NFL teams have an annual ritual of surprising fans when they announce their roster decisions at the end of preseason. This year, for the Colts, the hiring of General Manager Chris Ballard increased the likelihood that a new stamp would be placed on the roster. That process began with free agency and the draft and will continue during the “real supplemental draft” that occurs when over 1000 players hit the waiver wire or hit the market as unrestricted free agents within a 24-48 hour window.
Among the biggest surprises for the Colts is that veteran defensive linemen David Parry and T.Y. McGill have both been waived. Parry played more defensive snaps than any other lineman a year ago but saw the team add veteran nose tackle Al Woods, fourth round draft pick Grover Stewart, and pick up blockbuster free agent Johnathan Hankins in the off-season. He failed to clearly outplay his competition or show additional value as a defensive tackle or defensive end and lost his battle to make the roster.
McGill is a fan favorite and one of the very few defensive linemen on the team known for generating pressure from the trenches. While I am not particularly excited about the move because he is the kind of player that could be very disruptive in the right system, I watched him get pushed around all preseason on early downs. The Colts have decided to go in another direction and with Anderson, Ridgeway, and Hunt and might feel comfortable letting the “specialist” of the group go.
Veteran linebacker Sean Spence was released and second-year linebacker Edwin Jackson was placed on the injured reserve. It is possible that the Colts could use one of their two designations to return in order to bring Jackson back but unless or until that happens, the two fastest linebackers on the summer roster will not be taking snaps in Indianapolis to start the season.
What happened with Spence isn’t entirely surprising given that he was hurt for much of preseason and never really stood out in anyway — he was even at the bottom of the team’s initial depth chart in training camp. He was outplayed by Morrison, Bostic is the presumed start with Morrison (though I can’t say he outplayed anyone), Walker is a rookie draft pick who showed better in preseason than many expected, and Jeremiah George also outplayed Spence. The team saved $1.25M in cap space for a player who was likely buried on the depth chart and who was not likely to be a primary special teams contributor.
Another surprise cut is linebacker Akeem Ayers, who was one of the more productive pass rushers in preseason. At no point did I feel like Ayers was a liability on the field and while he didn’t set the world on fire or generate a bunch of sacks, the team is so thin at the position it seems odd that they would part ways with a veteran. In his place is Barkevious Mingo who also showed real speed around the edge but did not often finish the play.
When the Colts traded former first round wide receiver Phillip Dorsett to the New England Patriots for backup quarterback Jacoby Brissett, it was potentially a good sign for undrafted free agent receiver JoJo Natson who had a strong showing in preseason. Despite that move, he was also waived. One has to wonder how big of an impact his two fumbles and muffed punt return had on the decision.
I will discuss the Jacoby Brissett and the Phillip Dorsett trade in greater detail tomorrow.
Here is your initial Colts roster following cuts. Don’t print this out and put it on the fridge just yet, there is a very strong likelihood that moves will continue to be made via waivers and free agency throughout the rest of this weekend — and even throughout the week.
(4) QB - Andrew Luck*, Scott Tolzien, Stephen Morris, Jacoby Brissett
(3) RB - Frank Gore, Robert Turbin, Marlon Mack
(5) WR - T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Chester Rogers, Kamar Aiken, Quan Bray
(4) TE - Jack Doyle, Erik Swoope*, Brandon Williams, Darrell Daniels
(4) T - Anthony Castonzo, Jeremy Vujnovich, Le’Raven Clark, Zach Banner
(3) G - Jack Mewhort, Joe Haeg, Denzelle Good
(3) C - Ryan Kelly*, Brian Schwenke, Deyshawn Bond
(4) S - Matthias Farley, Malik Hooker, Darius Butler, Ronald Martin
(6) CB - Vontae Davis*, Rashaan Melvin, Quincy Wilson, Nate Hairston, T.J. Green, Chris Milton
(4) OLB - John Simon, Jabaal Sheard, Tarrell Basham, Barkevious Mingo
(4) ILB - Antonio Morrison, Jon Bostic, Anthony Walker, Jeremiah George
(2) DE - Henry Anderson, Margus Hunt
(4) DT - Johnathan Hankins, Al Woods, Hassan Ridgeway, Grover Stewart
(1) LS - Luke Rhodes
(1) P - Rigoberto Sanchez
(1) K - Adam Vinatieri
*Denotes an injured player
Included in this list is a total of 4 active injured players who are likely not to play Week 1. At least 3 of those players are all but certain to miss multiple weeks. When Luck returns is anyone’s guess. Also, S Clayton Geathers is starting the season on PUP and must miss the first six games of the regular season but does not count against the regular season 53-man roster. Second-year linebacker Edwin Jackson — as mentioned previously — is starting the year on injured reserve and is currently the only player on that list who is a probable candidate to be designated for return after six weeks.
Players still squarely on the bubble with waiver claims and free agent moves or trades in the works include: QB Scott Tolzien, QB Stephen Morris, TE Darrell Daniels, C Deyshawn Bond, C/G Brian Schwenke, S Ronald Martin, CB Chris Milton, OLB Barkevious Mingo, and ILB Jeremiah George.