As most Colts fans know by now, Chris Ballard did not use much of the huge amount of cap space available this offseason. One interesting thing about the NFL salary cap is a team may elect to take any unused cap space and roll it over into the next year. If Ballard intends to do that, it makes sense to look at the potential free agent class of 2019 as the Colts could have in excess of $110M in cap space.
ESPN recently released their top 25 potential 2019 free agents. There are some interesting players available on teams that may not have enough cap space to re-sign them. This may cause Ballard and the Colts to be much more active. Realistically, most of these players may not make it to the open market but let’s look at the possibilities that make the most sense if they do.
Aaron Donald - DT - Los Angeles Rams (28)
Donald is unarguably one of the top defensive players in the NFL. His ability to put pressure in the face of a QB is what makes him most valuable. The Rams’ cap situation is deceptive though. If you look at the 2019 cap space on OverTheCap, they have $92M in space. However, they need to re-sign Donald, Todd Gurley, Lamarcus Joyner and Marcus Peters among others next offseason and still have enough money to give Jared Goff a huge contract in 2020. They can’t keep everyone, and Donald would immediately improve the Colts defensive line. The only concern with Donald is his age. At 28, Ballard may not be willing to pay big money to take a flier on him.
Khalil Mack - DE/LB - Oakland Raiders (28)
Like Donald, Mack is one of the better defensive players at his position. He has produced regardless of whether he played DE or OLB in Oakland. The chances of Mack hitting the market are slim, as pass rushers almost never see free agency and the Raiders have a lot of cap space available to re-sign him. He’d undoubtedly be an upgrade but it’s unlikely he plays elsewhere.
Taylor Lewan - OT - Tennessee Titans (28)
The benefit of Lewan is two fold; signing him improves arguably one of the weakest position groups on the Colts roster, and it weakens a division rival. Lewan may get the opportunity to test the market based on the amount of cap space the Titans may have available next year in addition to them needing to re-sign Marcus Mariota and their pass rushers.
Zack Martin - OG - Dallas Cowboys (28)
Depending on how Ballard addresses the interior of the offensive line in the draft, signing Martin may make a ton of sense. We all know Dallas is functioning on a year-to-year basis with their cap. They need to re-sign DeMarcus Lawrence, but the real reason Martin might hit the market is due to the Cowboys’ cap situation in 2020 when they need to re-sign Ezekiel Elliott, Dak Prescott, La’el Collins and Jaylon Smith, among others. Regardless of what Ballard does this offseason, signing Martin would make a ton of sense.
Jadeveon Clowney - DE/LB - Houston Texans (26)
Similar to Lewan, signing Clowney would benefit the Colts and weaken the Texans. The likelihood of Clowney seeing free agency is slim. The Texans have a lot of cap space and not a lot of players to re-sign next offseason.
Danielle Hunter - DE - Minnesota Vikings (24)
Hunter is an under-the-radar signing that could pay off huge. Minnesota has a trio of defensive players that would make sense for the Colts to sign. Hunter is the youngest player on this list and just now hitting his prime. The Vikings also need to consider extending Anthony Barr, Eric Kendricks and Stefon Diggs next offseason, so Hunter may be the odd man out. As a 4-3 DE, he could provide the Colts additional pass rushing that they currently lack.
Landon Collins - S - New York Giants (25)
Oh, Landon Collins. The Giant who should’ve been a Colt all along. #ThanksGrigson. Collins would be a huge get for the Colts if given the opportunity. He would immediately step in and play that box safety position, which would allow Malik Hooker a better opportunity to play center field. Collins may have the best opportunity to hit the market as anyone on this list. The Giants have about $54M in cap space in 2019 but have 46 free agents, including Odell Beckham Jr. and Ereck Flowers who may need to be re-signed. Wow. Just looking at that cap situation, it makes me think they’ll go QB at No. 2 overall in the draft so they can cut their losses with Eli Manning and start their rebuild with a cheap, young QB on a team-friendly deal.
Jake Matthews - OT - Atlanta Falcons (27)
Matthews is an interesting prospect because any high-quality LT that hits the open market gets paid well. Matthews is also relatively young at 27 and doesn’t have any major injury history. While Atlanta has a lot of cap space available in 2019, they need to redo deals with Matt Ryan, Andy Levitre, Vic Beasley, Tevin Coleman and Grady Jarrett, among others. Matthews could be the odd man out.
Grady Jarrett - DT - Atlanta Falcons (26)
Similar to Matthews, the Falcons could be in a tough spot in terms of re-signing players. Jarrett has gotten better each year and could be in line for a big payday in 2019. He’d improve the interior of the Colts defensive line.
Anthony Barr - LB - Minnesota Vikings (27)
Like Hunter above, Barr could be the odd man out in Minnesota. They likely can’t keep everyone after signing Kirk Cousins to a huge contract. Barr is a high-quality 4-3 OLB when healthy. His injury history is a big concern. Barr may be a Ballard-style signing; high upside gamble on a player with some injury history.
Kwon Alexander - LB - Tampa Bay Buccaneers (25)
Alexander might find an opportunity to hit the open market. Tampa Bay has several players they need to re-sign, including QB Jamies Winston. Alexander is solid in pass coverage from the LB spot, which the Colts desperately need. However, he got suspended his first year for performance-enhancing substances and missed some time last season due to a hamstring injury. Despite the injury last season, he still made the Pro Bowl.
Which free agent from this list would you like to see wearing a horseshoe? Let us know in the comments.