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Quantifying the Colts’ Free Agency Moves

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

As free agency rolls on, it’s great to see so many Stampede Blue readers all in agreement about the job that Chris Ballard is doing and how best to fill the roster. I put some numbers around the myriad of NFL contractual signings so far in an attempt to put some sort of context to the Colts’ actions (inactions?).

I started by simply counting players (which is actually much harder than it sounds). The pool of free agents includes players who were cut/released as well as those whose contracts simply expired, regardless of whether a team intends to re-sign them or not. For example, Vontae Davis is included as a Colts free agent.

Based on the most recent data I could find as of last night, the Colts have lost only 1 net player to free agency. Barkevious Mingo, Vontae Davis, Donte Moncrief, Jon Bostic and Rashaan Melvin are all signed to other teams while Denico Autry, Eric Ebron, Matt Slauson and Ryan Grant will be donning the horseshoe in 2018.

That puts the Colts in a 6-way tie for 17th place in player gain.

Free Agent Gain

Rank Team Net free Agents
Rank Team Net free Agents
1 OAK 8
2 BUF 6
3 HOU 5
4 TAM 4
5 NYG 3
5 NYJ 3
7 CLE 2
7 JAX 2
7 NOR 2
7 SFO 2
11 CHI 1
11 PIT 1
11 TEN 1
14 BAL 0
14 GNB 0
14 LAC 0
17 ARI -1
17 CIN -1
17 IND -1
17 KAN -1
17 MIA -1
17 SEA -1
23 ATL -2
23 DEN -2
23 NWE -2
23 WAS -2
27 CAR -3
27 DET -3
29 MIN -4
29 PHI -4
31 DAL -6
31 LAR -6

Oakland is “winning” this free agency metric, while the Rams and Cowboys are tied for the most net bodies lost. They both have watched 6 players leave for other teams and as of this writing, they have yet to add anyone new in free agency.

So there really are other teams with less activity than the Colts.

But a headcount is not a measure of talent. It is more critical to measure the change in roster production, which is exactly the kind of talking head fodder that drives the off-season narratives. However, since highly subjective shouting matches have never really interested me, I attempted some numerical validity behind my rankings.

And since we are talking about comparing players from all different positions, that pretty much narrowed my choice of metric down to everyone’s favorite stat, AV(Approximate Value). Instead of counting bodies, I totaled player AV from the last 3 years (regardless of team) and calculated the net change between player acquisitions and losses.

The Colts stayed right at 17th with a net AV gain of 2.

Free Agent Gain

Rank Team Net AV Gain
Rank Team Net AV Gain
1 BUF 72
2 CLE 66
3 HOU 56
4 NOR 51
5 RAI 32
6 SFO 30
7 TEN 28
8 NYJ 27
9 BAL 23
10 NYG 21
11 TAM 19
12 GNB 17
13 KAN 13
14 PIT 10
15 DEN 7
16 DET 5
17 IND 2
18 JAX 1
19 CIN -2
20 MIA -8
21 ARI -13
22 CHI -16
23 LAC -16
24 ATL -24
25 MIN -31
26 PHI -43
27 DAL -44
28 SEA -47
29 WAS -57
30 LAR -57
31 CAR -59
32 NWE -63

The Colts had 50 AV leave in free agency and Moncrief and Davis accounted for just over half of that. Since their 2017 numbers were bad, the 3 yr totals really inflate their importance to the team. But of course, that could also be said with a lot of players from a lot of teams.

New England has been hit the worst in terms of lost production. Nate Solder, Malcolm Butler, Dion Lewis and even Danny Amendola are holes that Belichick is going to have to fill.

So far, the Colts situation doesn’t look that dire. However, I have yet to account for the impact of all of the free agents still remaining. 2017 Colt free agents represent the 11th most 3-yr AV of any team.

In other words, a lot of production is not currently signed with the team. Gore, Mewhort and Hankins represent over half of it and Ballard is not likely to replace that in free agency. When accounting for all remaining free agents as “lost” AV, the Colts have the 8th worst situation in the league.

While Chicago is in the most precarious situation, Seattle’s is more interesting to me.

They have hit the off-season trifecta: a lot of talent leaving, not a lot of cap room and very few 2018 draft picks (no 2nd or 3rd). The Colts need to make up for a lot of lost production, but at least they have a lot of cap room and a lot of high draft picks to do it.

Currently, the Colts have 132 AV tied to free agents. Using historical averages, Ballard should get about 80 of that AV in this year’s draft, which leaves 52 that needs to be found in free agency to make the team whole.

There aren’t a lot of high AV guys left and Ballard has made it no secret that he wants to find his talent in the draft so that may be a tall order.