While there is a lot of turmoil surrounding the Colts this summer, with contract disputes and issues to handle, it is getting closer to that time when Colts management will go into serious evaluation of the players on the roster and begin to cut down to more manageable sizes. The key cut dates are still months away, and will likely be in early September, but the time to really evaluate the talent and begin making those decisions begins with some of the workouts players will run through during this weekend’s mini-camp.
Before we get into the roster it is good to review what players the Colts have lost and have yet to re-sign who would be front-runners over players currently on the roster. Those players would include Marlin Jackson, former first round draft pick, who has already suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon and will likely miss the 2010 season. Tim Jennings played a lot of time in a reserve role with the corner backs, primarily as a nickel, but is now with the Chicago Bears and cannot be re-signed until his status with that franchise changes. Aaron Francisco was signed last season to replace Matt Giordano as a long-time back-up safety and special teams contributor, but he was released at the end of the season and no rumors of his re-signing have surfaced since.
Freddie Keiaho was a starter two seasons ago but suffered injuries that limited his time and was replaced by Clint Session and Tyjuan Hagler but served as the primary back-up to Gary Brackett in 2009. He may not be re-signed because the Colts drafted Pat Angerer to play behind Brackett in the second round of this year’s draft. Tyjuan Hagler started the 2009 season as the starting strong-side linebacker but suffered a ruptured bicep injury and was replaced by Philip Wheeler for the remainder of the season. He has not been re-signed and Coach Jim Caldwell recently indicated that no plans have been made to do so at this time. Raheem Brock, one of the most versatile defensive linemen on the team was granted his release and has yet to catch on with another team but no official discussions of his return have leaked.
Long-time back-up to Peyton Manning, Jim Sorgi, was cut at the end of the 2009 season and has since signed with the New York Giants to spend time behind another Manning. Back-up running back and former return specialist Chad Simpson has not been retained. Emergency wide out and special teams “specialist” Hank Baskett is no longer with the team. Veteran starting left guard Ryan Lilja was cut and signed with the Kansas City Chiefs.
The good news about all of these departures is that only one of them was a starter at the end of the 2009 season. The bad news is that these players together represent a great deal of experience that will have to be replaced, in most respects, by lesser proven players who lack the NFL experience to grant immediate confidence in their supporting roles. Still, the Colts could have retained many of these players, and some of them will be available to the team when the final eight rule expires on July 22nd, meaning that the team can spend this valuable training time on younger players while not losing out on the chance to bring back some of the proven veterans prior to training camp, if they feel they need to do so.