While a lot of projected free agents will never make it to free agency, there are players at many positions who should be on the radar for the Colts as the season begins to wind down. We will take a broad look at pending free agents at each position and provide information about their performance in 2017 and the cap situation for their current team. This should give some idea as to how likely the player might be to hit the free agent market and a general view of the production the Colts might acquire if they target the player.
*All cap projections per Spotrac.com and do not include carry over cap
The only running back over 27, as of the start of the 2018 season, that I would worry about targeting is Frank Gore. If he wants to come back on a reasonable two-year contract, I’m not going to turn my nose up at him. Otherwise, we’re looking for a young back who has his prime years still ahead of him.
The back that I find most intriguing out of this group is Carlos Hyde from the 49ers. He should still have a few solid years left in the tank, he comes from an offense and offensive line that can’t be credited for his production, and apparently San Francisco is considering moving on after rumors about trading him prior to the deadline. 49ers has the money to bring him back if they want but if they pass or if Hyde is ready for a change of scenery, he would be a solid option.
Jerick McKinnon - MIN Projected Cap: $42,323,318
79 rushes for 319 yards, 4 yard per carry , 3 TD
30 receptions for 218 yards, 7.3 yards per catch, 1 TD
AGE: 25 CURRENT SALARY: $691,250
Orleans Darkwa - NYG Projected Cap: $20,401,628
81 rushes for 415 yards, 5.1 yards per carry, 1 TD
12 receptions for 68 yards, 5.7 yards per catch
AGE: 25 CURRENT SALARY: $1,100,000
Le’Veon Bell - PIT Projected Cap: -$11,936,678
232 rushes for 886 yards, 3.8 yards per carry, 5 TD
49 receptions for 308 yards, 6.3 yards per catch
AGE: 25 CURRENT SALARY: $12,120,00
Carlos Hyde - SF Projected Cap: $50,895,455
141 rushes for 592 yards, 4.2 yards per carry, 4 TD
42 receptions for 274 yards, 6.5 yards per catch
AGE: 26 CURRENT SALARY: $920,420
Isaiah Crowell - CLE Projected Cap: $46,692,703
118 rushes for 441 yards, 3.7 yards per carry, 2 TD
18 receptions for 167 yards, 9.3 yard per catch
AGE: 24 CURRENT SALARY: $2,746,000
The only Colts pending free agent who might be worth a look is Donte Moncrief. Given that this has been a strange year with a backup quarterback, Moncrief’s lack of production may be less a reflection of his abilities and more a reflection of circumstance. If the team chooses to look outside, there are a lot of options who may become free agents.
The three wide receivers on this list who make the most sense for the Colts are Davante Adams, Allen Robinson, and Paul Richardson. Adams and Robinson are big targets who have both put together very strong NFL seasons in the past. Robinson plays for a Jaguars team that is light on cap space, making him far more likely to become available.
Adams will be a priority for the Packers who will try to retain their best target for Aaron Rodgers. Paul Richardson isn’t quite as big as the other two options but Seattle will be faced to continue making difficult decisions and receivers have found their way off of the Seahawks often — see Golden Tate.
Jarvis Landry - MIA Projected Cap: $7,697,106
61 receptions for 472 yards, 7.7 yards per catch, 5 TD
AGE: 24 CURRENT SALARY: $868,728
Allen Robinson - JAC Projected Cap: -$1,235,860
1 reception for 17 yards, 17 yards per catch
AGE: 24 CURRENT SALARY: $877,718
Davante Adams - GB Projected Cap: $23,150,230
42 receptions for 494 yards, 11.8 yards per catch, 6 TD
AGE: 24 CURRENT SALARY: $983,351
Sammy Watkins - LAR Projected Cap: $38,670,714
21 receptions for 372 yards, 17.7 yards per catch, 4 TD
AGE: 24 CURRENT SALARY: $4,983,901
Jordan Matthews - BUF Projected Cap: $21,143,348
22 receptions for 253 yards, 6.2 yards per catch, 1 TD
AGE: 25 CURRENT SALARY: $1,237,317
Paul Richardson - SEA Projected Cap: $7,313,133
26 receptions for 458 yards, 17.6 yards per catch, 5 TD
AGE: 25 CURRENT SALARY: $1,178,209
Marqise Lee - JAC Projected Cap: -$1,235,860
38 receptions for 493 yards, 13 yards per catch, 2 TD
AGE: 25 CURRENT SALARY: $1,293,506
Alshon Jeffery - PHI Projected Cap: -$3,867,298
34 receptions for 500 yards, 14.7 yards per catch, 5 TD
AGE: 27 CURRENT SALARY: $9,500,000
While Jack Doyle has had an up-and-down season, his presence helps keep the position need relatively low. With Erik Swoope potentially returning following the bye, Indianapolis may find out that it is set at the position for the longer term. If things don’t work out, there are a couple of players who could be interesting targets.
It’s unlikely that Austin Seferian-Jenkins leaves New York after building rapport in the Big Apple. Rodgers is nothing special but would present solid depth behind Doyle and Swoope — assuming he is able to return to form.
Richard Rodgers - GB Projected Cap: $23,150,230
5 receptions for 51 yards, 10.2 yards per catch
AGE: 25 CURRENT SALARY: $690,254
Austin Seferian-Jenkins - NYJ Projected Cap: $54,456,228
39 receptions for 288 yards, 74 yards per catch, 3 TD
AGE: 25 CURRENT SALARY: $1,313,730
As odd as it seems, with Anthony Castonzo still under contract and Joe Haeg and Denzelle Good battling it out for the right tackle spot, there really isn’t anyone at tackle who piques my interest in free agency this off-season. It could mean that if a tackle join the Colts in 2018, it is through the draft.
The team will need to address the guard position, though and these players might be the best options. Out of these players, Norwell will be the hardest for Carolina to retain. With only $7,401,929 in projected cap space with only $4,387,865 in cap space as possible carryover, the Panthers are relying on a cap increase to give them the room they needs to retain some players.
There are 13 players on their roster that are currently slated to hit free agency. They will need to have a portion of their cap available for their draft picks and have numerous players who currently start or have important roles they will have to consider re-signing. On that list is DL Star Lotulelei, TE Ed Dickson, backup QB Derek Anderson, K Graham Gano, and veteran pass rusher Julius Peppers. They will face some tough choices or need to create cap room to bring Norwell back.
If Norwell is out of reach, the Colts should push hard to bring in Jonathan Cooper. The Cowboys have historically done a good job of drafting an developing offensive linemen. For this reason, they might allow Cooper to leave for a new team and save their limited resources for other spots. Of course, they’re not afraid to invest in their line either.
Andrew Norwell - CAR Projected Cap: $7,401,929
Has been credited for only allowing 1 sack. Part of an offensive line that has blocked for a backfield that has generated 1,276 yards on the ground, good for fourth in the NFL. 0 penalties.
AGE: 26 CURRENT SALARY: $2,746,000
Senio Kelemete - NO Projected Cap: $30,396,402
Part of an offensive line that has allowed only 8 sacks. He is credited for only allowing 1 sack. The Saints have also rushed for 1,280 yards, good for third in the NFL. 3 penalties. AGE: 27 CURRENT SALARY: $1,350,000
Josh Kline - TEN Projected Cap: $15,176,587
Has been credited for only allowing 1 sack. Part of an offensive line that has blocked for a backfield that has generated 1,175 yards on the ground, good for sixth in the NFL. 2 penalties.
AGE: 28 CURRENT SALARY: $1,650,000
Jonathan Cooper - DAL Projected Cap: $8,687,108
Has not been credited for allowing a sack this season. A part of an offensive line that has allowed only 18 sacks on the season. The offensive line in Dallas has blocked for 1,292 yards on the ground, good for second in the NFL. 3 penalties.
AGE: 27 CURRENT SALARY: $2,000,000
Justin Pugh - NYG Projected Cap: $20,401,628
Has been credited for allowing two sacks this season. Has been a part of an offensive line that has allowed a total of 22 sacks on the season. The Giants offensive line has only been able to generate 808 rushing yards, which is 25th in the NFL. 1 penalty.
AGE: 27 CURRENT SALARY: $2,086,475
One of the Colts biggest needs is to add a marquee pass rusher through the draft or via free agency. The bad news is that marquee pass rushers don’t often hit the open market because they’re too valuable to let go. The good news is that DeMarcus Lawrence and Adrian Clayborn both play for teams who will have to perform some cap manipulation in order to retain these players.
Lawrence is the best pass rush target who will hit the market. He is only 25 years old and should still have a full contract worth of high level production ahead of him.
DeMarcus Lawrence - DAL Projected Cap: $8,687,108
37 tackles, 10 TFL, 18 QB Hits, 3 FF, 2 FR, 11.5 sacks
AGE: 25 CURRENT SALARY: $1,376,663
Adrian Clayborn - ATL Projected Cap: $6,343,657
16 tackles, 5 TFL, 11 QB Hits, 2 FF, 1 FR, 8 sacks
AGE: 29 CURRENT SALARY: $4,250,000
It has been a very long time since Colts fans have been able to say that they feel relatively good about their defensive line but that time has finally come. A group that features Johnathan Hankins, Al Woods, Henry Anderson, Margus Hunt, and Hassan Ridgeway inspires reasonable confidence for 2018.
With that said, the work in the trenches never ends. Adding valuable players and prospects on the offensive and defensive lines has to be a priority. Richardson should be available but might cost too much and be too much of a question-mark for locker room chemistry to take a chance on. Someone like Beau Allen should hit the open market though and could be a solid addition to the rotation.
Jay Bromley - NYG Projected Cap: $20,401,628
11 tackles, 2 TFL, 4 QB Hits, 1 sack
AGE: 25 CURRENT SALARY: $750,903
Beau Allen - PHI Projected Cap: -$3,867,298
11 tackles, 3 TFL, 4 QB Hits, 1 sack
AGE: 26 CURRENT SALARY: $570,562
Sheldon Richardson - SEA Projected Cap: $7,313,133
17 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 QB Hits
AGE: 26 CURRENT SALARY: $2,513,500
No position on the Colts defense needs more attention than inside linebacker. Antonio Morrison and Jon Bostic are essentially the same player, strong against the run and a liability against the pass. Jeremiah George has shown some flashes but hasn’t had enough of an opportunity to really prove himself with the Colts. Anthonly Walker Jr. has missed much of the season with a hamstring injury and is still a question-mark moving forward.
The best option from this list is likely Anthony Hitchens, as the Jets, Bengals, and Redskins have plenty of cap to retain their veterans if they want to keep them around. Hitchens is also only 25 years old and is more athletic than the Colts current group.
Anthony Hitchens - DAL Projected Cap: $8,687,108
31 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 pass defensed
AGE: 25 CURRENT SALARY: $663,716
Demario Davis - NYJ Projected Cap: $54,456,228
82 tackles, 9 TFL, 10 QB Hits, 3.5 sacks, 3 passes defensed, 1 FR
AGE: 28 CURRENT SALARY: $2,225,000
Kevin Minter - CIN Projected Cap: $20,264,609
AGE: 26 CURRENT SALARY: $4,250,000
Zach Brown - WAS Projected Cap: $51,021,316
96 tackles, 9 TFL, 5 QB Hits, 2.5 sacks
AGE: 28 CURRENT SALARY: $2,300,000
Another position that has come a long way from the start of the 2017 season is the Colts secondary. In particular, the corners have developed this season in a big way. Veteran Vontae Davis was replaced by Pierre Desir as a starter opposite Rashaan Melvin. Second round rookie Quincy Wilson has not been given much of an opportunity but his performance in Week 2 against the Arizona Cardinals has given fans a reason to be excited about his development. Finally, fifth round rookie Nate Hairston has outplayed his draft position and may hold down the nickel role move forward.
The question is, do the Colts sign both of their free agents corners are do they look for a player outside of the organization to fill a starting role. Do they allow Melvin to move on after a career season and find a younger replacement? Fortunately for Melvin, there are only a couple of players who offer extra years and both of those players will likely be priorities for their franchises.
E.J. Gaines - BUF Projected Cap: $21,143,348
24 tackles, 6 passes defensed, 1 INT, 2 FF
AGE: 25 CURRENT SALARY: $581,918
Nickell Robey-Coleman - LAR Projected Cap: $38,670,714
28 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 INT, 5 passes defensed, 1 FF, 1 FR
AGE: 25 CURRENT SALARY: $855,000
T.J. Carrie - OAK Projected Cap: $4,118,154
50 tackles, 3 TFL, 1 Quarterback Hit, 4 passes defensed, 1 FR
AGE: 27 CURRENT SALARY: $571,741
Leonard Johnson - BUF Projected Cap: $21,143,348
29 tackles, 1 TFL, 3 passes defensed, 1 FF, 1 FR
AGE: 27 CURRENT SALARY: $855,000
Malcolm Butler - NE Projected Cap: $4,885,223
35 tackles, 1 TFL, 2 QB Hits, 2 INT, 8 passes defensed, 1 FF
AGE: 27 CURRENT SALARY: $3,910,000
Morris Claiborne - NYJ Projected Cap: $54,456,228
31 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 INT, 6 passes defensed
AGE: 27 CURRENT SALARY: $3,910,000
Prince Amukamara - CHI Projected Cap: $33,106,196
16 tackles, 3 passes defensed
AGE: 28 CURRENT SALARY: $7,000,000
As with the corner position, safety is a pretty crowded group. The trio of Malik Hooker, Clayton Geathers, and Matthias Farley could be the most talented group in Indianapolis since Bob Sanders, Antoine Bethea, and Melvin Bullitt were on the roster at the same time. Once again, there are options if Geathers isn’t able to return to form but the best options are likely to be retained by the Rams and Chargers.
Lamarcus Joyner - LAR Projected Cap: $38,670,714
25 tackles, 2 INT, 4 passes defensed
AGE: 26 CURRENT SALARY: $1,257,545
Tre Boston - LAC Projected Cap: $20,061,203
48 tackles, 1 TFL, 3 INT, 6 passes defensed
AGE: 25 CURRENT SALARY: $900,000
Bradley McDougald - SEA Projected Cap: $7,313,133
16 tackles, 1 pass defensed
AGE: 27 CURRENT SALARY: $1,800,000