The Indianapolis Colts are heading into a pivotal off-season for the roster’s reconstruction under GM Chris Ballard. As always, they’ll be scouring the league looking for the right fit at various positions, in search of youth and production to hit the ground running before the 2019 NFL Draft.
Unrestricted free agents present less of an obstacle for teams in terms of dancing around player’s tenders and so on, but should the Colts luck out in certain cases they could land some real up-and-coming talent to boost this roster in some very key areas.
Restricted free agents can be designated with various tenders that will net specific draft compensation for the original team in order to, both, deter other teams from swiping a player they like, but also get compensation for a player they could potentially lose if another team is determined to sign said player.
Restricted free agents are players on expiring contracts with exactly three accrued NFL seasons. When a player receives a restricted free agent tender, the original team has the opportunity to match whatever offer the player signs on the open market.
It can be a little confusing, but here are the guidelines surrounding RFAs during free agency.
In this process, some teams will fail to give players the tender they might deserve, and those who entered the league as UDFAs are a great example those possibilities. For the 2019 season, teams have until March 13 to submit qualifying offers to those RFAs they hope to hang on to.
One such player who should be watched closely is Romeo Okwara, a defensive end currently with the Detroit Lions. Because of Okwara’s status, if the Lions don’t offer him a first or second round tender, they won’t receive any compensation in return if he signs with another team and they refuse to match the offer.
The 6-foot-4, 274 pound Okwara produced his best NFL season by far in his first season with the Lions, earning 7.5 sacks, 14 QB hits, and 8 tackles for loss. Additionally, Okwara appears to have multiple skillsets that he’s tuned between his time in New York (Giants) working in a heavy 4-3 scheme, as well as working out of more of a diverse scheme in Detroit in 2018.
Okwara is only 24 and would be a really nice get for the Colts should the Lions fail to give him a higher tender in order to keep him. See this brief film room from our colleagues at Pride of Detroit. Okwara is also one of the larger decisions for the Lions to make as they move forward into 2019. Fellow Lions’ DE Ezekiel Ansah is an unrestricted free agent, but is 30 years old and played in only 7 games last season.
Additionally, the Lions have the same pool of top-end free agents at the position to consider as the rest of the league, so this will be a fun situation to watch as the Colts continue to look for, both, depth and playmaking ability moving forward.