While the Colts signed Philip Rivers and DeForest Buckner to large contracts, they still have holes and cap space to play with. Which free agents are still left and can be scooped up for good value?
Ronald Darby had a great start to his career, but in recent years, injuries have taken their toll. Some believe he came back too early from an ACL tear and that has affected his performance. If that’s the case, he might be worth a flier. Three comparable players are:
- Josh Norman — 1 year, $6M with $3M guaranteed | Signed in 2020
- Tramon Williams — 2 years, $10M with $3.25M guaranteed | Signed in 2018
- Kevin Johnson — 1 year, $3M with $400k guaranteed | Signed in 2020
The average of those three contracts (adjusted for salary cap inflation) is 1 year, 4.86M with 1.55M guaranteed. The reason those three players were chosen because they were all signed to “prove it” deals and are trying to resurrect their careers after some poor play and injury issues. Darby is the same.
The market for Darby is not strong, with no real buyers interested and the Eagles just traded for Darius Slay so Darby won’t go back to Philly. If you add in his injury history, I believe Darby can be signed to a deal that’s 20% less than the projected average. That would mean his projected contract is:
1 Year, $3,880,000 with $1,237,720 Guaranteed
Markus Golden is coming off another very good season, finishing with 12 sacks last season for the Giants. Golden has quietly had a nice career since joining the NFL in 2015, with 35 sacks, 42 hits, 133 hurries in 62 career games. Three comparable players are:
- Jabaal Sheard — 3 years, $25.5M with $9.5M guaranteed | Signed in 2017
- Mario Addison — 3 years, $30.4M with $13.25M guaranteed | Signed in 2020
- Whitney Mercilus — 4 years, $54M with $18M guaranteed | Signed in 2020
The average of those contract, adjusted for salary cap inflation is 3 years, 33.7M with 12.83M guaranteed. Golden wanted to test free agency, but the interest for him isn’t very high. It’s not because he isn’t a good player, because he is good, but most likely because his asking price is too high. This is the same issue with Clowney. He is probably comparing himself to the wrong players and no team is buying it. It’s for those reasons why I believe he’ll sign a contract that’s 10% lower than the projected average, as this is what players who “settle” are often forced to do. They lose their leverage and give in to the demands of the team they’re negotiating with. That means that his projected contract should look like this:
3 Years, $30,330,000 with $11,547,000 Guaranteed
Breshad Perriman finished last season extremely well with the Bucs and looked like a legitimate #2 (and even #1 receiver) at times. While it was a small sample size, it showed that Perriman might be capable of reaching the lofty heights that many had set out for him. Berriman is still on the market and with the Bucs making many big money moves, it’s unlikely that he returns to them. Three comparable players for Perriman are:
- Desean Jackson — 3 years, $27M with $13M guaranteed | Signed in 2019
- John Brown — 3 years, $27M with $10.1M guaranteed | Signed in 2019
- Kenny Stills — 4 years, $32M with $16.95M guaranteed | Signed in 2017
The average of those three contracts (adjusted for inflation) is 3 years, 28.42M with 13.12M guaranteed. What hurts Perriman is that he only had one season of success whereas the 3 comparable players had more than one season of success and were therefore less risky. Also, the longer Perriman hangs around on the market, the more his value drops. It’s for those reasons why I believe he can be signed for 10% lower than the projected contract listed above. That means he could be signed to a deal that’s worth:
3 Years, $25,578,000 with $11,808,000 Guaranteed
The Colts are so rich... HOW RICH ARE THEY?
When I started this part of this article a couple of weeks, the Colts had a heck of a lot more money, but after the signings of Philip Rivers, DeForest Buckner and the re-signing of Anthony Castonzo, they sure have a lot less. Nevertheless, the Colts can still afford to sign Golden and Perriman to deals that are 10% frontloaded. If they were to cut Brian Hoyer and the bottom contracts, they would still be left with around 8.3M in cap space. With the Colts expected to spend around 5.8M on their rookie class, that would leave them with 2.5M.
Of course, this cuts things extremely thin, but that cap number includes the contract of Jacoby Brissett who can be traded. If that’s the case, that would free up 15.875M, which would give the Colts $24.175M in cap space and $18.375M after signing the draft class.
Not as rich, but still not bad.
Before you all jump to attack me in the comments for this blurb, understand that I’m NOT advocating for all three signings and then front-loading the contracts, it’s just an experiment showing how much space the Colts have and how they can move a lot of pieces around and still have space left over.