The talk throughout all of training camp has been about how tough the job will be for the Colts front office when the time comes to cut their roster down to 53. There are some really great roster battles going on at many positions, and the team is as competitive from top to bottom as they have been in many years.
While they were already facing tough decisions about who to keep and who to cut, the reality of Andrew Luck’s leg injury may be further increasing that difficulty. If Luck were to enter the 2019 season fully healthy, there is no doubt that the team would carry just two quarterbacks on the roster. As it currently stands, they may need to carry 3.
If that is the case, it will have ripple effects across the roster. They’ll likely try to cut a player they feel can make it to their practice squad, especially if they don’t anticipate Luck missing much time. So who might end up on the outside looking in? Here are some possibilities, ordered from what I believe is least likely to the most probable.
The Colts carried 6 cornerbacks on their roster last season, but that could be a potential area that ends up being pared down if they have to make an additional cut. Kenny Moore, Pierre Desir, Quincy Wilson, and Rock Ya-Sin are all locks to make the roster, but beyond that is uncertainty.
Nate Hairston has had a good camp and would provide a strong case for himself, but unfortunately that leaves the team with little in the way of special teams contributors. Marvell Tell and Chris Milton provide that value in a more significant way than Hairston. Even keeping only 6 cornerbacks will require parting with a player they like. If they choose to keep just 5, it will really be a tough call as to who is out.
The wide receiver room is perhaps the most talked about of the competitions, and an area that is still very uncertain. There has been speculation that, given the performances in camp from guys like Reece Fountain, Deon Cain, Zach Pascal, and Marcus Johnson, the team might be inclined to keep 6 wide receivers as opposed to the 5 they kept last year.
That simply may not be possible if Luck is not able to play to start the season. If they keep another quarterback, they may face the prospect of keeping just 5 wide receivers. That group likely consists of T.Y. Hilton, Devin Funchess, Parris Campbell, Chester Rogers, and one of the guys listed above. Fountain and Cain are well liked by the organization and have really come into their own in camp. Additionally, Pascal provides special teams ability that none of the other receivers do.
It is hard enough to choose which two of these three players to keep, but only getting to keep one would sting a lot.
Another group that seems likely to lose a player if the Colts have to keep a quarterback is the defensive line. The group has a great deal of talent, and the team would probably like to keep 10 guys. Additionally, the Colts use a different type of player on their defensive line than most other teams in the league. That might give them some confidence that their depth defensive linemen aren’t going to get snapped up by another team, and could make it to the practice squad.
While the starters are set, and Jabaal Sheard’s injury will have its own impact on how this group breaks down, it seems likely that if the team had to cut a spot on the defensive line, Jihad Ward might be that guy. Playing primarily on the interior but with the ability to play the outside, Ward is somewhat undersized by the standards of most teams. For that reason, he might be a guy the Colts think they can somewhat safely cut and still stand a chance of elevating him from the practice squad once Luck returns healthy.
The tight end room for the Colts might be the best in the league. Eric Ebron and Jack Doyle are both excellent players, and Mo-Alie Cox has continued to get better and better throughout camp. His upside is off the charts as he develops from his background as a basketball player and works to refine his skills.
Ross Travis has also had a solid camp and has proven himself a dangerous downfield weapon. Then, there is Hale Hentges, the rookie out of Alabama who has shown an ability to work as a receiving tight end far better than any thought he could. His background as an H-back and excellent blocker were well established, but that added dimension makes him someone the Colts almost certainly would like to keep.
Unfortunately, if they have to limit themselves to 3 guys, they’re going to have to decide who to let walk. Given Frank Reich’s love of tight ends and tendency toward using them heavily, that one will not be an easy call. For my money, I think it might be Hentges, who loses a spot if they need that additional quarterback. He is still a relative unknown, and might be a player who can be stashed on the practice squad to develop.
Ultimately, we hope Luck progresses quickly and his injury doesn’t exacerbate the already tough decisions facing this staff. If he can’t go, the Colts will face losing another good player.
Where would you cut to make room for another quarterback?