The new league year begins next month, and with it comes the start of the free agency period in the NFL. The Colts have several guys who will become free agents at that point, but there may be some of them worth re-signing. We’ll be taking a look at each one of them and discussing whether it would be a good idea for the Colts to bring them back or not. We continue today with exclusive rights free agent Quan Bray.
When it comes to what the average fan thinks of free agency, it almost always fits under the category of unrestricted free agents - those players who are free to sign wherever they want (or for the majority of players, wherever they’re wanted). There’s also a group designated as restricted free agents, in which case the players will be restricted in where they can go if offered a tender (hence the name). If their team offers them an RFA tender, their other options become quite limited.
There’s one final category of free agent that is hardly "free" at all: exclusive rights free agents. For these players, if their team offers them an ERFA tender, they have to either sign with that team or not play. It’s a small one-year contract and it’s for players with less than two accrued seasons - typically undrafted free agents.
For the Colts this year, they have two players set to become ERFAs, and one of them is return specialist/wide receiver Quan Bray.
Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2015, Bray initially was signed to the practice squad after the preseason but wound up on the 53-man roster. He played in nine games in 2015 and then six games in 2016 before he wound up on injured reserve with an ankle injury. In 15 games with the Colts, Bray has returned 30 kickoffs for an average of 26.7 yards per return, with a long of 60, 23 returns of 20+ yards, and two returns of 40+ yards. He’s also returned 28 punts for an average of 8.0 yards per return, with a long of 33 and three 20+ yard returns. In 2016, he also caught three passes for 36 yards and rushed once for seven yards.
Bray is a good return specialist, and he gave the Colts a spark. But unfortunately for him, his injury opened the door for other players, and Jordan Todman and Chester Rogers took advantage of it. Todman averaged 29.9 yards per kick return and had three returns of 40+ yards - a higher average than Bray had in 2015 or 2016 and more 40+ yard returns than Bray has in his career combined. Rogers averaged 9.2 yards per punt return and had two returns of 20+ yards - a higher average than Bray had in 2015 or 2016 and almost as many 20+ yard returns. That’s not to suggest that Bray isn’t a good return man, and it’s also valuable that he can do both - but he’s in no way guaranteed of his spot in 2017.
With that said, however, there’s absolutely no reason not to bring him back. As an ERFA, the Colts can get him for cheap and bring him back to compete as a return man and as a depth wide receiver. The Colts will need depth for training camp and preseason anyway, so why not bring back a familiar guy with good return skills who could be signed for cheap? There’s no reason to not re-sign Bray, but that doesn’t mean he’ll be guaranteed a spot when the season rolls around.