Handling their Own: Discussing the Colts’ Impending UFAs and Bubble Players

Last week we discussed how we felt about the Colts now compared to a year ago. Though our answers varied, there was one common thread throughout: the Colts have a lot riding on the upcoming Free Agency period and NFL Entry Draft. But before those two events take place, the Colts have some important in-house business to attend to: making decisions on their own impending free agents and making decisions on "bubble" players (players whose play may not warrant their salary cap hit).

So in this week's roundtable, we pose this question to our writers: "If you were Ryan Grigson, what decisions would you make with key pending UFAs (McAfee, Brown, Bethea) and some of the more polarizing roster players (Toler, Satele)"

After the break we'll share our answers. We hope you share yours in the comments below!

Nate Dunlevy

I would re-sign the two kickers and let ever other UFA walk. Toler and Satele should go as well.

I know everyone acts like signing Vontae Davis is a must, but nothing blows a salary cap faster than overpaying for mediocre players. I don't see him as a difference maker, and think they can do better on the open market.
 
Kyle Rodriguez

Personally, I would cut Satele and Matt Hasselbeck. Neither are worth their current cap hit. I don't want to say that they bring nothing to the team, but just because I don't want to say it doesn't make it false. 

As far as re-signing's go, I've been pretty adamant about my desire to re-sign Patty Mac, Vontae Davis and Adam Vinatieri as starters. I'd love to have Donald Brown back, but I don't think it would be worth it to bring him back for the money he's going to get in order to be part of a three-man rotation with Ballard and Richardson. It's a similar situation with Bethea, who's still a decent player. I'd much rather have Bethea starting at strong safety next year than LaRon Landry, but since the Laundry man isn't going anywhere, I really want to avoid having another Landry/Bethea starting duo. 
 
The rest of the guys I'd think about bringing back all would simply be on minimum/small contracts to be depth or rotational players. I'm a fan of guys like Fili Moala, Joe Reitz, Josh Gordy, Jeris Pendleton and others in that kind of role.

Marco Gutiérrez

I would definitely offer a new deal to Pat McAfee. As much as I love Donald Brown, I think that ship has sailed. 

Grigson needs to get rid of Satele. That should be priority #1. 
 
Matt Hasselbeck also needs to go. His presence in Indy never made any sense with that kind of contract. 
 
It seems unlikely, but cutting Greg Toler would be a good move, imo. Sure, they don't have a lot of CBs to begin with, but for the money he's getting maybe they could try to get a decent option in FA. One that could actually stay on the field. Being better than Toler wouldn't be that hard either. 

Ben Gundy

Among the UFAs, I would prioritize Vontae Davis. He's a tad erratic, but he's solid when he's on. If his asking price climbs too high, I'd take a long look at the Titans' Alterraun Verner, who might have been even better than Davis last year.
 
It would be nice to get Brown back, but he played well enough to earn a shot at starting and low-level starter money, and that's not going to happen in Indy. Bethea is one of my favorite Colts, but his coverage skills have always been underwhelming, and the obscenely overpaid LaRon Landry has a similar (though slightly inferior) skill set and isn't going anywhere. I think it's time to thank Brown and Bethea for everything they've done and let them move on.
 
McAfee and Vinatieri are both excellent players, but I'd hesitate to invest too much in the kicking game, when you can always find usable talent in the undrafted free agent pool. Top punters tend to make around $3 million a year, and top kickers go for around $4 million. If you can find two serviceable rookies for $420,000 each, you save more than $6 million, which, based on precedent, is enough to sign an oft-injured safety who couldn't tackle LeGarratte Blount in the open field if his life depended on it. All that said, given McAfee and Vinatieri's importance in the locker room and the community (plus the fact that McAfee is hilarious), I would happily re-sign them if they'd take reasonable deals.
 
And, of course, I would give Satele the boot faster than you can say WTFiSST. Cutting him would save $4 million in cap space (all cap numbers are from Spotrac), and the Colts will never be a good running team while he's around. Cutting Toler would save more than $4 million, and I'd be tempted to cut my losses, but he probably gets another year. By the end of the season, I thought Landry was Grigson's worst 2013 signing, but cutting him would actually result in a bigger cap hit than keeping him.
 
Marcus Dugan
 
If I were Ryan Grigson, I would start with Adam Vinatieri.  In the NFL, the place kicking position is about accuracy and experience.  Vinatieri has a wealth of both, but he brings something else valuable to the table.  After hitting just 41% from 50+ yards for most of his career, Vinatieri has gone 10/16 (62.5%) over the past three seasons.  That’s some impressive range at any age.  Pay the man.
 
Now for Pat McAfee.  The highest paid punters make around $3.2 million per year, and McAfee could come close to that.  Sure you could pick up a rookie for around $420,000 (thanks, spotrac.com), but what would you be giving up?  McAfee’s play on the field speaks for itself, and from a PR standpoint, he’s someone you almost have to keep.
 
Antoine Bethea is a tougher decision.  If he’ll stick around for around, he’s going to have to be cheap because the Colts have invested $4.75 million in LaRon Landry this year.  Bethea is probably the better player right now, so it’s tough to see him go.  However, with his likely asking price being relatively high, look for Grigson to target a quick young safety in free agency or the draft. 
 
Now, there are a couple players several people want to see go.  I never like to advocate cutting anyone, but if I’m Greg Toler, a fine cornerback who just can’t stay healthy and could save the team nearly $4.8 million by packing my bags, I’d be a little nervous. 
If I were a center, widely perceived to be struggling, and who could save the team just one dollar shy of $4 million by being axed, I might be making some backup plans as well.
 
Matt Hasselbeck comes to mind too because despite his value to Andrew Luck’s development, he’s a backup quarterback who will count $3.75 million against the cap.  That is, however, a low cap number for a quality quarterback – a potential stopgap for a desperate team with an injured starter. I’d probably let Hasselbeck know he could find himself starting for another team soon, and that we’ll try to make sure it’s a good one. 
 
Anyway, if I were Ryan Grigson, or a just guy playing Madden as the Colts, I wouldn’t shy away from a trade.
 
Greg Cowan
 
I like lists, so I think the easiest thing to do is give lists:
 

Bubble players
 

Satele – He needs to be gone. The center-quarterback duo is vital and the longer the Colts wait to cut bait with Satele, the longer it will be before they find the right center for Luck.

Toler – So it's hard to discuss Toler without also discussing Vontae Davis, because I'm pretty sure you need starting cornerbacks and if you were to part ways with both, you'd have none. That might be bad, though some might argue the Colts had no CBs in the playoffs. To that I'd say, "touche." 
 

So before I did anything with Toler, I'd have to know what my plan was for the CB position. Since they lack a 1st round pick, the are going to have trouble "controlling their fate" in the draft. It's hard enough to predict who will be available towards the end of the 1st round, it's impossible to predict who will be available in the 2nd round and later.

As part of my plan, I'd cut Toler. He's good enough to be an average #2 or a good #3, but the Colts already have a good #2 (Darius Butler) and need someone who can take the field with more regularity than Toler.

Landry(???) – I thought this name would be a surprise, but I saw Kyle include him, so whatever. I'd rather have Bethea play SS than Landry, but I know that will never happen. Since this is "what would you do?" and not "what will they do?" I will say I'd cut Landry.
 

Matt Hasselbeck – I don't believe in signing overpaid veteran QBs. I don't believe Hasselbeck is the best backup QB in the league (though he's paid as such). I didn't like the signing last year and I like it less now. The Colts will say that Hasselbeck is "great in the room."  You know what you do with players who are great in the room? You leave them in the room. His cap money could be spent on guys who are "great on the field."  Which is where, if I'm not mistaken, games are won and loss. (Incredibly bitter)
 

UFAs:
 

Vontae Davis – We'll tackle him first. Is he a true #1? No, I don't think so. But he will likely get paid like one this off-season. What is he? An inconsistent player who flashes the qualities of a #1 and the mistakes of a #4. That's why he'll get paid. There's a team that will convince itself that they can bring out his best qualities and remove his worst.

So what should the Colts do with him? Well, if they let him walk, they need a #1. If they let him walk and cut Toler, they need a #1 and a #2. I'm not sure you can tackle that in just free agency.
 

I wouldn't sign Davis to a long-term deal. I'd either let him walk or I'd franchise him and try to find his future replacement in the draft.  There are a few good names in free agency this year, and I would definitely consider throwing a lot of money at one of them (I'm more of a quality over quantity guy in UFA shopping, but we'll get into more specifics in a future piece).
 

Pat McAfee – I would re-sign him.
 

Adam Vinatieri – Normally I'd say it's time to move on, But Vinny was good this past year and the Colts don't have enough draft picks to waste on kickers and punters, so I'd give him another year (or two, if that's what it took) and worry about it in a year where i didn't throw away all of my draft picks (I'm a bitter GM, apparently).
 

Antoine Bethea – I'd re-sign him and let go of Landry. Since that won't happen, I'd let him walk. He's not good enough to play FS anymore, and his skill set overlaps with Landry's a tad too much to have an effective duo, though, as I've alluded to, I believe Bethea is the superior player.
 

Donald Brown – I'd keep him, but I value running backs for their ability to gain yards, not for some random, hard-to-visualize intangibles. (Still a bitter GM)
 

Ahmad Bradshaw – If the Colts don't re-sign Brown, I'd like to have Bradshaw back as a cheap safety net (assuming the doctors say he's healthy enough)


Darrius Heyward-Bey – I'd shoot him into space on the next-available launching.
 

Mike McGlynn – He'd be strapped in as well.
 

Jeff Linkenbach – Every ship needs a pilot.
 

Cassius Vaughn – And a co-pilot.

 

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