In a surprise move, the Colts have released veteran defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins after just one season with the team. Hankins was Chris Ballard’s biggest signing last offseason and was set to make around $8.5 million this season.
We have released DT Johnathan Hankins: https://t.co/75kSJpRlQd pic.twitter.com/4UfN292EOW— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) March 17, 2018
Hankins’ release is likely part of the team’s switch to a new defensive scheme that will operate out of a 4-3 base. There is no cap hit for releasing him, but the Colts aren’t short on cash, so it hardly seems that this was an attempt to create room for other signings.
The move is more than a little puzzling because it seems that there might have been a market to move Hankins in a trade, but there have been no reports that the Colts attempted to move him that way. As one of the Colts’ more reliable defenders across the beleaguered defense last season, cutting him loose without a clear replacement in place is a major surprise. While the move itself is a bit confusing, the timing is not. Hankins was set to have $4.5 million in guarantees take effect tomorrow.
While we entered this offseason considering the defensive line as a relative strength on the defense, it now looks like defensive tackle can be added as yet another need to be addressed either through free agency, the draft, or both. There is certainly talent there in the draft but given the number of needs the Colts have and the relatively low cap number for Hankins, this just doesn’t make a lot of sense unless something else is in the works.
We will continue to update this story as we find out more.