The salary cap has had a tremendously large impact on the sports and especially in the NFL, where they employ a hard salary cap, which means all teams work with the same amount of money and cannot exceed it. It’s important that when spending money, you get the proper value from the dollars you spend. If you spend a lot of money at one position, that position better perform at a high level. If you don’t spend a lot of money at one position, then getting them to play at or above league average is a good thing. A good rule of thumb is for a position to at least match its value; that means that if you spend the 12th most on wide receivers, your receiver group should be at least the 12th strongest in the NFL. Anything more means you’re getting good value from the group and anything less means you’re not getting good value.
What’s worth noting in these figures and that these figures are from October 21 2020 and do not count players who are the Injured Reserve. Because the Colts don’t have significant salary cap players on Injured Reserve, it serves as a good time to create an article like this. However, injuries around the league affect the league rank and league average figures, so it’s worth noting that for those categories, if all NFL players were healthy, the Colts’s place could be adjusted (up or down) by a place or two.
All salary figures courtesy of Spotrac (spotrac.com)
Total Amount Spent: $47,105,566
Percentage of team’s 2020 salary cap: 19.66%
League Average: $17,823,737
League Rank: 1st
The Colts spend more than any other team in the NFL on quarterbacks. Have they gotten good value from them? Absolutely not. This shouldn’t come as a shock though considering the Colts have their starter getting 25M and their backup is making over 21M. Both aren’t top 15 quarterbacks in the NFL, so them having the 4th and 13th most expensive quarterbacks, by 2020 cap hit is pretty ugly.
Total Amount Spent: $3,164,928
Percentage of team’s 2020 salary cap: 1.32%
League Average: $6,450,870
League Rank: 28th
The Colts’ running backs have not been great this season, but the Colts have three running backs on rookie contracts, so the value is very good and the unit has been better than 28th best in the NFL, so as far as the Colts are concerned, they’re getting good value from this group. In my opinion, I believe the Colts have a top 20 running back group in the NFL.
Total Amount Spent: $17,827,001
Percentage of team’s 2020 salary cap: 7.43%
League Average: $18,952,484
League Rank: 17th
The Colts have not spent a lot of money on this group, with the exception of a big TY Hilton contract. The group is filled with players on rookie contracts and journeyman football players. Many of those players have been outperforming their contract, but Hilton has not and his 15M cap number looms large. As a whole, this group has provided good value, but Hilton, their big fish, has not given them any value; if anything, he’s performed like a 2M dollar player. The overall number is a little misleading, but as a whole this group, because of Hilton, is slightly underperforming.
Total Amount Spent: $10,770,000
Percentage of team’s 2020 salary cap: 4.49%
League Average: $8,131,975
League Rank: 10th
This group is very tricky to evaluate. The Colts essentially use different types of tight ends: a receiving tight end in Trey Burton, an all-around tight end in Jack Doyle, and an athletic freak in Mo-Alie Cox who has great receiving potential. Some weeks, this unit looks like a top 5 group in the NFL and other weeks they look like a bottom 5 group. I believe the talent is there and they’ve given the Colts a lot of good play this season (especially from Alie-Cox), but the inconsistency hurts them. I would say they’re a top 15 group in the NFL in terms of performance this season and a borderline top 10 unit so I’d say they’re performing right around where they should.
Total Amount Spent: $50,179,887
Percentage of team’s 2020 salary cap: 20.92%
League Average: $29,300,564
League Rank: 1st
The Colts have the two offensive linemen with the largest 2020 cap hits, Anthony Castonzo and Ryan Kelly, on their roster. Have the Colts been the best offensive line in the NFL this season? Almost any analyst, including myself, would say no, but this unit is still one of the 6-7 best units in the NFL and it just feels like they’re going at 75% of what they could be. So, this is one of those situations where technically the Colts are getting less than what they paid for, but there is zero cause for concern as this unit is one of the best in football and can easily be the best in the blink of an eye.
Total Amount Spent: $129,109,882
Percentage of team’s 2020 salary cap: 53.82%
League Average: $81,283,390
League Rank: 1st
The Colts have more money than anyone else in terms of their adjusted cap space so 129M seems like a lot, but it’s just 53.82% of their cap room (whereas 129M would be 65% on some teams). The 53.82% figure is, however, the highest figure in the NFL, which means the Colts spend more on their offense than any other team in the NFL. Have they’ve gotten their value worth out of this unit? Definitely not. The Colts not only don’t have one of the best offenses in football, I’d argue they haven’t been a top 10 unit and there’s an argument they aren’t a top 15 unit in the league (at best a borderline top 15 unit). The front office has put a lot of money in this group and to this point in the season, it’s proving to be not a great investment.
Total Amount Spent: $47,999,280
Percentage of team’s 2020 salary cap: 20.01%
League Average: $25,780,819
League Rank: 2nd
The Colts have spent a lot of money on their defensive line and it has paid off. They are one of the best performing units in the NFL, led by superstar DeForest Buckner whose cap hit is nearly half of the entire unit’s amount. Justin Houston and Grover Stewart have also been very good for them. The Colts, by some measures on Football Outsiders, are the best performing defensive line in the NFL and most analysts, including myself, would rank them in the top 4. It’s for that reason that despite the big money figure, the Colts are getting good value from this unit.
Total Amount Spent: $7,233,272
Percentage of team’s 2020 salary cap: 3.02%
League Average: $19,438,658
League Rank: 28th
It’s easy to talk about Darius Leonard, who is still on his rookie deal and is one of the better bargains in the entire NFL, but it’s worth noting that the Colts are getting great play from Anthony Walker and Bobby Okereke, who are also both playing on rookie deals. All three will be free agents within the next couple of seasons, but as of now, this unit is the best bargain in the entire NFL (for linebackers).
Total Amount Spent: $3,212,719
Percentage of team’s 2020 salary cap: 1.34%
League Average: $10,673,371
League Rank: 32nd
The Colts spend no money on safeties, but they’re getting very good performances from Julian Blackmon and Khari Willis, who are playing like average to above-average NFL starters depending on the week. While the Colts spend the least amount of money on safeties compared to all the other NFL teams, they definitely don’t have the worst unit and would rank somewhere in the teens based on their performance. To put it simply, this unit is paying great dividends for the front office.
Total Amount Spent: $13,166,620
Percentage of team’s 2020 salary cap: 5.49%
League Average: $14,773,061
League Rank: 16th
The biggest question mark heading into the season was the cornerback spot. The Colts spent some money on this group and with a rank of 16th in the NFL, this group needed to be at least average this season. It’s safe to say they’ve been better than average and the secondary as a whole has been a top 10-12 unit in the NFL. Xavier Rhodes is on a great bargain deal and is playing like his old-self. Kenny Moore is on a fair contract considering his worth for the team and the Colts have a couple of rookie deals that benefit them in the short-term. This unit has done very well.
Total Amount Spent: $71,611,891
Percentage of team’s 2020 salary cap: 29.85%
League Average: $70,025,783
League Rank: 14th
As opposed to the offense, the Colts have gotten tremendous value from the defense as the Colts have had one of the 5 best defenses in the NFL. Just based on that alone, the front office has done a tremendous job. What’s even more impressive is that the 29.85% figure is the 24th highest in the NFL. The Colts have gotten the absolute most from this unit and each dollar invested in this unit has, in essence, paid them 3 dollars back.
Overall Team Analysis
The biggest takeaway is that the Colts spent a ton on the trenches (offensive and defensive liens) and it’s been paying off. Those groups have consistently won in those areas and they’ve had big impacts on games. The investment in the defense is absolutely amazing and the front office should get a lot of credit for building this unit without breaking the bank. Credit should also be given to Matt Eberflus, who has established himself as one of the better defensive coordinators in the league.
The quarterback and receiver situations are a mess, but with Rivers, Brissett and Hilton hitting free agency next year, that will open up over 60M in cap space, which will allow the front office a fresh slate to start over in that regard. In the Ballard era, he’s proven to be a smart spender, with the defensive group and offensive line investments being the best examples of that.