2013 Indianapolis Colts Free Agents: Pay 'Em or Let 'Em Walk

Andy KontyCorrespondent IIFebruary 12, 2013

2013 Indianapolis Colts Free Agents: Pay 'Em or Let 'Em Walk

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    2013's NFL free agency begins at 4:30 p.m. ET on March 12 when NFL contracts expire. Until then, the only personnel action teams can officially take is negotiating with and possibly signing their own free agents.

    By now, Indianapolis Colts fans are fixated on the magic number 43, as in the millions of dollars the Colts have to spend under the NFL's salary cap.

    The NFL's salary floor returns in 2013.  According to the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), teams must pay their roster at least 88.8 percent, $107.1 million, of this year's $120.6 million cap. 

    The Colts must spend at least $39.5 million this offseason, and some of that money will be spent in the next few months re-signing current players.  It is unlikely the Colts will spend the mare's share on their own free agents, and Colts fans are geeked with anticipation to see who general manager Ryan Grigson decides to bring in with his fat bank.

    The Colts have 14 unrestricted free agents with whom they must settle up by March 12.

    I'll take a quick look at each of these players, including their current salary and minimum wage, and give my thoughts on what the Colts should do.  I'll give each player one of four ratings: "Pay 'em whatever he wants," "Pay 'em if the price is right," "Pay 'em minimum wage" and "Let 'em walk."

    As always, please bear in mind that I'm not the Colts GM and have no access to the War Room, so the heresies I speak here are entirely my own and may turn out to be as wrong as that fool in your NCCA pool who makes picks according to team mascots (and beats you).   

Donnie Avery, WR

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    2013 Salary: $615,000

    Minimum Wage: $715,000

    Donnie Avery just completed a one-year, league minimum contract.  Avery had an up-and-down year, making a big catch one game (see game winner against Detroit) and dropping a big catch in the next one.  Avery only had three TD catches and two 100-yard games.  

    The Colts' rookie receivers are already performing at Avery's level, and next year everyone starts learning Pep Hamilton's new offense.  Donnie Avery would contribute only depth to the Colts in 2013.

    Avery played for minimum wage last year, but Colts fans will riot if they bring him back.

    Let 'em walk.

Darius Butler, CB

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    2013 Salary: $770,000

    Minimum Wage: $715,000

    Darius Butler was the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his Week 15 performance against the Houston Texans.  A bright spot on an otherwise dismal game.  

    Butler was the Colts' best cornerback last season, and his name appears on free-agent lists for teams needing help in the secondary.  Given the Colts' lack of depth at cornerback, the Colts must re-sign him for a modest raise, though I doubt Grigson will break the bank on him.

    Pay 'em if the price is right.

Austin Collie, WR

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    2013 Salary: $1,417,388

    Minimum Wage: $715,000

    Austin Collie made a splash his rookie season with seven touchdowns and some difficult catches.  He only played one game in 2012 after rupturing his patella tendon in the his first regular-season game.

    The Colts' receivers dropped a lot of passes last season, and Collie is a sure-handed possession receiver who could thrive in Pep's new offense.  Given his injury woes, the Colts could only be considering him for depth at wide receiver.

    The Colts won't pay him what he was making on injured reserve, but they may be willing to give him a shot to come back from injury if he'll play for minimum wage.  Then again, it's Collie's fourth concussion, and maybe he'll take his money and retire while he still knows his name.

    Pay 'em minimum wage. 

Moise Fokou, LB

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    2012 Salary: $627,548

    Minimum Wage: $715,000

    Moise Fokou was part of a trade with the Eagles last year.  He played 13 games in 2012, recording 44 tackles and one sack.  It's safe to say that he didn't add much to a front seven that couldn't stop Sam Gordon.    

    He was undersized coming out of college, but his athleticism garnered him the "potential" label.  Fokou has not become an NFL-caliber starter over his first four years, and there is no reason the Colts would pay him anything more than minimum wage for depth and special teams.

    Pay 'em minimum wage. 

Dwight Freeney, OLB/DE

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    2012 Salary: $19,035,000

    Minimum Wage: $940,000

    Dwight Freeney was the highest-paid player in the NFL for 2012 but never looked comfortable in the Colts' new 3-4 defensive scheme.  Freeney is a pass-rushing specialist (107.5 career sacks) but had trouble with the coverage responsibilities of an outside linebacker.

    Freeney is telling everyone that he wants to finish his career in Indianapolis, but there is no way the Colts pay him even a quarter of his current salary.  It's very likely that a team with a specific pass-rushing need will make him a decent offer and the Colts will never match it.  

    I'd say keep him if the price was right, but it won't be.

    Let 'em walk. 

Tony Hills, T

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    2012 Salary: $540,000

    Minimum Wage: $715,000

    Tony Hills has played 10 NFL games in five seasons, six in 2012.  With all of the O-line talent the Colts are likely to bring in, there is really no roster space for Hills.

    He was a tight end in high school, maybe he can switch back. 

    Let 'em walk.

Antonio Johnson, DT

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    2012 Salary: $2,000,000

    Minimum Wage: $840,000

    Antonio Johnson made $2 million each of the last two years and started 13 games for the Colts in 2012.  Johnson was serviceable as a Colt, but he was part of the worst run defense in the league.

    No way was he worth $2 million to the Colts, and they can probably get similar production from a player earning far less.  My best guess is that the Colts have talent upgrades in mind at his position.

    Let 'em walk.

Winston Justice, T

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    2012 Salary: $1,500,000

    Minimum Wage: $840,000

    Winston Justice started all 12 games for which he was available.  Justice is known for his athleticism, posting a 4.53 40 at the NFL combine, which is sprinter speed on the O-line.  Missing four games, Justice was obviously banged up in 2012.  

    Johnson was part of an offensive line widely panned for not protecting the Colts' franchise QB better, and injuries had a lot to do with that.  Justice was pretty good when available.  

    The Colts are going to bring in plenty of O-line talent, but Justice's athleticism and experience are valuable to the Colts.  Unless Justice just really wants to play somewhere else, the Colts will probably sign him at around his 2012 rate.

    Keep 'em if the price is right.

Pat McAfee, P

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    2012 Salary: $1,322,500

    Minimum Wage: $715,000

    Pat McAfee is a fan favorite in Indianapolis.  He is heavily involved in the community, and the Colts Nation appreciates his work ethic both off and on the field.  

    McAfee had career highs for 2012 in gross and net punt yards.  He's also plays as many snaps as any punter in the league holding for the kicker and taking kickoffs with right-side cannon (check out the 75-yard field goal in the video).  He is on the field for every special teams play except punt receiving, and the locker room gnomes say he'd do that too if the coaches let him.  

    McAfee is telling anyone who will listen that he wants to spend his entire career with the Colts, and its hard to imagine a big-money bidding war over a football player who uses his foot.  The entire fanbase will be apoplectic if the Colts don't pay him whatever the market says he's worth.

    Pay 'em whatever he wants. 

Fili Moala, DE

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    2012 Salary: $873,000

    Minimum Wage: $715,000

    Fili Moala was only available for eight games, though he started all eight.  He was in and out of the lineup before tearing his ACL in week 12.

    He might be physically ready for training camp, but full physical and mental recovery from an ACL repair usually takes 18 months, unless your Adrian Peterson.

    The Colts will remember that his two previous years were fairly productive.  My bet is that they probably sign him for the league minimum and give him a chance to come back from the ACL.

    Pay 'em minimum wage. 

Mewelde Moore, RB

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    2012 Salary: $825,000

    Minimum Wage: $940,000

    Mewelde Moore is past the shelf life of an NFL running back, mostly because he has been a career backup.  The Colts signed him when they were desperate for depth at the running back position.

    Moore's salary goes up this year, his 10th in the league.  The Colts are not desperate for depth at RB and will probably let Moore seek greener pastures from which to retire.

    Let 'em walk.

Jerraud Powers, CB

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    2012 Salary: 784,625

    Minimum Wage: $715,000

    Jerraud Powers just completed his rookie contract with the Colts by spending the last half of the season on injured reserve with an injured toe.  Powers never completed an NFL season in any of his first four seasons.

    Powers is injury prone and lacks size (5'10").  He is a serviceable cornerback when healthy and might be worth keeping as a nickelback and special-teamer.

    Pay 'em minimum wage. 

A.Q. Shipley, C

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    2012 Salary: $465,000

    Minimum Wage: $555,000

    A.Q. Shipley just completed his first NFL season where he was actually on an active roster.  He appeared in every game for the Colts and demonstrated some versatility along the Colts beat-up offensive line.

    Good centers are hard to find and sometimes take a few years to develop.

    After spending two years on practice squads or wondering where his next paycheck will come from, he should be willing to play for minimum wage.  If so, the Colts will sign him and give him a chance in training camp.

    Pay 'em minimum wage.

Drew Stanton, QB

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    2012 Salary: $1,225,000

    Minimum Wage: $840,000

    Drew Stanton has had the misfortune to be on teams that brought in top draft picks who play his position—Matt Stafford (Detroit) and Andrew Luck.  I said at the end of the season that he would probably try one more time to find a team that needs a starter.

    Now it appears that Stanton might be headed to the hapless Arizona Cardinals (per National Football Post's Dan Pompei), called there by his 2012 coach Bruce Arians who just took the top job in Phoenix.  Arizona carouselled a dismal set of QBs last year, and Stanton already knows Arians' offense.  

    Colts fans should thank him for his service and wish him luck in Arizona, he'll need it.

    Let 'em walk.

Jamaal Westerman, LB

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    2012 Salary: $615,000

    Minimum Wage: $715,000

    Jamaal Westerman was a late-season waiver-wire pick-up who played in three games.  His biggest accomplishment was a sack against Houston in the big Week 17 victory over the Houston Texans. 

    Westerman had a decent 2011 season with the Jets, registering 32 tackles and 3.5 sacks.  He now also has seven postseason appearances, which could be of value. 

    Westerman has not done much to warrant a raise much less a free-agent bidding war, so the Colts may give him a chance in training camp if he'll play for the minimum.

    Pay 'em minimum wage.