General Manager Chris Ballard has been busy overhauling a talent-starved Colts roster. In only a few months, the roster has been aggressively altered and a lot of new pieces were brought in through free agency, off of waivers, off of the street, and through the draft. It is reasonable to expect that this process will take more than one off-season and I believe it will continue by allowing some pending Colts free agents move on in 2018.
This is the third and final look at the Colts pending free agents. If you haven’t already, please take a look at the first story in the series focusing on priority free agents. The second story focused on pending free agents who might be worthy of consideration depending on contract needs and how the front office evaluates other options.
Tier 4 — Darius Butler
Darius Butler has been one of the most valuable pieces of the Colts secondary for years. His play in the nickel role has allowed the franchise to have the luxury of not having an immediate need for a replacement. He is an effective veteran who is in the twilight of his career.
Much like Mike Adams, who the Colts allowed to move on over last off-season, I see Ballard allowing Butler to do the same. Nate Hairston will be entering his second season after a promising rookie campaign in the nickel role. The front office and coaching staff had already determined that a position change was in the best interest for prolonging his career. Now the team has Malik Hooker, Clayton Geathers, and Matthias Farley at that position.
No one will wish anything but the best for Butler and seeing him go will not be easy but this is the time for him to find a new home.
Tier 4 — Brandon Williams
When Brandon Williams was added to the roster over the summer, fans thought there was likely a greater chance that he was a training camp body than that he had a legitimate shot for the roster. His reputation throughout his career is more centered on his abilities as a blocker than as a pass catcher. Surprisingly, he has displayed above-average hands in limited opportunities to catch the ball.
The ultimate determination here will involve other moves Ballard and the Colts front office makes and how they evaluate the development of undrafted rookie Darrell Daniels. With Erik Swoope set to potentially make his return following the bye week, space becomes an issue. Williams may be released when Swoope is activated.
After all he has gone through, and at 30 years old, we’ll likely have to wish Williams the best to find another home in the NFL.
Tier 5 — Michael Person
Following the injury to undrafted rookie free agent Deyshawn Bond and following what the Colts front office and coaching staff apparently saw as an underwhelming performance by fill-in Adam Redmond, Ballard chose to bring in veteran center Michael Person. He has performed reasonably in his stop-gap role but with the likely return of Bond this summer and with Ryan Kelly healthy, Person will find his way onto another roster in 2018.
Tier 5 — Kamar Aiken
Perhaps the biggest free agent disappointment in 2017 has been veteran wide receiver Kamar Aiken. Just a couple of seasons ago he showed tremendous promise as the Baltimore Ravens top receiving option. Last year, he was upset that he was under-utilized in Baltimore and he was looking to find a new home.
With questions surrounding the development of Donte Moncrief and with Chester Rogers entering only his second NFL season, adding some veteran depth made a lot of sense. Ballard was able to sign Aiken on a reasonable veteran prove-it deal and fans hoped that he would potentially form a three or four player rotation at the position that would make the unit one of the deepest and most talented in the NFL.
The results have been the opposite. During a year where the team has struggled to close out games, Aiken has more often played a role in helping the team lose than helping it win. Key drops against the Bengals immediately come to mind.
Tier 5 — Scott Tolzien
A backup quarterback’s role is to fill-in for a starter when they’re forced to miss games. Good backup quarterbacks will give a team a chance to win some football games and weather the storm. Tolzien is not a good backup quarterback.
Throughout his entire career, Tolzien has not won an NFL football game. After spending multiple seasons with the Colts and having relative familiarity with his receivers, tight ends, offensive line, and running backs, he looked lost against the Los Angeles Rams in the first week of the 2017 season. He had two pick sixes in a single game and displayed a weak arm that cannot deliver a pass down the field with any velocity.
There is no reason the Colts could have to retain Tolzien in 2018. It’s still stunning that Stephen Morris was jettisoned after he outplayed Tolzien in two consecutive preseasons. Even when Chris Ballard was recently pressed on that fact by radio personality JMV in a recent interview, the answer was uninspiring.
Don’t be surprised if his experience in the NFL helps him land on his feet with another opportunity on a different team. Colts fans will be happy it isn’t in Indianapolis.