Something that Indianapolis Colts fans have gotten used to in recent years is waiting around for players to be released whose salary far outweighs their actual production. Whether it’s because of injuries, age or a lack of performance, sometimes there are players who are just making way more than their on-field worth.
With Super Bowl XLII now in the rear-view mirror, teams around the NFL can now begin cutting these players to create more cap space for the start of free agency in March. The Raiders already cut David Amerson (saving $6 million), and the Saints cut Nick Fairley (has a potentially career-ending heart condition). However, when I look at the Colts’ roster for the annual tradition of finding the obvious names that could be on the chopping block, I didn’t find any.
One huge reason for that is general manager Chris Ballard, who came in and either disposed of former GM Ryan Grigson’s bloated contracts or opted not to re-sign players who fit that model. Ballard made the Colts’ roster much younger over the last year, and the only two current Colts players who are actually old (Frank Gore and Adam Vinatieri) are both due to hit free agency.
After Grigson was hired in 2012 and the team had instant success, the manner in which the team was built quickly went from drafting and developing, to signing veteran free agents to large contracts. The front office thought the team was ready to get to the Super Bowl right then, and the players who were brought in reflected that, with no quality thought of the future put to action.
Running through recent history, in 2014, the Colts rid themselves of Samson Satele which saved $4 million in cap space. In 2015, Trent Richardson, Ricky Jean Francois and LaRon Landry were cut to create $10.1 million. Andre Johnson was let go in 2016 which created $5 million. In Ballard’s first offseason last year, he let go of Grigson signings Kendall Langford, Arthur Jones, Patrick Robinson and D’Qwell Jackson, saving almost $17 million.
That $17 million was put toward signing/re-signing quality, ascending players whose contracts are either safely built for the team to part ways with no dead cap hit, or who were on cheaper “prove it” deals.
Looking at this current Colts roster, you’d be reaching to come up with guys for them to cut to save space. As aforementioned, Gore and Vinatieri are already due to hit free agency next month. While Gore may not be brought back, Vinatieri’s age doesn’t factor into it as much since he is a kicker. They just won’t be looking long term with him.
Releasing Jabaal Sheard would create $7.5 million in cap space, but he played really well in 2017 and was the team’s leading pass rusher. Fellow edge defender John Simon would add $3.3 million in space, but he is a playmaker when on the field (he’s dealt with injuries throughout his career). Last, you’ve got defensive linemen Al Woods and Margus Hunt who are both 30 years old and may not factor in as well to the Colts’ new defense if they change their scheme under the new coaching staff. Regardless, they both played surprisingly well in 2017.
A year into it, Ballard has done a great job of creating a roster full of safe contracts that they actually don’t want to get off of the books. That’s only expected to get better this offseason.