The Indianapolis Colts are headed to the playoffs so it might seem a little early to consider priority free agents for 2019, but an NFL front office can never sleep on the future of its franchise. What Indy has accomplished this season is certainly worthy of considerable recognition and excitement but the team has to continue building toward a brighter future and one way to make that possible is to retain those “home grown” (current) players who can create a more solid foundation for the next season.
While the Colts don’t have monster contracts to concern themselves with as they ponder how to approach the off-season, there are numerous pending free agents who can still play an important role in the team’s future. We will take a look at the list of priority free agents, those who might be on the bubble, and those who may be looking for a new home in 2019.
PRIORITY FREE AGENTS
K — Adam Vinatieri — Even through a groin injury this year, Vinatieri remains a reliable kicker. He is hitting from outside of 50 yards with room to spare. If Vinatieri wants to keep playing, Irsay/Ballard will continue signing him to a new contract — and rightfully so.
CB — Pierre Desir — Chris Ballard brought Pierre Desir back to Indianapolis on a one-year prove-it contract for just over $1.5 million. Desir responded by producing 79 tackles, 2 tackles for a loss, 2 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recovery, 8 passes defensed and an interception. He played a primary role in shutting down DeAndre Hopkins and Amari Cooper during Indy’s late-season push to the playoffs.
G — Mark Glowinski — When Chris Ballard selected Braden Smith at the top of the second round in the 2018 NFL Draft, he likely was projecting him to fill the right guard spot. However, Smith looks like he can kick out to right tackle and have a bright future there. Ballard snagged Mark Glowsinski off of waivers from the Seattle Seahawks at the end of 2017, and saw him help the offensive line go on a historic sackless streak. Glowinski will be 27 years old in 2019.
DT — Margus Hunt — There may not be a bigger underdog player on the Colts roster than Hunt. After he had a productive 2017 season, fans were calling for his job at final cuts in the new 4-3 defensive scheme in favor of veteran John Simon. Hunt has responded by tallying 30 tackles, 5 sacks, 13 tackles for loss, 2 passes defensed, 1 forced fumble and 1 fumble recovery. He has been a dominant force for much of the season as a line penetrating defensive tackle. He can play at the nose, at 3-tech or slide out to defensive end depending on down, distance, or offensive front.
S — Matthias Farley — Another highly underappreciated player in Indianapolis. Few teams can feel as confident as the Colts if they need a backup safety to come in and make a major impact in a game. Farley is a restricted free agent and will only be 27 years old in 2019. Bringing him back helps maintain depth in the secondary.
LS — Luke Rhodes — There are three things to know about Rhodes. First, he snaps the ball a long way and hasn’t made a lot of mistakes. Second, he shouldn’t command a monster contract. Third, he does a nice job in coverage as a former linebacker and has made numerous special teams plays.
BUBBLE FREE AGENTS
S — Clayton Geathers — While Clayton Geathers has suffered through injuries over the past few seasons, he has also played in a hybrid safety/linebacker role that no other player on the Colts roster can currently fill. Other moves in free agency could change that but fans might be surprised at his production this season. In 12 games, Geathers tallied 89 tackles, 1 tackle for a loss, 2 QB hits, 3 passes defensed and 1 forced fumble.
WR — Dontrelle Inman — Some thought that Inman had a chance to be a priority free agent before the 2018 season started. He had a history with Frank Reich during his time with the Chargers and seemed like a possible plug-and-play receiver in the system. While he ended up joining the team in the middle of the year, his 304 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns, with a catch percentage north of 70%, turned out to be very valuable.
WR — Chester Rogers — Early in his career, Rogers flashed tremendous potential. Unfortunately, he has never fully capitalized on his opportunities and spent too much time this season behind players like Zach Pascal. He is a restricted free agent who can double as a punt returner, though, so it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see him in training camp again.
WR — Reece Fountain — It might seem unlikely that Ballard would give up on a small school receiving prospect so soon but Colts fans know he won’t hesitate to pull the trigger if better options are out there. Fountain has been unable to crack into any meaningful role on the team in 2018, despite a lack of talent at the receiver position. It doesn’t bode well for his future. He is an exclusive right free agent and that could get him a spot on the off-season roster.
WR — Zach Pascal — There were times this season that Pascal was a liability, allowing passes to bounce off of his hands for easy interceptions that had a major role in Colts losses. He has settled down in the back half of the season and flashed a bit more of his potential. Is it enough to stay around? He is an exclusive rights free agent so he may find his way back to training camp.
WR — Marcus Johnson — There are a whole lot of exclusive rights free agent wide receivers on the bubble. Chris Ballard was going to leave no stone unturned and gave a lot of youngsters a shot to show something. Johnson did show flashes early in the season before suffering a season-ending injury. Was it enough?
TE/H Back — Ryan Hewitt — Hewitt serves his purpose and is a reasonably strong blocker. His role will always keep him on the roster bubble, however, as more talented options who play a bigger offensive role may come along.
CB — Chris Milton — A liability on defense but one of the best special teams players on the team. If a better defensive corner or safety comes along, Milton is expendable. Otherwise, he is a nasty gunner on the punt team and a key contributor to numerous Colts punts pinned deep inside opponent territory.
TE — Ross Travis — Frank Reich loves using tight ends in his passing game. Jack Doyle and Eric Ebron create a devastatingly talented tandem. Mo Alie-Cox is starting to look like a very promising, well-rounded option in his own right. Does the team have room for a receiving specialist at the position? Would he see snaps? Does he need to move to receiver?
WE WISH YOU THE BEST
DT — Al Woods — While Woods wasn’t quite as important to the 2018 Colts defense as he was to the 2017 version, he is still one of the most consistent nose tackles and run lane cloggers on the roster. What makes him a bubble player is that the Colts defensive scheme asks for gap shooters and penetrators and that isn’t his strong suit. At 32 years old, it won’t be a surprise if Ballard lets him enter free agency.
WR — Ryan Grant — Brought in to serve as a reliable possession receiver, Grant never really separated himself from other young options on the team. If there is one veteran receiver worthy of bringing back into the fold, Inman seems like he would get the nod over Grant.
S — Mike Mitchell — Mitchell burst onto the scene with an impressive two-game run prior to suffering a calf injury. He is a solid and experienced veteran but if one of Farley or Geathers returns, it won’t be surprising to see Ballard look for a younger prospect.
G — Matt Slauson — Slauson fulfilled the role the Colts needed in his short tenure. He solidified the right guard spot prior to suffering a fractured vertebrae and allowed younger players the chance to take over. He has received numerous compliments for his role as teacher on the sidelines but will likely not rejoin the team as a player.
LB — Najee Goode — Once considered the front runner to start. Rarely saw the field. We wish you the best of luck.
QB — Brad Kaaya
T — Jamarcus Webb
C — Josh Andrews
S — Corey Moore
S — Ronald Martin
RB — Jonathan Williams