Preparing for the Colts Future: Re-Signing the Veterans

Brett Mock breaks down some of the considerations new Colts General Manager Ryan Grigson and Owner Jim Irsay will face in the coming weeks.

Prior to launching Colts Authority, I took the time to break down some of the issues that will face the Colts in the coming off-season as the team prepares for the 2012 NFL season. New developments, such as the firing of Bill and Chris Polian and hiring of new General Manager Ryan Grigson have occurred that make the stories worthy of re-publication and revision. We hope you will enjoy the series as the 2011 season moves closer to its conclusion.

The following players, listed by position, are set to be unrestricted free agents when the 2011 season comes to a close:

Quarterback – Dan Orlovsky
Wide Receiver – Pierre Garcon, Anthony Gonzalez, Reggie Wayne
Tight End – Jacob Tamme
Tackle – Michael Toudouze
Guard – Ryan Diem, Mike Pollak, Jamey Richard
Center – Jeff Saturday
Defensive End – Robert Mathis, Jamaal Anderson, Tyler Brayton
Defensive Tackle – Eric Foster
Linebacker – Kevin Bentley, A.J. Edds, Ernie Sims, Philip Wheeler
Cornerback – Jacob Lacey
Safety – Stevie Brown

Needless to say, the 2012 Indianapolis Colts will likely be a unit that has undergone significant turnover.

Wide receiver will probably look different — it is unlikely that Anthony Gonzalez will return to the team (Wayne may not). Defensive end may look different because the team may not be able to re-sign all three veteran players. If Eric Foster is able to return from his gruesome injury, he may not take the field again for the Colts. Jeff Saturday? How much would it take to keep him with the team and would it be worth it at this point in his career?

My initial estimates — listed on the newly updated salary cap page — place the Colts ~$14MM under the cap in 2012. This number will likely increase when bandaid veteran quarterback Kerry Collins drops his cap hit by $12.5MM. That will push the available 2012 cap room for re-signing the free agents listed above at ~$26.5MM.

Mathis, Wayne, Garcon, and Saturday could all demand upwards of $5MM a year. That would leave $6.5MM for signing anyone else the Colts hope to retain, and still have room to sign the 2012 Draft Class, which will require a higher commitment than usual.

The new CBA rules also gives Indianapolis the freedom to push $1.5 million in cap space onto a future year for up to three players, producing potentially $4.5MM of extra room. With a player like Dwight Freeney entering the $19.5MM final year of his contract, it may make some sense to do so. Of course, the team could choose to make restructuring Freeney’s contract (read extending) a priority to free up more space in 2012.

If some pretty drastic cap manipulation doesn’t occur, if players are not willing to accept smaller contracts in order to keep the nucleus of the team together, or if Jim Irsay and Ryan Grigson cannot find creative way to restructure current veteran contracts, there will be at most ~$11MM to retain a list of players that would include: Jamaal Anderson, Tyler Brayton, A.J. Edds, Eric Foster, Jacob Lacey, Ernie Sims, Jacob Tamme, and Philip Wheeler.

Put simply, that isn’t going to happen. There is a lot of work to be done, and a high likelihood of significant team turnover — particularly if Manning’s option is picked up.