According to Pro Football Focus, the Indianapolis Colts have the league’s 13th best salary cap situation over the next three years (2023-2025)—when considering a number of key factors: top 51 veteran valuation, rookie contract players, projected effective cap space, total prorated money, and 2023 free agent projections:
INDIANAPOLIS COLTS — RANK: 13
The Colts are a fascinating situation to monitor in 2023 because of their wide range of outcomes, with a lot of very good players either missing extensive time to injury or simply not performing at the top of their abilities in 2022. Indianapolis tumbling down to 30th in our top 51 veteran valuation is not due to the loss of a bunch of marquee free agents, so in theory they could skyrocket back up the list.
After the Colts ranked dead last in expected points added per dropback in 2022, new head coach Shane Steichen and presumed franchise quarterback Anthony Richardson can only go up from here.
Under general manager Chris Ballard, the Colts have namely avoided extensions for ‘good but not special’ starters and re-signed their top stars—including mega-extensions for both offensive guard Quenton Nelson and linebacker Shaquille Leonard. They’ve been rather fiscally prudent in free agency, shying away from long-term contracts all together.
That being said, the Colts recently did make ex-Rams Pro Bowler Matt Gay the highest paid kicker in NFL history and also signed solid starter Samson Ebukam at defensive end to not an unsubstantial amount of salary cap space.
One of the biggest salary cap questions facing the Colts is how the franchise plans on handling the looming contract expiration for star running back Jonathan Taylor, who’s set to hit free agency following the 2023 season.
The league has devalued the running back position, and most of the NFL’s top running backs haven’t lived up to the backend years of their second extensions in recent memory. Taylor is coming off a disappointing 2022 season because of an ankle injury, but is just a year removed from a monstrous rushing campaign with the Colts and is only 24 years old.
Taylor has a lot of mileage from his collegiate days at Wisconsin, but also keeps his body in tip-top shape, eating well, and even doing yoga for added flexibility—and his lingering ankle injury actually limited some of the wear-and-tear from this past season as he had only 192 total carries (compared to a whopping 332 carries with the Colts a year prior respectively, potentially allowing him to reset physically following such a heavy workload).
In the short-term, the Colts could elect to franchise tag Taylor on a year-to-year basis, preventing the franchise from regretting the last few years of a lucrative long-term deal. However, the Colts’ best bet may be to frontload a multi-year contract extension entirely, as Taylor figures to have at least a handful of elite rushing seasons still left.
Otherwise, wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr., who’s also a member of the Colts’ 2020 draft class is also up for a contract extension. As long as it’s in line with his market value, that figures to be a no brainer for the Colts—as Pittman Jr. has been rock solid and should provide a really reliable weapon for rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson going forward.
Lastly, underrated defensive tackle Grover Stewart is set to become a free agent following the 2023 campaign, and that’s unquestionably an extension the Colts will want to get done—as he’s quickly become one of the defense’s best players, run stuffers, and a team leader.
The hope is that facing a short-term rebuild, the Colts can quickly get back into contention and take advantage of Richardson’s rookie contract—assuming he’s the real deal at QB.
The Colts have done a commendable job of maintaining pretty good, but not necessarily great salary cap wellness for the foreseeable future—as this ranking indicates, relatively speaking.