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Looking at the Colts’ Salary Cap Situation for 2020 & Beyond

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Dollar Bills Photo Illustration by Thomas Trutschel/Photothek via Getty Images

Salary Cap Figure for 2020

The Colts currently sit at around 24.2M in remaining cap space. If they sign their entire draft class to the same deals as the 2019 class plus an additional 6% increase since the salary cap went up by that amount, then it will cost the team around 8M (in 2020 cap hits). However, it’s important to understand that only the top 3 draft picks (Pittman, Taylor and Blackmon) will count for the top 51 contracts heading into training camp. So while those three picks will cost around 3.9M to sign, the Colts will also be eliminating 2.25M since the bottom three contracts will be bumped outside of the top 51. That means that the 2020 draft class will only take 1.65M out of Colts’ salary cap.

That would leave them with around 22.55M left in salary cap space heading into training camp. Depending on how certain cuts unfold, that figure could rise by a million, but it’s expected to stay in that range.

Looking Towards 2021

It’s impossible to quantify how much the COVID-19 pandemic will affect revenue. It might not make a huge difference or it might be astronomical. For the sake of this article, we’ll go with it not having a huge impact and the salary cap increasing by around 6.5% (the 5 year rolling average). An increase of that amount would mean that the 2021 NFL salary cap would be around 211.1M.

If the Colts go into the 2020 season with 22.55M, they’ll have to save around 3M for in-season transactions and practice squad costs. We can then estimate that they’ll have around 19.5M of carryover for the 2021 season. With a 211.1M salary cap and 19.5M of carryover, that would leave the Colts with an estimated salary cap ceiling of 230.6M. With an estimated 92.735M in liabilities currently on the books for 2021, that would give the team around 137.8M in cap space heading into the 2021 offseason.

The Free Agents of 2021; can they afford to bring most guys back?

The next question we have to ask is: who can the Colts afford to bring back. The big name Colts free agents hitting the market next year (with my estimated cap hit figures) are:

  • Philip Rivers (26M)
  • T.Y. Hilton (15M)
  • Ryan Kelly (14M)
  • Justin Houston (11M)
  • Denico Autry (9M)
  • Malik Hooker (6M)
  • Xavier Rhodes (7M)
  • Jacoby Brissett (15M)
  • Anthony Walker Jr (8M)
  • Grover Stewart (3M)
  • Marlon Mack (7M)
  • Zach Pascal (3.5M)

It’s important to note that these figures are based on who they are now and the free agency market next season. The figures are all rough ballpark estimates. (Note: Don’t get hung up on particular numbers since it’s more of an experiment)

Some not as big, but good (or potentially good) role free agents include:

  • George Odum (1.3M)
  • Mo Alie-Cox (1.2M)
  • TJ Carrie (1.5M)
  • Sheldon Day (2M)
  • Le’Raven Clark (1.2M)
  • Chase McLaughlin (1.5M)
  • Al Quadin Muhammed (2M)
  • Roosevelt Nix (1.5M)

If the Colts wanted to re-sign all of those players, except for Jacoby Brissett, with a 10% premium, then that would cost them around 133.9M. Without a premium, it’s around 121.7M. I would argue that many of my estimates were actually generous. In short, the Colts can’t afford to splurge on their own free agents next year and I expect there to be a major cut or two or three.

However, if they were all signed to contract that reflect my figures, that would leave the Colts with 16.1M in cap space, and if you save 10M for the draft class, practice squad and in-season transactions, that would leave them with only 6.1M to play with in free agency, if they choose to spend.

The Colts have a lot of room, and while they can’t get crazy with their spending, they can definitely afford to bring back almost all of the current key players on the team, if that’s what they choose to do and add exclusively through the draft.

I would argue that the following five players have at least a good chance of being let go next offseason:

  • Jacoby Brissett
  • Marlon Mack
  • Justin Houston
  • Denico Autry
  • Xavier Rhodes

If the Colts were to re-sign every player except those five, to my projected figures, that would cost the team 87.7M (or 96.5M with a 10% premium) and leave them with around 50.1M in cap space.

The possibilities are endless, but the Colts are in very good financial shape. They can afford to keep their top guys very easily, build through the draft properly and the eventual departure of Philip Rivers will open up a lot more room in the future. The Colts’s financial future is looking very bright.