I confess, this news makes little sense. One thing is for sure, the move isn’t strictly about money. If it was, the Colts would not have paid Lilja the roster bonus he was due. In fact, paying Lilja was a classy move. He took a deep pay cut in order to stay with the team last year, and the Colts honored that by giving him money they didn’t have to. This was a brilliant move because had they stiffed Lilja, they never could have convinced anyone else to do a similar restructuring. Why would the team cut one of the only two linemen on the club who seemed to have a decent year?
Here are my theories:
- Indy is looking for a new left tackle and wants to move Charlie Johnson back inside. This is a move you only make if you already have a bead on someone. CJ plays at 305 lbs to Lilja’s 290. The Colts clearly think that $3 million is too much to pay for a back up guard. It’s hard to argue with that. Lilja would have been one of the top 15 highest paid Colts, and you can’t lay out that kind of money for a guy who isn’t starting and doesn’t play an impact position.
- The Colts inability to pick up short yardage in key situations the past two seasons is something that won’t be tolerated again. Clearly, the Colts think that Caldwell made the right call to run at the end of the first half, but the line failed. Frankly, I think that’s insane logic, but the club is clearly trying to upgrade the run blocking. If the line had done their job, Caldwell would still have been wrong, but I wouldn’t be able to complain about it as much.
- If Indy can survive a full season with CJ at left tackle, the pass pro will be fine no matter who plays up front. We’ve noted recently that sacks have more to do with the quarterback than the line. Therefore, the best measure of an offensive line is the run game. Indy’s sucks. They might as well try to go bigger and move bodies off the line because Manning isn’t going to get hit no matter who is out there. That’s an exaggeration, but there is something to it.
The comings and going of individual players doesn’t interest me that much, to be honest. A wholesale philosophical shift in the way the Colts construct the offensive line does. Lilja was a productive player, and a valued member of the team. He’s not getting cut because someone could do what he did better; he’s been released because he can’t do what the Colts want to do next year.
What that is exactly remains to be seen. There’s another shoe to drop here, and it is going to play left tackle.