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Who could be a Surprise Off-Season Cut for the Colts?

Which players are in danger of being the John Simon of this off-season?

Indianapolis Colts v Tennessee Titans Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Going into 2018, the Colts’ roster wasn’t nearly as strong as it is heading into this season. Even with all the question-marks faced by the team, as they were still in the middle of overhauling Ryan Grigson’s squad, there were still a few surprise off-season cuts. Ryan Delaire was a standout at defensive end for the Colts before being cut in favor of Al-Quadin Muhammad. Daurice Fountain was the team’s 5th round pick in the past draft and he was also cut in favor of journeymen players like Marcus Johnson and Zach Pascal.

Then there was the most shocking cut of all in veteran linebacker John Simon. This cut caused an uproar among the fan base, at least on social media, as Simon seemed like one of the key players heading into the season. The doubter were all proved wrong when the Colts went on to have a great year without any of these players on the roster (Fountain did get the call up late but he didn’t really provide an impact).

The main point is that every year there are cuts that shock and surprise us and don’t seem like the right move at the time. Some veterans whose spots on the team seem set, or a young player who seems too promising to give up on so early. In either case, the Colts will be making some surprise cuts as the overall talent level on the roster has risen. I decided to ask fans on Twitter who they think those players can be this year. Here are the top players submitted for “surprise cut of the off-season” along with my analysis on why it could/couldn’t happen.

Jabaal Sheard

This is one player that I hear come up a lot in this conversation and I do understand parts of the argument. Sheard is one of the older players on the team and is a free agent after the season. With the addition of Justin Houston, along with three second round draft picks at defensive end in the past two drafts, keeping an older defensive end playing over them does cause some concern. Sheard has also struggled to get his sack numbers up in recent years, and it is hard to justify playing a veteran without great numbers over so many talented youngsters.

The biggest reason why I don’t think he gets cut, though, is his impact outside of the stat sheet. He may not be a double digit sack guy every year but he is an elite run defender who is one of the best on the team in hurries and pressures. He is very disruptive and his presence is felt every game. Off the field, he is a pure class act, and is one of the best mentors on the team. Sheard is going to have a greater impact with these young edge rushers as part of this team in 2019 than he would off the team. These factors are why I think there is a very very small chance that Sheard is cut.

Clayton Geathers

Clayton Geathers could certainly be on the way out with all the talent and depth the Colts have at safety. Malik Hooker is a the starting free safety, but outside of him there is 4th round pick Khari Willis, veteran Matthias Farley, and George Odum whom the team holds in very high regard. I would say right now that the team values Odum too high and invested too much in Willis this past draft to see either of them cut.

That brings it down to Farley or Geathers for the fourth and (presumably) final safety spot. Farley is more versatile than Geathers, as he can play either safety spot. Geathers is more of the "box safety" type. The Colts also gave Farley a bigger deal in free agency this year despite him coming off of a season-ending injury. If the team does view Farley over Geathers and they are committed to keeping just four safeties on the roster, then I could definitely see Geathers being a surprise cut.

Chester Rogers

Another popular name on this list was Chester Rogers, and it makes sense when you think about it. The Colts added more talent to their receiver core from a year ago. Devin Funchess and Parris Campbell will play large roles for the team. The team also has former 2018 draft picks Daurice Fountain and Deon Cain, reliable players in Zach Pascal and Marcus Johnson, and other young players such as Penny Hart and Steve Ishmael all competing for a few spots at the bottom of the roster.

Rogers has a poor reputation with the fan base due to unreliable hands. He had the worst drop percentage among all Colts’ receivers in 2018. One advantage he has over these other players, though, is that he has a great relationship with Andrew Luck and he can serve many roles for the team. I personally doubt the team would cut a player who performed well down the stretch, and who they schemed touches for on many occasions last season. The fan base may be down on Rogers but the organization and Luck seem to be high on him. I think if he even has a decent training camp, he will make this team.

Jordan Wilkins

The Colts running back group is a bit crowded right now and Wilkins could definitely be the odd man out. Marlon Mack appears to be the team’s bell cow and Nyheim Hines has a very clear and defined role on the team. The true competition lies in Spencer Ware vs Jordan Wilkins. Ware is a veteran in this league with a known relationship with Chris Ballard, an ability to get the tough yards, and a reputation as a near elite pass protector. All of those factors are so vital for the Colts’ third string running back.

Wilkins showed a lot of promise last season as a running back and pass protector. The main issue was the fumbles, as he had three in just 76 touches last year. Running backs rarely last long in the NFL with fumbling problems, no matter the age or draft status. Wilkins appears to be in a dog fight for his roster spot against a savvy veteran in Ware. If he has a poor camp, I could see the young running back end up being a surprise cut.

Nate Hairston

Our final player is probably the least surprising. Hairston struggled in 2018 and saw his playing time dwindle as the season progressed. Now, with more talent on the roster at cornerback, he could find himself on the chopping block. Hairston had a very promising rookie season in 2017 but a change in scheme and injuries appear to have slowed his progression down.

With the additions of rookies Rock Ya-Sin and Marvell Tell, along with another talented corner in Jalen Collins, competing for those final roster spots, Hairston has to have a great camp to stick on the roster. Luckily that appears to be the case so far as he has been a standout in Minicamp. If he can continue his strong play and have a great pre-season, he could make this roster. If not, the former 5th round pick could end up being one of the surprise cuts.

Final Thoughts

Obviously it is very early for these types of predictions, since training camp hasn’t even started yet. We have no idea on so many factors, from how the roster will be constructed, to which players will stand out, to how injuries will affect the final 53 man roster. There are so many unknowns that it is difficult to predict at this stage.

That being said, it is interesting to think about. These five players were all locks to make the roster last season. Now? They could all be feasibly cut and it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise. That is just a testament to how quickly Chris Ballard has turned this roster around. Rather than keeping players that the rest of the league wouldn’t want, the Colts could now be cutting players who could even start for other teams.

Training camp and pre-season are just around the corner and there are plenty of players and story lines to follow. These five players, though, could be on the bubble. The one thing that we know for sure is that the best 53 players will make the roster, and the competition for the bottom few spots will bring out the best in this team.