Positional spending on skill players has emanated for Indianapolis’ front office as a combined 15 receivers and tight ends are set to have cap hits in 2024. The Colts committed $10.3M to its seven WRs on contract in 2023, ranking 31st in positional spending for WRs in each of the last two seasons per Spotrac.
Colts general manager Chris Ballard has yet to lure a top free agent skill player to Indianapolis and must approach his eighth year with intentions to construct a roster that is viable in the AFC. None of the six free agent WRs (five signed to practice squad) have panned out since Ballard was hired in 2017, including Ashton Dulin in 2019, Ethan Fernea to the practice squad in 2022, along with Tyrie Cleveland, Jaydon Mickens, D.J. Montgomery, and Juwann Winfree to the practice squad in 2023.
“I think we have more flexibility right now than we’ve had the last few years,” Ballard told reporters at his end-of-season press conference on Jan 11. “A little bit of that is we are not paying a quarterback big money anymore. We are going to have some more flexibility. We will always be prudent but we will be as aggressive as we need to be in free agency with players that we think can help us.”
WR: Ashton Dulin - $3.68M, Alec Pierce - $1.8M, Josh Downs - $1.25M
Alec Pierce and Josh Downs scored two touchdowns each and combined to haul in 100 receptions for 1,285 receiving yards in 2023. The pair are the only WRs whose rookie contracts extend past 2025 as Pierce’s rookie deal expires in 2026 and Downs’ rookie deal expires in 2027. In free agency, the Colts will seek to sign Michael Pittman Jr. to a long-term contract following his career-best campaign with 109 catches for 1,152 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Pierce and Downs are the only active receivers on the Colts added through the draft in the Ballard era.
Draft season is all about the details. pic.twitter.com/PcYUnNo30H— Indianapolis Colts (@Colts) February 6, 2024
TE: Mo Ali-Cox - $5.92M, Kylen Granson - $3.16M, Jelani Woods - $1.46M, Will Mallory - $987K
In 18 games, the Colts four tight ends combined for 70 receptions and essentially averaged one catch per game. Mo Ali-Cox played in all 17 games and led the unit with three touchdowns despite tallying just 13 catches. Kylen Granson led the skill group with 30 receptions in 15 games (two receptions per game), but reached the end zone just once. Fifth-round draft pick Will Mallory added 18 catches for 207 receiving yards.
Jelani Woods suffered a hamstring injury during training camp which ultimately kept him on the injured reserve list for the entire 2023 season. As a rookie in 2022, he caught 25 passes for 312 receiving yards and scored three touchdowns. His most impactful moment includes the game-winning 13-yard touchdown with 24 seconds left in Week 3 as the Colts handed the eventual back-to-back Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs their first loss of the 2022 season. Can Woods emerge in 2024 as the Colts No. 1 TE option?
The Colts were among the top-10 offenses in explosive plays during the five weeks Anthony Richardson was healthy. With the fifth-most cap space, Indianapolis must add more weapons to its arsenal through the upcoming free agency and April’s NFL Draft to complement and further develop its franchise quarterback.