The Indianapolis Colts are in the middle of a rebuild, and luckily have $72 million to spend this offseason. General manager Chris Ballard already purged the roster of bloated contracts last year in Year 1. Now, it’s time to continue focusing on making the roster younger and building depth, which includes re-signing their own young, budding players.
What changes things a bit for the Colts this year is that they have a totally new coaching staff. Out the door is the conservative Chuck Pagano, and in is the fast-paced, forward-thinking Frank Reich. The new head man in charge is going to need players that fit his and his coordinators’ schemes.
Let’s take a look at the in-house free agents that the Colts need to decide to to and re-sign or let walk.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
RB Frank Gore (34) — Reich and Ballard already confirmed that Gore will not be back with the Colts in 2018, citing that the team is still trying to get younger.
CB Rashaan Melvin (28) — This will arguably be the Colts’ toughest in-house free agent decision. Melvin just had the two best seasons of his career as a member of the Colts, so his market may be expensive. The Colts will want to reap the benefits of turning Melvin into a really good player, but only at the right price. Per Ballard, they will let him test the market to see what’s out there and then go from there.
ILB Jon Bostic (26) — I don’t imagine that Bostic will be back, especially not in the Colts’ new 4-3 base defense. He’s not rangy enough to be put out in the type of space that this defense calls for, and he’s not going to be a team’s first choice to be their guy in sub packages. It’s also no longer a secret that the Colts are looking to overhaul their linebacker corps this offseason.
WR Donte Moncrief (24) — Moncrief has so many traits that teams look for in a developmental player, but he has yet to put them all together to become consistent. He excelled as a deep threat as a rookie in 2014, then in the red zone in 2015 and ‘16. He spent a good chunk of the last two seasons injured, though. He missed 11 games in that time but hadn’t missed any in the prior two seasons. Do Ballard, Reich and Co. think that they can still get everything out of Moncrief with Andrew Luck and this new coaching staff, or are they ready to move on? Keep in mind that it’s alright if the Colts do bring Moncrief back at a cheap price and as long as he’s on board with competing for his spot. If Moncrief winds up being your WR3 or a red-zone specialist, that’s not a bad thing.
OG Jack Mewhort (26) — Mewhort has been a quality player and a rare dependable offensive lineman for the Colts when healthy. Unfortunately, his health has always been a question mark. He has only played one full season out of four and has missed 19-of-64 games. The silver lining is that Mewhort only played in five games in 2017, so he’s had quite a bit of time to get himself healthy, especially from the knee issues that plagued him the last two years. If he passes the Colts’ medical checks, I think it’s a no-brainer to offer him a one-year deal.
ED Barkevious Mingo (27) — This one is a toss-up. Mingo busted as a former sixth overall pick, but he finally found a fit in Indy as a 3-4 outside linebacker. Standing up and chasing the ball suited him well, but now the Colts are moving to a 4-3 base where he’d be in a three-point stance. Does Ballard, Reich and defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus think they could find a fit for Mingo?
DB Darius Butler (31) — While Butler is an awesome locker room presence, it makes sense for the Colts to move on from him. He is on the wrong side of 30, and the Colts have a little depth at safety and in the nickel. He also didn’t make as many plays in 2017 as we are used to seeing him make.
CB Pierre Desir (27) — It seems more likely that the Colts re-sign Desir than Melvin (if it comes down to one or the other). Desir will be much cheaper and had a mini breakout campaign for the Colts last year (started 6-of-9 games, 7 pass breakups and first-career interception). He was also a Ballard pickup and fits exactly what Ballard looks for in corners.
WR Kamar Aiken (28) — I’d be pretty shocked if Aiken was re-signed. He was a big, strong receiver that the Colts were looking for last offseason, and the Colts likely wanted to see if they could get Aiken to regain his 2015 form where he caught 75 balls for the Baltimore Ravens. Aiken caught just 15 passes and averaged 8.9 yards per catch for the Colts. Experiment: failed. No biggy. Move on.
TE Brandon Williams (30) — The Colts stockpiled tight ends last year. Williams was serviceable in his role; special teams, blocking and catching the occasional pass. However, rookie Darrell Daniels proved to be just as effective and more dynamic, Ross Travis has too much potential not to give him a shot, and Erik Swoope is also returning from Injured Reserve. There simply is not room for Williams on this roster, as the other options have much more upside.
IOL Mike Person (29) — Person wasn’t a bad backup option for the Colts last year. He started 4-of-12 games in Ryan Kelly’s absence, and Pro Football Focus graded him with a 70.5, which would’ve placed him among the league’s top 15 centers had he played enough to qualify. He can most likely be retained for the veteran minimum.
QB Scott Tolzien (30) — No.
RB Christine Michael (27) — Colts fans never got to watch C-Woke in 2017, as he went on Injured Reserve before the season ever started. This is a rich draft for running backs, though, and the Colts also seem high on Matt Jones. It doesn’t feel likely that Michael returns.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS
*In layman’s terms, teams have the “exclusive rights” to tender offers to their ERFA’s. Teams have a certain amount of time to extend these offers, and the player must either accept the tender, or not play. Their existing team is the only team that has rights to the player if they’ve tendered an offer. If the team does not tender an offer by the deadline, the player becomes an unrestricted free agent and can sign wherever they choose.
TE Erik Swoope (25) — I don’t see any reason why Swoope wouldn’t be tendered an offer. Ballard gushed about him after being hired last year, and the last time we saw Swoope on the field, he was showing a lot of growth and playmaking ability.
OL Jeremy Vujnovich (27) — Vujnovich played every snap for the Colts in 2017 and received the lowest grade of all guards in the NFL from PFF (34.1). Pass.
LS Luke Rhodes (25) — If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Rhodes looked good last year after switching to long snapper from linebacker.
CB Chris Milton (25) — Milton is a very good special teams player, but he has flopped when put on the field on defense. Maybe this coaching staff can get him prepared if he has to play on defense, but otherwise, they may move on.