Breaking Down Colts Key Veteran Contracts

Brett Mock takes a close look at the salary cap implications of veteran players who may be subject to early termination in the case of a full-scale team rebuild.

Since Colts Owner Jim Irsay held a press conference on Monday, January 2nd, 2012 — announcing the end of Bill and Chris Polian’s tenures — it has become increasingly clear that Indianapolis is about to make some very difficult decisions regarding the team’s short- and long-term future. The details of the options facing the Colts were broken down by Colts Authority’s Greg Cowan here.

One of the primary considerations for a rebuilding process is deciding which of the team’s veteran players to retain and/or re-sign. One of the best ways to do that is to dive into the details of each player’s contract and settle on the best option when cap savings and dead money are both considered.

One of Colts Authority’s readers took the time to confirm with online sources and IndyStar.com writers the exact details of meaningful contract and cap numbers for the following players:

2012 Veteran Contracts Over $1 Million
Player Name    2012 Base Salary 2012 Cap Number Signed Through 2012 Savings If Cut Dead Money
Dwight Freeney

14,035,000

19,035,000

2012

14,035,000

5,000,000

Peyton Manning

7,400,000

17,000,000

2015

Link

Link

Dallas Clark

4,530,000

8,003,333

2013

1,056,667

6,946,666

Gary Brackett

5,000,000

7,400,000

2014

200,000

7,200,000

Antoine Bethea

5,025,000

6,850,000

2013 3,200,000 3,650,000
Joseph Addai

2,900,000

4,760,000

2013 1,040,000

3,720,000

Melvin Bullitt

2,400,000

3,735,000

2013

1,065,000

2,670,000

Adam Vinatieri

1,400,000

2,600,000

2013

200,000

2,400,000

Jerry Hughes

636,000

2,322,250

2014

(846,500)

3,168,750

Donald Brown

865,000

1,880,000

2013

840,000

1,040,000

Antonio Johnson

1,250,000

1,750,000

2013

750,000

1,000,000

Zac Diles

1,000,000

1,000,000

2012

1,000,000

-
Justin Snow

890,000

950,000

2012

890,000

60,000

Fili Moala

565,000

850,000

2012 565,000 285,000

Additional cap considerations for 2012 include a $1.25MM hit for Kerry Collins and a $5.4MM remaining from Kelvin Hayden’s contract. Also remember the June 1 rule. If a player on a typical contract is cut before June 1, 2012, his remaining signing bonus money will be placed on the team’s 2012 cap. If a player on a typical contract is cut after June 1, 2012, his remaining signing bonus money can be split in half and put on 2012 and 2013.

John Clayton of ESPN indicated that teams have the option of using three $1.5 million player contract exemptions, potentially increasing 2012 cap space by $4.5 million — the cap hit would be pushed forward to future years.

Because Joe Baker has already taken the time to break down Peyton Manning’s contract implications, this story will consider which of veterans still under contract in 2012 are legitimate cut targets for salary cap relief, and which are not.

There are 6 veterans still under contract in 2012 who, if cut, could free up over $1 million in cap space next season. The outlier is Dwight Freeney, who would free up just over $14MM in cap room. On the other end of the spectrum, Zac Diles is set to receive $1MM in 2012 but cutting him does not carry a penalty, meaning that the team can save $1MM straight out if they wish.

The four remaining veterans are Dallas Clark, Joseph Addai, Melvin Bullitt, and Antoine Bethea. All four players are under contract through 2013.

Cutting Antoine Bethea would yield the most savings but would make the least sense. Bethea is only 27 years old and is one of two solid veteran members in the secondary. He has stayed healthy and been one of the most productive defenders in Indianapolis throughout the vast majority of his career.

Cutting players like Clark, Addai, and Bullitt is possible but with the three contract exemptions available to the Colts, the team could save more money against the cap by using the exemptions in 2012 than they would actually save if they cut the players. In short, the only reason to cut Clark, Addai, or Bullitt (from a financial standpoint only) is to clear them from the books in 2013.

The reasons to cut Clark and Bullitt, specifically, are easier to gather when their performance and health issues are taken into consideration. Clark is an aging tight end who has suffered through two injury-riddled seasons and, if cut, would generate an immediate savings of $1MM and $8.8 million in 2013. With Jacob Tamme looking to sign his own long-term contract, future cap room could be important.

Strong safety Melvin Bullitt has been dealing with shoulder issues throughout much of his career and it wasn’t until 2010 that he finally succumbed to them. That he was unable to remain on the field in 2011 is not a good sign, and the Bob Sanders experience should have had an impact on decision-makers in the front office. Cutting Bullitt will save the team $1MM in 2012 and $3.4MM in 2013.

At this point, one has to think that the Colts are looking to either develop one of their young safeties to take over Bullitt’s role, or have their eye on players available in the draft or free agency to provide stability to the position. Freeing up $3.4MM in 2013 gives the team greater license moving forward pick up a contract.

Joseph Addai is the perfect running back in the Peyton Manning offensive scheme but may make less sense if Andrew Luck comes to town and starts immediately. Cutting Addai saves the team $1MM in 2012 and nearly $5MM in 2013.

Cutting Gary Brackett makes sense for the franchise because large sums of money will be saved in 2013 and 2014, to the tune of approximately $7MM a year. Cutting him prior to 2012, of course, does very little to save cap room immediately.

The totals are as follows:

*Assume keeping Dwight Freeney and Antoine Bethea.

Cutting the remaining players yields a cap savings of ~$3.2 million in 2012 and ~$24MM in 2013.

But wait, remember the June 1 rule. These numbers change, and the implications on team cap space changes, if the player is cut before or after June 1.

The above numbers are all pre-June 1 cuts where the entirety of the remaining dead cap money will roll into the current season. If the team waits until after June 1 to cut the veteran players, more cap room is created in 2012 by splitting the dead money between 2012 and 2013.

In that case the totals are as follows:

*Assume keeping Dwight Freeney and Antoine Bethea

Cutting the remaining players yields a cap savings of ~$13.6MM in 2012 and ~$14.9MM 2013.

While the team has not made it clear which way it plans to go about preparing for the future, the two players who are probably in the worst position regardless of direction are Clark and Brackett. Cutting both players can yield significant cap space in the 2012 and 2013. Both are coming off of injuries and have young players behind them who have proven successful when called upon.

There is going to be a great deal of salary cap jockeying going on in Indianapolis over the off-season. This should give fans an idea how flexible the CBA is for teams who wish to make big transitions softer or more abrupt.

*note that numbers are not exact, and should only be used to get an idea of where the team will be (though we think we’re pretty close)

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