Despite knowing that the lockout will remain in place, fans are left wondering if some of the old rules that governed the ins and outs of the NFL offseason will stand. One thing in particular, the player total on the offseason roster, should stay the same though. At least that’s what we’ll assume for the time being. Based on the previous CBA, teams were allowed 80 players on an offseason roster, and while that number could change, the fact that the NFL isn’t adding any more games, and the NFLPA doesn’t want to split their pie between any more people, it is reasonable to assume that the figure is likely to stay the same. As it stands right now though, the Colts have 83 players on their roster, but due to the lockout no personnel decisions can be made except for adding the 2011 draft picks to the lists. As such, with the lockout technically still in place and no end to it all readily in sight we are simply left with speculation on what is likely to be a tumultuous beginning to the NFL pre-season.
Given that the Colts LOVE to find the gems buried in the scrolls of undrafted talent following each of the draft, we can make another small assumption at this point. Despite needing to cut at least 3 people to get down to the requisite 80 player maximum, the Colts will more than likely release between 5 and 10 extra players to bring in new talent. Also, given that no one can predict exactly who the Colts value and who they don’t, we can only guess and speculate as to which players will fall under the axe and which will survive another day. Below, we’ll be breaking down the different groups of players who have a chance of getting cut come a resolution to the work stoppage…
Very Likely to be Released
SS Ken Hamlin: Hamlin’s got a popular following to stay on the team, mostly because so much ire is directed at Aaron Francisco, but he failed to usurp Francisco, and was a major letdown in the wildcard round of the playoffs despite having multiple weeks as the primary backup to Francisco. Rotoworld also doesn’t list him as being on the team, and with the plethora of ‘meh’ talent safeties already on the team, the most expensive guy is going to have to go.
RT Ryan Diem: Diem is in an interesting boat in that he needs to be cut, and will not be starting this next year if any value is placed on offensive production or the health of Peyton Manning, but since there may not be a cap, and the Colts are a well to do organization, they may bide their time and let Diem finish out his contract so he can then retire peacefully. Whether that happens or not, the fact is Diem needs to be off the field and for the salary he gets, he’s too expensive for a backup.
TE Gijon Robinson: Fans were finally rid of Robinson last year… or so we thought. Had Santi AND Clark not both been injured we’d not have seen Robinson back on the team at all last year, but dumb luck is dumb luck. Robinson wasn’t horrible, but he’s getting old enough even a vet minimum contract is overpaying for a poor receiver who can’t block particularly well or consistently.
PK Brett Swenson: Swenson may survive the initial cuts but given that Vinny has come back with just as much accuracy as ever, it is not likely we’ll see Swenson near the team next year. In fact, had Swenson not suffered an injury last year, he wouldn’t even be on this list to start off with. Look for Swenson to get cut since only 1 PK was drafted this year meaning there is still talent elsewhere if the Colts are looking.
DT DeMario Pressley: Most people won’t know who Pressley is. The short story is that after we had to promote our Practice Squad 3 times over to fill the roster, Pressley is what was left when we’d called up anyone and everyone we could. Pressley isn’t a true 1-tech and we’ve got too many 3-techs already, so look for Pressley to be a name you forget again really quickly.
OT Casey Bender: Like Pressley, Bender is what you get when you have to promote James Williams and Joe Reitz to the active roster at the end of the year. Bender is undersized (6’5″, 295 lbs) but is the same size as Williams. It may be a coin flip between them, but the Colts have shown more active interest in Williams than Bender, so I will side with what the Colts have indicated to be their preference already.
50/50 Chance of being Released
SS Aaron Francisco: Francisco is still young enough he won’t break the bank, and isn’t horrible enough to be an automatic casualty of ineptitude. As a matter of fact, Francisco did quite a bit to help his image by playing in most of the snaps at Strong Safety and without being much of a drop off from default starter Melvin Bullitt’s rate of production. Still, there are lots of younger mediocre safeties, and so Francisco has a 50/50 chance in my opinion.
RG Mike Pollak: Pollak has every indication of being out the door. He was the single worst OG who took snaps for the Colts last season, and has lost his starting job three times in the past two years (once in 2010, once in the preseason before DeVan’s injury, and once again to Linkenbach in the 2011 season). He is currently sitting either 3rd or 4th on the depth chart for center behind the much smaller and less well received Jamey Richard and is likely in a battle with recently acquired Jacques McClendon from the 2010 draft. A couple of places have listed Pollak as being a free agent in 2011, but given the Colts give 4 year contracts to 2nd round players, that is likely an incorrect report, but besides depth it is unlikely Pollak rises any higher than 2nd team this next year given the addition of Charlie Johnson and Ben Ijalana to OG/OT hybrids.
CB Mike Richardson: Richardson is interesting in that he was offered a future contract like many other Practice Squad refugees, and he does fit the bill for a Colt CB in terms of size and skill, but the problem is that when your rank in the depth chart for the position starts getting into double digits, you probably aren’t going to be around long barring injuries. Still, he’s got the size and skills for the job so…..?
CB Terrance Johnson: Terrance Johnson is Mike Richardson sans the height. He’s solidly built, but at 5’9 he’s about 2 or 3 inches shorter than what the Colts usually want. And again when you are looking at being 10th or 11th on the depth chart, you may not stay long.
OT Jaimie Thomas: Thomas is another guy I don’t see ultimately making the team next year. The team approaches Thomas like they do Pollak it seems. They talk a good game about having plans for Thomas, but after 3 full years in the system, Thomas has simply shown no signs of upward movement. The Colts brought up James Williams and ACTIVATED him above Thomas at the end of last year. Thomas has been a perpetual ‘Coaches’ Decision,’ and odds are that the Coaches are not going to keep him past Training Camp, if even that far.
DE Keyunta Dawson: Dawson falls into the category of ‘needs to go, but may not.’ Like Robinson, Pollak, and Diem, Dawson was essentially useless last year and so his roster spot is seriously questionable at the moment. His contract is up and he has not been offered a tender, and with Hughes, Nevis, and Chick looking like they can contribute long term, Dawson may not have much of a place. That said, he could come cheap, and his experience may be enough to keep him on the team in this shortened year.
LT Charlie Johnson: CJ is the complete opposite of the Dawson/Diem/Robinson/Pollak group. He is a very solid player who has done admirably in difficult circumstances. He won’t command a high salary, but he has been tendered. Still, he is versatile, and if another team makes an offer, the Colts could part ways with him since his starting position is now in serious doubt.
LB Nate Triplett: Triplett is a SAM Linebacker with a very good size to him. He’s signed through 2013 on a 3 year deal from last year, but that won’t guarantee him a spot. With so much depth at LB already, either injuries will have to not plague the secondary, or one or more of the existing LBs will have to go, most likely Hagler, or possibly Wheeler.
LB Cody Glenn: Glenn was injured last year and is an IR hold over that got a future contract by virtue of being on that list. As with Triplett, he is fighting an uphill battle especially after hard hitting Kavell Conner stepped up last season. Glenn is a good ST player, but with only so much room available on the roster the Colts could decide to sacrifice him for a player with more potential to have an impact.
OT Mike Tepper: Tepper is a Practice Squad addition who was given a future contract at the end of the year. At 6’6 and 323 lbs he has excellent size, but with the addition of Ijalana and Castonzo, his addition may be unnecessary. And, since he was a late addition to the Practice Squad, he doesn’t have the benefit of being a guy the team has had their eye on for a while.
RB Mike Hart: Hart had an exceptionally impressive burst last year, but was hamstrung yet again by injuries. With the addition of power back Delone Carter, Hart’s position could be in jeopardy in this contract year for him. Still, with more top end speed than Carter, Hart is a guy that the Colts may keep just to see if he can stay healthy to be useful.
WR Chris Brooks: Brooks was rather unproductive through college, but was not targeted much either. He ran a 4.47 forty, making him fast, but his slow 3-cone drill time of 7.28 is worrisome. Brooks is a flanker instead of a slot receiver, and with White being a more prototypical flanker as well, Brooks’ only unique feature that may keep him on the team is his size.
Unlikely, but could be Released
SS Jamie Silva: The Colts didn’t address safety depth in the draft, but there are some good UDFA Strong Safeties available. Still, with Sanders gone and no drafted safety, Silva becomes essentially a necessity despite his injury and need for a new contract.
LG Kyle DeVan: Over the past two years DeVan has been the best Offensive Lineman for the Colts, and has won the starting spot twice proving to be excellent at both RG and LG. He is an Exclusive Rights Free Agent, so the Colts will have no problem keeping him, and since he remains relatively unknown outside of Indy, he’ll be cheap too.
WR Kole Heckendorf: Small school prospect with excellent production, great hands, very reliable, slight frame… We just described a hybrid of Garcon, Collie, and Gonzalez, and that’s what Heckendorf is. He doesn’t have excellent measurables, but is a great route runner with excellent hands and a high work ethic so he’s always on the same wavelength as the QB. Like Collie and Gonzalez, he could be a hybrid slot/flanker WR, but he provides a good backup option at slot for the short term.
CB Jordan Hemby: Hemby is signed through 2013 with a slightly more than minimum contract, and is a prototypical Colt CB at 5’11 and 190 lbs. While more than likely being limited to a ST role, he’s got the frame and skills to be a guy who can step up when injuries inevitably lay low the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd string CBs next year.
SS Chip Vaughn: Vaughn, like Silva is a ST contributor whose position with the team got quite a bit more secure with the lack of a safety like Tyler Sash being drafted in the mid rounds. Vaughn has great size, and is a full fledged Strong Safety. He’ll be good depth at the very least, especially if Hamlin and/or Francisco get cut.
TE Tom Santi/Rob Myers: Supposedly, if you are going off the Colts.com roster, these two guys both wear #86. I’m edging more towards Santi getting axed than Myers because Myers was given a future contract at the end of last season, and Santi has failed to stay healthy…. ever.