The Indianapolis Colts training camp began Saturday in Anderson, Indiana. With that begins the battle for roster spots.
Of the 90 players at Colts training camp, 60 are new to the team. Of those 60, 26 are rookies. Combine that with the Colts new general manager, coaching staff and the fact the the offensive and, especially, defensive philosophies will be new this year, and it can be difficult to predict the final roster.
Here are five recognizable names that could be cut.
There's really no beating around the bush when it comes to former first-round pick Jerry Hughes. He's been a bust. He's done little to nothing in his first two years in the league.
Hughes has a total of 10 tackles and one sack in 24 games. That has made him a lightning rod for criticism from fans.
Hughes knows he has his critics, saying, "The first two years haven't been pretty. I know that. I know I can do better.''
He has to do better, or he'll be looking for a job. Hughes is signed through 2014 and will count $1.69 million against the cap this year.
Two things are in Hughes' favor this year. The Colts' switch to a 3-4 defense will stand Hughes up as an outside linebacker, a position he seems more suited for. Also, the new front office and new coaches provide somewhat of a clean slate for Hughes.
Still, Hughes needs to show he's worth that contract. He needs to show the talent that made him a first-round pick. If not, he'll be sent home early.
Cutting Delone Carter would be a surprise, but that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. The Colts will likely keep four of the following running backs: Donal Brown, Vick Ballard, Delone Carter, Mewelde Moore, Darren Evans and Deji Karim.
Carter picked up 377 yards and two touchdowns in his rookie season last year. He ended up in the doghouse due to some fumbling issues.
He has missed time this offseason due to a thumb injury. While he was out, rookie Vick Ballard was impressing the coaching staff. Head coach Chuck Pagano has expressed confidence in Donald Brown as the starting running back. Mewelde Moore comes over from the Steelers, where he was a good third-down back and fill-in starter for Bruce Arians offense.
That leaves Evans, Karim and Carter. Evans will most likely end up on the practice squad, but Karim was a decent back in Jacksonville, and was a pretty good special teams player. Karim could carve out a niche as just that.
So, there's some pressure on Carter to prove he belongs.
Let's be honest. The reason Freeney is on this list is because of his contract. Freeney's cap hit is just over $19 million this season, which is the final year of his contract.. That's he biggest cap hit of anyone in the league.
He's also being moved to a new position. For 10 years, he played defensive end from the same side and did the same thing every time. Now he's being asked to stand up and play linebacker. That's a lot for a guy entering his 11th season at 32 years old.
There have been rumors all offseason of the Colts trading or cutting Freeney. It makes sense. The Colts are paying $38 million in dead money this season. They're a rebuilding team. Why would they take a $19 million cap hit for a guy that's going to play one year for them?
Don't be shocked if Freeney's is let go before the season.
Joe Reitz started nine games for the Colts last season and played pretty well. Improving the offensive line was obviously a priority for Ryan Grigson and company. They added 10 offensive linemen throughout the offseason.
The depth chart shows Reitz battling second-year pro Ben Ijalana and newcomer Zane Taylor for the left guard spot. However, just Sunday, Coach Pagano, said they are moving former tackle Jeff Linkenbach to guard. Linkenbach will also compete with Reitz.
More than ever, the Colts offensive line is a wide-open competition. The issue I see with Reitz is, he's neither a high-round draft choice (Castonzo and Ijalana) or a guy Grigson brought in. So, if he has a below-average camp, what's really keeping him here?
The Colts, with their thin wide receiving corps, took a chance on Donnie Avery this year. Avery was impressive in his first two years in the league with the Rams, but a a torn ACL caused him to miss the entire 2010 season.
He played in eight games for the Titans last season. He had just three receptions for 45 yards and a touchdown. Knowing that the Titans could've used some help at receiver last year, it begs the question: Does Donnie Avery still have it?
The Colts receiving corps is still pretty thin, with just Reggie Wayne and Austin Collie currently ahead of Avery on the depth chart. Avery still has to show that he's worth the roster spot. He has to be close to the 2008, 2009 version of himself.
The Colts gave him a one-year deal, which tells you they have questions about Avery too. If he doesn't prove his value to the Colts brass, they will cut him loose and give more time to the two young receivers they drafted, T.Y. Hilton and LaVonn Brazill.
Follow Brian on Twitter @coldy4goldy.