3) Convince defensive end Dwight Freeney to sign an extension. You have to drive down his $19 million-plus cap hit and his $14 million-plus base salary for 2012. But cutting him would be awfully painful, especially if Mathis is getting to free agency. If Freeney has to go because of cost, then Mathis has to be tagged and Wayne is likely lost.
4) Look for cost savings with these players: Tight end Dallas Clark ($7.32 million cap hit, $4.53 million base), middle linebacker Gary Brackett ($7.4 million cap hit, $5 million base), running back Joseph Addai ($4.3 million cap hit, $2.9 million base), and safety Melvin Bullitt ($3.7 million cap hit, $2.4 million base). Brackett and Bullitt are now injury prone and I don’t know if you can count on them. But just cutting them won’t necessarily save money as accelerated bonus cost could produce a cost approaching their scheduled cap numbers. Same with Addai, who may not fit with a new run philosophy.
He also suggests letting Pierre Garçon, Ryan Diem, Mike Pollak and Phillip Wheeler walk, giving Jeff Saturday a one-year deal and franchising either Robert Mathis or Reggie Wayne. He says to keep Orlovsky, Tamme and Gonzalez on cheap contracts.
And the big one of course is graciously thanking Peyton Manning for his time and then releasing him.
Let’s evaluate the plan for a second. You’d have a rookie QB backed up by a guy who can’t get any worse and may just be able to keep you in a few games. They would be throwing to Reggie Wayne, Austin Collie, Jacob Tamme, Anthony Gonzalez and possibly Dallas Clark if he takes a pay cut. The RBs would be Donald Brown and Joe Addai if he takes a pay cut along with a player to be named later. Saturday, Anthony Castonzo and Ben Ijilana would need some help along the line but the roster has a few guys and the Colts can find a few. Not a bad offense in reality.
Defensively your hybrid 3-4 would include a restructured Freeney and Robert Mathis along with Pat Angerer as linebackers most likely. Antoine Bethea is returning along with a host of role players. The secondary needs the most help along with the acquisition of a real nose tackle and some additional pass rushing.
In all, Kuharsky’s plan would give the Colts a relatively healthy outlook if they can draft well, find a few key free agents and get some concessions on existing contracts.