are more interesting discussions, as the Colts have guys who they hope could replace them both. They drafted T.J. Green at safety, who hopefully could be able to take over in a year alongside Clayton Geathers. At corner, the hope would be that D'Joun Smith could take Butler's role as the nickel cornerback. Therefore, the decision on whether or not to re-sign Adams and/or Butler could ultimately come down to how Green and Smith do this year in impressing the coaches.
Hugh Thornton, Sio Moore, and Jack Doyle are all guys who very well could be back too if they have a solid 2016 season. It's possible that Thornton could wind up starting at right guard, Moore could end up starting at inside linebacker, and Doyle could start some games at tight end if Dwayne Allen suffers an injury. All three players are expected to contribute this year, so depending on how they play it's possible any or all of them could be back.
You'll notice a trend: a lot of the Colts' 2017 free agent decisions will be determined by 2016 play. That means that there's no sure-fire re-signings, if we exclude the obvious mega-deal that Andrew Luck will be getting. So this year will be a big one to pay attention to when it comes to a number of players in particular, which is why we wanted to put the list out there right now. The Colts will have room to work with, as according to Over the Cap they are currently projected to have over $61 million in cap space next offseason. Again, somewhere around $23-25 million of that will be taken up by Luck's deal, but the team will still have some money to work with. After looking at their 2017 free agents, it's clear that many of those decisions will come based on the 2016 season.