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How much might some key Colts free agents make on their new contracts?

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NFL: Indianapolis Colts at New York Jets Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Free agency begins this week in the NFL, with the legal tampering period beginning first and then on Thursday the new league year starting at 4:00 p.m. ET.

The Colts still haven’t made any re-signings for their group of free agents, so we’ll see whether they make some of those moves this week or not before the deadline. The Colts don’t have any of the top free agents in this year’s class, but they do have some guys that might be worth bringing back.

A lot of that depends on how much it will cost to do so, however, in which case there needs to be at least some sort of expectation of what the guys might get on the open market.

In that regard, a recent article from Rotoworld’s Evan Silva is helpful. Silva ranks the top 100 free agents in this year’s class based on how much he expects the players to make. He calculates this based on both recent comparable contracts/situations and buzz at the NFL Combine, and three Colts players made the list.

The first one to appear was obviously tight end Jack Doyle, who came in at number 47 on Silva’s list and is projected to earn $6.5-7.5 million per year. Wrote Silva:

Efficient possession receiver, quality run blocker.

A few spots later (number 52) was defensive back Darius Butler, who is projected to make $6.5-7 million per season:

Career slot corner wants to transition to safety.

And then at number 93 (fittingly) was outside linebacker Erik Walden, who is projected to make $2-4 million per year:

Could get overpaid after fluky 11-sack campaign.

I think most Colts fans agree that Jack Doyle should be the team’s top priority to re-sign this offseason, and to be completely honest a contract similar to the yearly average that Silva mentioned is not going to break the bank, especially for a guy who’s a good, well-rounded player and who is also the team’s best available free agent to re-sign. But it sounds like there might be disagreement between the team and Doyle’s camp about what the tight end is worth, and it would be interesting to hear how far apart they are as well as what they think he deserves. I think Silva’s projection is pretty fair.

I also think most Colts fans would be on board with bringing Darius Butler back, but Silva’s projection seems quite high in terms of yearly average for a soon-to-be 31 year old defensive back changing positions. As a base of comparison, our own Andrew Aziz projected Butler to get a deal worth around $3.8 million per year, while Spotrac projected him to get a deal worth around $3.3 million per year. So both of those projections are considerably lower than Silva’s projection on what Butler could get on the market.

Lastly, Silva’s projection for Erik Walden might be lower than some people expect, and part of that could be driven by how desperate teams are for any semblance of a pass rusher. Even though Walden isn’t a true pass rusher, he did rack up eleven sacks a year ago, which could potentially increase his value. But this is keeping in line with some of the expectations about Walden’s deal, as some don’t expect him to get a huge deal. If he could be re-signed for $2-4 million, I think it would make sense for a Colts team without many reliable guys at all at linebacker to bring Walden back, if nothing more than as a key depth piece as they build the position from the ground up.

Whatever happens, it will certainly be an interesting week in the NFL, and we’ll have to wait and see whether the Colts reach deals with some of their own free agents beforehand or not.